When 18-year-old Jackie Rosas of California saw something disturbing on a blog she follows regularly, she didn't just feel worried for a minute, then click over to a new site. Rosas took action, and that helped save the life of a teenager she'd never even met.
It's a pretty amazing story. Rosas was able to help authorities track down the identity of the 16-year-old girl who made a suicidal threat on her Tumblr blog, even though they only knew her first name.
After some pretty clever detective work, police finally found the troubled girl in New Jersey. And she had indeed taken enough pills to warrant being placed on a psychiatric hold. Acting on an instinct, Rosas helped stop another teen from taking her own life.
This is a story that truly highlights the potential and power of the Internet. It's what it really is all about: that ability to make connections to people we've never even met; the possibility of sharing our stories, reaching out, and really being heard; and the chance to expand our support group and social circles in an extraordinary way. The key ingredient, though, is not acting as if what we see online happens in a bubble, but understanding, as Rosas did, that there are real live human beings behind all those tweets, Facebook updates, Instagram photos, and blog posts.
It can be easy to be completely disconnected from the humanity of the Internet, to hide behind the anonymity of a comment, or to just close out of a site and move on to something else. On the other hand, it can be easy to let online social friendships take the place of in-person ones -- which is equally dangerous. But when technology allows us to form better, stronger bonds that bridge the gap from the virtual to the actual, like in the case of this life saved, that's awesome and inspiring, and makes me hopeful for the future of a world where we are truly all connected.
Have you ever made a connection on the Internet that turned into a real-life encounter?
Image via isox4/Flickr