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One summer when I was in middle school, I read 108 books. I achieved this by basically living at the library and spending my days on the beach with a book in my hands at all times. I really loved to read when I was younger — I mean, really loved it.

But as the reading material in school got more analytical (and less interesting to me), my attachment to reading waned. My high school summers were still spent on the beach, but usually with my phone in hand, music blaring through my headphones. I blissfully napped through those summer days until the last few weeks of the break, during which I rushed through the required summer reading work (complaining abundantly while I did so).

Over the last three years, I’ve had wonderful English teachers (shout-out to Mrs. John and Ms. P) who reminded me why I loved to read and gave me good material to work with. My love of reading returned over time under their guidance, growing stronger each day. By the end of my senior year, I was sad to leave high school solely because I wouldn’t be able to run into my teacher’s classroom before school started to rant about how much I hate Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire or how incredible Susannah Cahalan’s writing is in Brain on Fire.

But I soon realized that there was an opportunity to fulfill my desire to read and discuss books with other like-minded humans beyond the classroom, in the form of the untapped potential of my wonderful internet friends. For about 5 years, I have talked daily with fellow bloggers, MTV Founders bbys, and more on Twitter.

It started with my first blog: I wanted to make friends my own age who were interested in and could relate to the articles I wrote. As I got more interested and invested in writing and social media, I met more humans who were equally as obsessed with these things as I was (shameless self-promo — check out my MTV article about that social media obsession).

These teens, who were once just random people on the internet, have become some of my closest friends. They tell me my selfies are cute, they reblog my jokes about Kim K slaying T.Swift, and they tag me in things about Pokémon Go on the basis of my overwhelming obsession with catching them all. Basically, sometimes they know me better than I know myself and all mean so much to me — they’re such an important part of my day-to-day life.

Soon after I graduated high school, I realized that because this community has not only been personally supportive, but also shared a love of writing, it could possibly share a love of reading, too. I decided to flesh this idea out into a fun #BookSquad Twitter DM chat, which evolved into a global, accessible book club with a modern twist. Lovingly called the “#InternetBookSquad,” the group allows teens from all over the world to use this mysterious thing called “the internet” in a positive way to discuss a new book each month. We are exposed to different interpretations of these books as well as diverse viewpoints, perspectives, and personal connections to them. Every month, the founders of the book squad virtually meet to plan when we’ll host the next chat and what we’ll read. Our book selection criteria are simple — if we’ve heard good things about a book, or someone suggests it and the majority of people are interested, that’s what we read. In June we read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and in July we’re reading A Woman Destroyed by Simone de Beauvoir.

But when we’re not planning #BookSquadChats, we’re talking. We share blog posts and writing pieces and talk about our daily lives. We have members from Europe and the United States alike, so Brexit and Black Lives Matter were recent topics of conversation for days on end. Especially now that I have officially graduated from high school, I love having this group of people that I can talk to about current events and books because it keeps my mind active and interested in learning throughout the summer break.

There are so many studies and articles nowadays that claim technology discourages kids from reading, and while that may be a little true, we like to think that we’ve found a way to balance the two components of modern life. As one #InternetBookSquad member, Kyler, put it, “We found a way to use social media to further our reading and have a meaningful dialogue.” Another member, Yara, added that “social media has come so far and it has enabled us to create friendships with people all over the world — real, genuine, and magical friendships.”

That point — friendship — is key: The friendships we’ve already created, and the others we are bound to create in the future, are why I think the #InternetBookSquad has been successful thus far. Being exposed to other talented, inspiring, and incredibly intelligent teens pushes us to be the best we can be, which is reflected in the quality of our discussions and motivation to read and participate.

At the end of the day, I hope that the #InternetBookSquad can create a strong community of young people and push my generation to read more and think more and learn more. I want people to get involved and feel included in our discussions. Our community is a strong one already, and I personally hope it continues to get stronger and more involved as more people join us.

P.S. We don’t actually have cookies for you, but you can eat your own cookies during the monthly #BookSquadChats! Find me on Twitter @emmahavi if you want to hop in on the group Twitter DM and join the squad.

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