Mike Swords recently realized he was winning.
The revelation didn't come with a hashtag or from a drug-addled TV star. It came from his dad, who grew up poor.
He and his friends banded together to protect each other from being bullied. They called themselves the Born Winners.
Swords' father first told him that story a year ago.
"I stated throwing out that term with my friends," he said.
During a Halloween party last year, they decided to start a Tumblr site to post their photos. They were shocked when it received 2,000 hits.
"It was just for fun and for immature reasons," Swords said. "We wondered, 'what can we do with this?'"
They decided to switch to a WordPress site. Their mission switched to spreading positivity. They called it Born Winner Nation.
Swords started blogging and doing a monthly video podcasts, or PosiCasts, in which he interviews people who have found success or who lead unusual lifestyles that make them happy.
"There are so many different websites that are negative," Swords said. "It's just a change of pace (from) what the current Internet is. I though that it would be cool to have something that people could feel good supporting."
The idea seems to be working. By mid-December - less than a month after it launched - the site had 35,000 hits.
"The growth has been mind-boggling," Swords said. "To get 5,000 hits in a week, that's huge for me."
They were able to monazite the project by selling merchandise. But some of the profits go back to Born Winners. The site held a modeling contest. Users voted for the winner, who got a paid modeling gig.
The goal was to get lots of people involved, especially those who might have otherwise been rejected by the fashion industry.
The Born Winners hosted a party in December at Fat Daddy's in Springettsbury Township. About 200 people showed up. Swords bought everyone champagne.
The next party is planned for March. Right now, most of the site's followers are 20-somethings like Swords. This summer, he hopes to host an event geared to all age groups.
"I definitely want to do a drive-in movie night," he said. "We want to get away from the party atmosphere for some of the events."
Swords said he also wants to branch out, so he's planning a tour of events in nearby states in May or June. He said he'll be on the lookout for more possible PosiCast interview subjects.
The site also has a feature that lets people submit their winning moments.
"We had people in Atlanta make a banner and throw a Born Winner party," Swords said. "I had no idea who they were."
But he posted their photos on the website. He's received other photos of people skiing, rapping, swimming with sharks, running a half-marathon and dancing. All he asks is that content is safe to view at work.
One of the most popular pages is a post Swords wrote about how to be happy. Swords, a licensed Realtor, used to get cranky during his daily commute from his York County home to Elizabethtown.
"I had to accept it and move past frustration," he said. "There are beautiful farm fields and sunsets. It's more of a mindset shift."
His recent goal is to show people that happiness isn't tied to income or possessions. He launched the 100Things Project, which is similar to other minimalist movements that encourage people to live with only 100 possessions for at least a year.
Swords said he'll keep enough clothes to wear for one week. As a self-professed "computer geek," he's planning to give away or donate his DVDs to be able to keep some of his tech gadgets. He wants to see if anyone else will join him in the challenge.
"I used to be an extremely materialistic person," he said. "After a certain amount of time I get sick of it. After a while you're never happy. You want the next best thing."
Over time, he said he hopes to grow the site to 100,000 hits a month and possibly make it into a full-time venture. The goals matter, but the impact is more important, Swords said. And he feels like he's already won.
"It's so nice to see people getting behind something," he said. "We stand for something that's positive. There is a lot of great content that can help people."
PopEye is a bi-weekly column focusing on the ever-changing landscape of popular culture. To reach writer Erin McCracken, call 771-2051 or send an email to email@example.com.
Another local web connection: Pinterest
Evan Sharp, a 2001 graduate of York Suburban High School, is a co-founder of Pinterest, a fast-growing social bookmarking site now counted by some among the top 10 social networking sites. The site's traffic has exploded in the past year.
Users of Pinterest create boards dedicated to certain topics - recipes, interior design, weddings or books, for example - and then "pin" images there. Users can upload their own photos, pin items from around the Web or repin posts from others.
Born in 2010, Pinterest grew from 40,000 monthly unique visitors in October of that year to 3.2 million in October 2011, according to an article in the Atlantic Wire. Pinterest received nearly 11 million visits during the week ending Dec. 17, 2011.
Sharp, 29, and co-founder Ben Silbermann were included on Forbes magazine's "30 under 30" list for social/mobile.
For details, visit pinterest.com.
Born Winner Nation
Tam Lapp, 31, Bainnridge, Pa. - Monatizing and interviews
Wolf Mearns, 23, York - Video and graphics
Mike Swords, 22, York - CEO
How to be a Born Winner
Born Winners look and feel like rockstars at all times.
Born Winners don't have friends. They have extended families.
Born Winners do anything they can to make themselves, and everyone around them better people.
Born Winners have a deep appreciation for experiencing things "in the moment" while working towards their bright future.
The Born Winner Nation is not a group, or a club. It is a state of mind.
Born Winner creed
Today I choose to be a winner because I refuse to except anything less than the best in my life.
I am an overcomer because I have and will overcome the obstacles that life throws my way.
I am an achiever because I have and will achieve the goals set for my life.
I am a fighter because I will fight for what I want in life, and fighters don't quit.
I clear my mind and ask God for wisdom, strength, peace and patience to take on this day.