How has the internet changed our brains? There’s been plenty of finger pointing and talk about the adverse effects of social media, but how have we become rewired since the internet sat us down? Are we addicted? Or is that an utterly absurd statement since we need the internet like we need electricity?

According to recent research, excessive internet use may negatively effect our attention span and short-term memory. This behavior, like “digital multitasking”, is also associated with “higher risks for depression and anxiety, and can make us feel isolated and/or overwhelmed”.

Unfortunately, this isn’t anything we haven’t heard before. However, I’d argue that social media, or news outlets, or Google algorithms have been blamed for the division in politics and people, instead, it sounds like it’s the whole damn internet that we need to consider.

Nicolas Carr author of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains observed, the more distracted you are, “the less able you are to experience empathy.”

And this is definitely happening before our eyes. Yuval Noah Harari, author of 21 Lessons for the 21st Century wrote, “Humans were always far better at inventing tools than using them wisely.”

Here’s to trying to use it more wisely.

Tonle Sap, Cambodia, 2016

My Internet Habits

If I was to grade myself, I’d give myself a B, depending on how I’m using the internet. It’s hard to grade oneself, and what’s the rubric? I think your grade should also depend on your journey, like maybe you used to use Twitter too much, but now you’re only on it an hour, or if you’re job requires it, like it feels subjective. But I’ll go first…

“Good god, we have to get up there?” Phrathat Chedi Si Khruba, outside of Lamphun, Thailand, 2013


Many years ago, I watched a clip on people’s internet searching habits. The younger generation usually clicked on the first (few) links, while older folks, did a bit more scrolling and looking around, which, now that I think about it, probably stems from our library days. (Microfiche!)

Obviously the latter is better; after all, when we’re looking for information, faster is not usually better. In fact, this is how false news has taken off, because it’s about being first, not accurate. I was shocked to hear that most news comes from Twitter.

I also heard that Google was messing with their algorithms, and when I did a little sleuthing regarding veganism, I was unhappy to see this was true. As a result, I stopped using Google as my main search engine. I still use it for image searches because it is superior, but generally speaking, at home, I use DuckDuckGo.

Pumpkin top security lock at park in Chiang Rai, Thailand, 2018


Somewhat recently, who can keep track of time these days, I started using a VPN, and I really like the added security. My husband told me that hackers are very much here in Thailand, too. I also discovered that your mobile device constantly sheds information, but don’t ask me how that works, so I use a VPN for both my desktop and phone.

But other than that, I rely on the fact that I have an Operating System (OS) that a small population uses. Hackers and viruses are interested in where the majority lies, Windows, not Linux. I also made the switch from Google Chrome to Brave for my browser. I love the built-in ad blocker and that they respect my privacy.

Nevertheless, I’m not bulletproof. I feel like with security, I could always be better.

penang motobike street art
Penang, Malaysia, 2016

Social Media

As a writer, I was told Twitter was a perfect fit. When Instagram arrived, it seemed like another perfect place to make new friends and share photos from my expat life. Pinterest is good for bloggers. And shouldn’t you have your own Facebook page?

I’ve tried them all, except I refuse to get on TikTok because it’s a security nightmare, and no, thanks, I don’t need another distraction. Nowadays, I only use Facebook since it’s how I’ve managed to stay in touch with old high school, college, expat friends, and family. (But a recent scroll through was riddled with more ads than I’ve ever seen. UGH.)

For me, I’m happier away from social. Even when I tried to craft them to only include writers or publications on Twitter, or positive people and cute animals on Instagram, I was still faced with content (the ads on IG are insane and not interested in your political grandstanding) that lowered my IQ.

However, YouTube is my Achilles heel. It’s like the old days, cable television with a zillion channels. But I’m pretty good. I mean, I have my limit as to how much time I can and want to waste. I’m also probably considered lame compared to the younger generation. It’s just the sheer volume that allows you to hook into something and stay hooked.

I keep my history locked, so YT can’t make suggestions based on it.

Katchin Festival, Thailand, 2013


Another surprise that I learned about while doing research for this post is how many people gamble online. It’s considered common, yo. Common. But I’ve never gambled online, and not surprisingly, it’s unregulated.

I also don’t play games. Yes, shocking. I’ve never Wordled or Candy Crushed on my phone. I’ve watched people play games – they had no idea, I just looked over at these people, watching them like I was visiting Planet Earth [I am, can’t wait to go back to my own planetary system].

Of course, when I’m traveling or having to wait, I TOTALLY get why these activities are golden, but there’s something about killing time that I find abhorring. I’d much rather experience good ‘ol fashioned boredom.

Bo Sang, Thailand, 2014

Phone Use

Google Maps, Grab delivery and transportation, Google Translate, the weather, banking, and air quality apps are all useful. I use Messenger, What’s App, and Line for texting. The latter is for work and it’s ubiquitous in Thailand. Although, I hate it.

I mainly use Google on my phone, so I find it interesting to see what’s trending in searches and what Discover has to offer. This is like looking at YT’s trending videos, I’m curious to see what’s popular, viral, and newsworthy, but without going down the rabbit hole.

