I'm Proof That Online Friendships Are Just As Important As Real Life Ones

We are blessed to live in a world where we can connect with literally anyone. We can connect at any time, at any place, with anybody and with any mode. This is extraordinary, especially because people value connections. We do better when we feel like we're part of a whole; we have a need to be around like-minded people who will support us and be with us. As part of our social nature, we want to be with others.

Sometimes, this group of people can be hard to find. It can be hard to find people with the same devotion to Modern Family as you or people who aren't afraid to fangirl about John Green and Channing Tatum in the same sentence. This means that it's easy for people to feel disconnected. It's easy for people to feel like an anomaly -- like they don't fit in. This can be a very scary path, especially for those who are already feeling lost or uncared for. This path is slippery -- once you fall, you fall fast and hard.

But with the Internet and its open horizons, suddenly it's not so hard to find your niche in the world. You can easily find people with similar interests anywhere online, whether it's Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram, etc. It's easy to be connected, and with the instantaneous quality of the Internet, people on the other side of the world don't always feel so far away.

The Internet -- vast as it is -- can feel small and intimate while feeding our thirst for infinite possibilities.

It takes very little effort to find people who share a certain interest with me, whether it's about Taylor Swift, Nicholas Sparks books, The Hunger Games trilogy, etc. I find that many of these people share more than one interest with me, too. The internet lets me cross entire continents and oceans in a second, make connections in a moment and explore new realms in a heartbeat.

My main mode of connection is Twitter, but plenty of other people prefer different ways of communication. Some people blog about their daily lives or share beauty tips on YouTube. Others start pages on Facebook and rally around a cause. Many people use Tumblr or other blogging networks just to talk about things to anyone who is willing to listen. The part that surprises most of us is that tons of people are willing to listen and help. They think our lives are worthwhile and that our voices are important. Because of this, so many people continue to grow and gain confidence every single day.

I cannot stress how important these connections are. It saves lives. It saves people from feeling ostracized and alone. It saves people from going down a path of emptiness, depression and even suicide. Knowing you have a group of people who are there for you -- even if they're thousands of miles away -- makes all the difference.

Flashback to my sophomore year of high school, when I was desperately trying to balance the pressures of a new school on top of a new city and a new life without any close friends nearby. My dad wasn't around as much because he was still waiting to get a job transfer into the new city. (I didn't call this place "home" for nearly an entire year.) My friends had never been super into social networking, and we led busy lives that didn't facilitate constant interaction. It's not a coincidence that this is around the time that I really started getting active on Twitter, but while I did follow Taylor Swift fans and Potterheads, I hadn't quite grown into the groups of fans I associate with today.

My then-limited connections on Twitter weren't enough for me. I felt rather overwhelmed with life and alone in my problems, and even though I told myself that I'm not the only one going through these issues, it didn't help because I didn't actually know anyone like me. I was involved in school, but I still felt like an outsider a majority of the time. I kept up a happy front, but I was probably on the brink of falling into depression when I started writing for HuffPost Teen. The friends I've made because of HuffPost Teen -- these people who get what it's like to be different and know how to fangirl like there's no tomorrow -- are the very connections that saved me and brought me out of my lows. They gave me a chance to breathe. These connections gave me the confidence to be myself and branch out.

This is why I think all connections, even if they're created on the Internet, are important. They can push people to be better and offer helping hands to pick you up when you're down. They let you know that you're not alone in life and that you don't have to face everything by yourself. I think this is ultimately what makes the Internet a beautiful place.

Today, I know where to go on Twitter to squeal with others about Taylor's upcoming album. I know which Twitter friends have the most current information on interviews and events for part one of Mockingjay. I know that when I accidentally wear a college shirt to another college's information meeting (thankfully, I had a sweater on hand), I have friends who've done the same. I know that even if it's midnight on a school night for most of my HuffPost Teen friends, I can send out a tweet asking for HPT friends to edit my college application essays -- and get more than five of them who will do it right then and there. I know that my friendship will many of my HPT friends will grow and that some of them will probably even be at my future wedding (many, many years from now, that is).

I know where I belong, and that's more than enough for me.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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