The Internet Diary of an 18-Year-Old

British teenagers are some of "the most extreme" internet users in the world. But what are they doing online?

by Nana Baah
24 October 2018, 8:44am

Illustration: Alex Jenkins 

Famously, all teenagers love the internet. British teens, however, are some of "the most extreme" internet users in the world, spending around 35 hours a week online. So, in the interest of always being as nosy as possible, we're asking some to keep a 24-hour diary of their internet use to find out what they're actually doing with all of those hours.

WHO? Habi Diallo, an 18-Year-Old Freelance Writer

10:30AM: Wake up later than usual because I'm working from home today. Automatically go on my phone after turning off my alarm. Check messages, text my best friend, look through my family's group chat and scroll through Instagram for about half an hour.

11:45AM: Reply to more messages.

12:30PM: Watch YouTube videos as I eat – an LA teen YouTuber's vlog and someone else's morning routine. Then I open Facebook to watch, and then rewatch, an episode of [Jada Pinkett Smith's] show Red Table Talk for inspiration for pieces to write.

1:30PM: Watch my friends' Instagram stories.

2PM to 4:30PM: Research stats for certain pieces I'm planning to write. I do regular Google searches, as well as watching a couple of YouTube videos around topics like student mental health.

4:30PM: I scroll through Pinterest to get aesthetic inspo for a digital publication I'm working on with my friends. But I still check my phone every time I get a text or a Snapchat or Instagram notification.

7PM: Watch a documentary on the modelling industry in the 1990s, called Catwalk, on my laptop.

10PM: Start scrolling through Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest. End up doing it for hours.

1AM: Can't fall asleep, so I go through my ASMR folder on Instagram to help calm me down.

Once she was done drifting off to ASMR, I gave Habi a call to chat about her internet use.

VICE: Right, explain the appeal of ASMR to me.
Habi Diallo: I watch it all the time – mainly floral foam, sand and soap cutting videos. It works better [at helping me get to sleep] than anything else, because you know you'll get tired of it and fall asleep. When I get anxious, sometimes it helps too. It's a quick way to deal with anxiety, unless you end up scrolling for hours again. I have synesthesia, so I see numbers and sounds in colours. I think seeing and hearing things like that is the main reason that ASMR works for me.

Do you tend to watch YouTube videos every day?
Maybe every other day, but it's just that perfect escapism of watching someone else’s life. With the YouTubers I watch, most of them are my age, but the way they've used the internet and their platform to make a living for themselves is really interesting. But it kind of backfires sometimes.

It's supposed to be inspirational, but then when you see kids who are younger than you who are probably doing similar things that you want to do and they're achieving it at a faster pace – that's a bit annoying sometimes.

Do you enjoy being online?
I think I enjoy it more than it stresses me out. Although it can be annoying sometimes, I think the positives outweigh the negatives. In our generation we can create our own jobs and be our own bosses because of the internet. I think that's more powerful than some of the things that can annoy you or overwhelm you.

Does being online decrease the quality of the work you're putting out because you feel like you have to get stuff out quickly to compete?
I think a lot of people nowadays are doing it for the followers instead of doing it for the art, or just for content. Also, I think the followers aspect is the bit that's overwhelming. You can have 700 followers or 70,000 followers, but either way, if you're putting the work out there it's still going to influence someone. A few of my friends are models, and they would probably not book a job that someone else could book because they have fewer followers. That part just isn't fair! It has nothing to do with how good they are. But I am trying to limit how much time I spend on social media.

How are you doing that?
Your phone tells you how long you've spent on particular apps, and I find it terrifying how long I spend on Instagram sometimes, so I'm trying to cut down. It starts off as looking for inspiration. You look at what these people are doing, but then I just keep going and end up feeling a bit crappy about myself.

How would you change social media, so that you don't feel bad about yourself after using it?
The content that people put out should be more realistic. You've got "Instagram girls", and if they want to use Facetune and things like that, then more power to them – that's great, if that's what makes you feel good. But then I think, it's not real, and if people were a bit more real on Instagram and social media then it would be a more all-round positive place. I don't think it's as bad as people sometimes make it out to be, but the fact that it's just a highlight reel of your life makes it really unrealistic; it needs a bit more of a human touch to it.

If you know you're just seeing the good bits, why do you think it makes you feel bad still?
Even though we know it, it's the only thing we see. We kind of end up forgetting that we know it.