I grew up alongside the internet.
I was born in 2000, just five years after the internet was born. Throughout elementary school, I’d play games like Poptropica and Webkinz after school on my parent’s desktop. In 5th grade, I got an iPod Touch as a gift, thrusting me further into the world of early online communities with social media apps such as Instagram.
I started struggling with my mental health around middle school. Despite having a group of friends at school, I sometimes found it difficult to relate to other people in my life. There were days when I had issues that I just felt like I couldn’t share with anyone else. As I grew more involved in the Internet, I found online communities both on Instagram and other sites like Wattpad that allowed me to share these thoughts and connect with other people like me.
These communities made me feel less lonely. I’d read posts from other people similar to me talking about their favorite young adult fiction novels and current top artists. I could share my own thoughts and feel heard. I enjoyed having this space to retreat to whenever the real, in-person world got to be too much for me.
Then, in high school, I found Give Us The Floor.
After scouring their website and realizing that it was a place where any teen could join an online community of other teens, I was immediately hooked. I filled out a contact form on their website. Soon, I was brought into a group chat of other teens, just like me, where I felt comfortable sharing things that I didn’t always think I could to my friends.
Give Us The Floor became an important online community for me throughout high school. If I ever felt like I was struggling and didn’t know who to go to, it was always there for me. It gave me an outlet, which was something that I had trouble finding. Sometimes, talking to people who don’t necessarily know you in real life, but who may have shared your experiences gives you that extra support you need to get through rough times.
The group chats on Give Us The Floor have also been important in allowing people to feel validated and meet others with similar identities to them. Personally, I struggled to come to terms with my bisexuality when I was growing up. I suppressed my feelings because I didn’t think I was allowed to be bisexual – I assumed that I was only supposed to like men, and no other gender because that’s what I saw in the media. I’ve found that a Give Us The Floor group gives teens a space to better understand your own identity and it validates complicated feelings.
After being a participant for a few weeks, I decided to be trained to become a facilitator.
I eventually became a Sr Facilitator, and I am now a junior adult advisor, where I facilitate group chats and support facilitators. I feel satisfied knowing that I’m helping to create a community similar to what I had growing up.
The online communities I have been in throughout my life have shaped me and have helped me cope with tough times. I’m grateful that I found Give Us The Floor, and I hope more teens are able to find solace in knowing that they are not alone.