It’s not a secret that being a teenager is hard, but 18-year-old Madison Jones is seeking to make this transitional period of life easier for girls and women everywhere.
This summer, Jones started a website and app called Girl Connect, where young women of all ages and backgrounds can have their personal, often intimate stories published online.
“I hope to show people that you can be comfortable sharing what you’ve been through,” said Jones, who is a senior at Panther Creek High School. “Or basically you can help others through this.”
The idea, she said, stemmed from a relationship she described as toxic.
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“I feel like so many girls experience this or go through this that they don’t really know how to talk about,” she said. “I turned my hurt into something positive.”
The site, girlconnect.net, has a lengthy home page full of daily stories and testimonies. Jones has conducted interviews as well with women she finds inspiring. She moderates the site, and while she said she hopes to give girls a voice, she wants it to remain PG.
“You never know who’s going to be on the site or who would like to be on the site,” Jones said. “I’d like for it to be for everybody.”
As for the content criteria, Jones said “It’s literally an open book for everybody for anything.”
Girls tell stories on both light and heavy topics, from teen pregnancy and coping with relationships to playing sports and makeup tutorials. Some take the form of poems, while others are more stream-of-consciousness essays. Coping with mental illness and female empowerment is a common theme for many of them.
“There’s no type of ‘You can do this’ or ‘You’re not allowed to do this,’ because of what you are,” Jones said. “This is your content.”
She said social media can be a place of solace for teens, but there’s often a lot of negativity, too. She said she wants a place online where there is nothing but advice and positivity.
So far, she said, the vision she created for the site has been successful. Jones has received inquiries from girls from around the world to write, and she’s gotten thousands of page views since the site launched in late July.
“When I first started I would just contact some of my friends,” she said. “And after they started doing stories, it was kind of like a snowball effect.”
There are many local contributors, including some Jones said she goes to school with. Some come from the United Kingdom and Switzerland.
Jones said she gets a lot of questions about how she can make money from her site, which doesn’t generate revenue.
“I’m not about that right now,” she said. “I did it because it’s my passion and it’s what I like to do, and it makes me happy.”
Jones has one more year of high school. She hopes to graduate and attend the University of Mississippi, from where her father, Derek Jones, graduated. He is an assistant football coach at Duke University, and the family has lived in Cary since 2008.
Jones said she hopes to make a career out of developing media similar to Girl Connect.
“I would like to travel with this, if it gets to that point where I can possibly go to different countries,” she said. “Hopefully one day I get a chance to travel with it and go places and get personal stories of my own as well as tell people about it so they can share their stories.”
Reach Paige Connelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find Girl Connect at girlconnect.net, facebook.com/girlconnect or download from the Apple store.