The Internet Diary of a 19-Year-Old

How are teens spending their time online?

by Nana Baah
Aug 22 2018, 4:15pm

Illustration: Alex Jenkins

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

Famously, teenagers love the internet. An example: when I was on study during school, I loved the internet so much that my dad had to take the wireless router to work with him every day so I'd actually do my work.

It comes as no surprise, then, that British teenagers are some of the most extreme internet users in the world, according to the Education Policy Institute think-tank. Ofcom's latest report on the topic says 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK spend around 35 hours a week online—but what exactly are they doing with all those hours?

In the interest of always being as nosy as possible, I asked 19-year-old musician and model, Leo Bhanji, to keep a 24-hour diary of his internet use.

8 AM: Wake up and check my phone right away. Wish my friend Manuel a happy birthday on WhatsApp and then go back to sleep because I don't have to work today.

12 PM: Wake up again, get up and check my phone right away. I go on Instagram first, then Twitter, and then Reddit. They released new cards on Hearthstone [an online collectible card video game], so I play three games on my phone. I want to play as much as possible to see which decks are getting popular and how to beat them.

1 PM: Send my friend a GamersRiseUp meme.

2 PM: By this point, I'm online constantly. I'm shooting a video later, so I'm sending people details mostly over social media. But organizing everything has started to make me anxious, so I put my phone down to make a song.

3:39 PM: I've taken a break from recording to walk around for a bit, so I'm back on my socials again.

4:40 PM: I check in on my group chat. I put a promo clip for another friend who just dropped a new song on my Instagram story. I add a picture of him looking cute too, because that's my guy.

5:10 PM: Share some music online and say dumb shit in my group chat.

6:51 PM: Comment "oh boy" on my friend's Instagram post.

7 PM: Start my video shoot and post it on my IG story.

11 PM: Play League of Legends [an online battle arena game] with my dad. We lose both games.

Once he was done losing at League of Legends, I called Bhanji to chat about how he spends his time online, self-care, and how the internet has changed.

VICE: How do you usually feel when you're online?
Leo: Honestly, I'm very proud of my internet presence. It's easier to put things online, sometimes, than to say it in real life loudly enough for all those people to hear. I find it quite emboldening in a lot of ways.

You had to stop organizing your video shoot because you felt anxious. Was it triggered specifically by being online?
It might be about being on my phone. It's the feeling that if I get a notification it's someone needing information from me, and then I start to think, Shit. I've got to address that.

Do you spend most of your time online just aimlessly scrolling?
Definitely. I have ADHD, so if I start scrolling, I'm not about to stop. But I've got a whole self-care thing worked out.

How do you do that?
Basically, I don't follow things that I'll get sick of. I'm always paying attention, like wondering: Am I enjoying this content? I don’t follow it if it's toxic for me and I would look at it ten times a day. It's negative compared to what you could have on.

Would you like to spend less time online?
I can't tell because obviously relating to people is something you have to do, and if the internet is the medium for it, then so be it. Older people are usually like, "People can contact me at all times and I never have any privacy." But I'm a lonely person and I live kind of far [from my friends], so I'm glad I can hit people up all the time because on some days I don't want to travel for an hour.

What are the best things about the internet?
You can be social and fulfilled, no matter where you're at physically—and the fact that there's less luck involved in getting attention for your artistic stuff these days. If you're good enough you'll always find an outlet.

How has your internet use changed?
In 2012, it was mostly Facebook and personal blogs that were related to fandoms. People would anonymize themselves, so they would name themselves after a Pokémon or something goofy like that. There was definitely more cynicism and frustration with the world than you'll see on corners of the internet now. There was this sense of the internet back then being a last resort; it wasn't a cool place to be.

Is there anything you'd want to change about the internet?
People want to know how it feels to be someone else. Now you have the ability, but people don't really do that—they just stick to the same opinions and perspectives. I come across people who instinctively react to things in a different way than me, and, [to them], there's no question that this isn't the way to react.

Do you think you'll always have the same relationship with the internet that you have now?
I will always want feedback and reinforcement from people, but I'm probably thinking I wouldn't want to be online forever. There are goals in my life that might require me to put down this interconnectedness and focus on a smaller scope of the world.

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Follow Nana Baah on Twitter and Leo Bhanji on Instagram.