A local teen has been recognized for her activism efforts at The International Shorty Awards in New York City, which acknowledges the best in social media.
16-year-old Gabby Frost, of North Wales, Pa. is the creator and owner of Buddy Project, a program and social media initiative to prevent suicide, self-harm, eating disorders and help those dealing with abuse, bullying, etc. by pairing people with a friend to talk to.
Frost, a sophomore at North Penn High School, started the program a year ago because she has many friends – both local and on social media sites — who are going through problems like these and wanted to help others dealing with the same issues.
"Right before I started this, two people committed suicide because they didn't have anyone to talk to on Twitter," said Frost. "There's a lot of teenagers who don't have someone to help them go through problems, but on Twitter, a lot of people in that community look out for each other."
Buddy Project is free to sign up and after your complete a quick survey, you are paired with someone else who signed up and needs a friend to talk to.
"When people sign up, they have to fill out a short survey of their interests so that when I pair buddies together they have similar things to talk about," said Frost.
Users fill out check boxes according to their interests ranging from American Horror Story to One Direction to Miley Cyrus. Then, Frost uses Google Drive and Excel to match buddies up accordingly.
Frost's program has attracted over 47,000 sign ups (since she last checked!) and continues to grow every day. Many people have told the 16-year-old that she has saved them from committing suicide, and engaging in self-harm or eating disorders; and has helped them create strong friendships.
On Twitter, @ProjectBuddy has racked up more than 38,000 followers since launching a year ago, gaining virtual recognition from teen musicians such as Luke Hemmings of 5 Seconds of Summer, Austin Mahone, and James McVey of The Vamps.
When Frost isn't busy learning algebra and chemistry at school, she personally sends nearly 50 tweets a day to her followers, offering motivational quotes, pictures, etc. so that people can find the strength inside of them to live a more positive life.
"I run the account but I have a team of people helping. And if I'm unavailable, they keep the tweets going," said Frost.
Frost was honored at the Shorty Awards (a.k.a. the Oscars of Social Media, as Frost says it's known) after receiving the most community nominations and then being chosen by the Real-Time Academy of Short Form Arts & Sciences. Coincidentally, she was won the Teen Activism Award the day before her program celebrated its one-year anniversary.
"I never thought it would get this kind of recognition in just a year's time," said Frost. "It was so weird to see people I didn't know saying positive things like, 'That's great that you're only 16 and you're doing this'."
Once she graduates, Frost is hoping to pursue broadcasting in college and she views the interactions she's had with strangers as a good learning experience for her build on.
So what's in store for the Buddy Project in the future?
"I want it to be known worldwide," said Frost. "I know there are people from other countries that suffer too and we've already had Spanish and French speakers sign up so I want to make it multilingual."
Frost envisions taking the Buddy Project and teaming up with organizations that share its same mission to help those struggling with mental health issues.
"I think not enough people pay attention to this cause so hopefully [Buddy Project] will be able to guide people and make people more aware about mental health."