As you can imagine on YT, it’s the lowest common denominator stuff, but this is how I find out what music is popular and movies that are coming out. But by scanning headlines in Google, for example, rather than news channels, you still can see what’s happened without crying buckets over the state of humanity. Click at your own risk.

In short, my phone is a tool. Sometimes I even make/answer phone calls.

Khao Yai National Park, Thailand, 2019

In the classroom/at work

I’m lucky that my job doesn’t require me to be on the computer the entire time. I interact with my students, create activities centered around the curriculum, or just do fun stuff like science and art projects. Of course, there’s an element of data entry and reports, etc, but for the most part, I try to stay away from too much technology in the classroom.

It’s a battle though. My school wants to introduce tablets, and I voted no. Out of all the teachers, I use the TV the least, and it’s not because I’m anti-technology, it’s because I believe kids these days get enough screen time, school should be a break. We have ICT class and they get to play games during lunch one time a week, and that’s good enough in my opinion.

What are your internet habits?

20 replies on “What are your internet habits?

  1. Huh, the internet actually is my brain–or maybe vice versa! Well, not really, but I’m definitely “on” too much. I used to always have a book with me, to kill time in the line at the post office, for instance. Now, it’s my phone, and I’m usually watching an IG reel–not reading anything. Twitter is where the writers hang out so I go over there some. And FB has actual friends who will actually read something, so I find that beneficial to the writing, too. Definitely a no to TikTok. I really don’t need one more thing–or the security nightmare. You sound like you’re very good at the security stuff. I could probably use a tune-up there. And don’t get me started about the schools using technology as a babysitter. I know you wouldn’t. But at my guys’ old school, the Spanish teacher would show videos–not even in Spanish–to kill time. Yes, when she was supposed to be teaching. And don’t give me the “we’re teaching kids to use the tech they’ll need to use in the workplace.” They know all that. They get it at home; they’re born knowing it, by this generation. I think you’re right, they should get a break from the screens and passive information gathering at school. Maybe unless it’s microfiche! Hope you’re well, friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, you too. Yeah, the tech thing at schools is surprisingly debatable. Admin wants I-pads for the upper grades, as if that wouldn’t effect the lower, right? Just folks not thinking things through… I see a lot teachers using the TV. We’ve got one who actually uses it so his students can watch him play games like Roblox. Ooops, you got me started 😛 Sometimes I wonder if I was in the States if I’d feel more social pressure to use my phone more often. Over here, I’m already an outsider so it’s easier to be different.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not thinking things through–exactly. Wonder why no one knows how to think critically anymore!? Oh, that’s interesting. I love that you’re an outsider enough that maybe you don’t feel as much pressure to conform to norms of social media and everything else. I mean, remember when we were told kids should never have more than an hour of screen time a day and cell phones were going to give us brain tumors? It’s really interesting how quickly these norms change!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hahahaha. Don’t sit too close to the TV! Television will rot your brain. When cell phones were becoming the norm, I loathed the idea that I could be reached anytime and anywhere — but I realized how VERY handy it was when I was apt hunting. The ability to triangulate information is quickly becoming a rare commodity. Too much information and too much despair, me thinks.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, for plant identification and connecting and keeping track of friends, family and places, all good stuff. Agree. Glad you’re in your happy space! xo

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your post is (among other things) a reminder that I am way more dependent on Google than I want to be! Will check out your recommended search engine.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I honestly can’t imagine selling art without the internet. That being said, art scammers are very much alive and well. I love the internet for streaming tv & movies, but I’m not a fan of the social media through which I sell my art. I definitely feel happier on days when I spend less time online. Lots of pros and cons.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, and I think this is why many people, especially young folks feel the need to use social media despite its real negative effects. Those benefits feel like ones we can no longer live without. And yes, for entertainment, the internet is king and queen!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. These days I am veering away not just from social media, but the Internet in general, Lani. Don’t get me wrong, as an introvert I just love the ability to book accommodation and flights via the Internet for instance, and I love how I don’t have to depend on whatever information is stored in a library, but whatever research I need or want to do is right at my fingertips. Granted, sometimes that process can be like looking for a needle in a haystack, and often I can disappear down rabbit holes for hours or days on end to try and verify information. I do tend to use academic papers when doing research, so that is another challenge altogether, but it is a function of the Internet that has enriched my life. Not to mention staying in touch with friends, family and blogging friends. I am selective though, as there are just not enough hours for what one can do on the Internet, even when it is nourishing. Because of where I live being offline brings me much more joy these days!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To me it seems you have the best of both worlds. You are in nature, surrounded by peace and clean air, but you have the internet in all its informative and entertaining glory at your fingertips. Glad to see you are enjoying life away from the online world — it’s a rare thing these days, but I feel more and more are trying to recapture it. xo


  5. Such an interesting post, Lani. Technology and digital permeates every facet of life these days and it can be challenging staying on top of being secure online. In terms of social media I am quite the opposite of you. I do not use Facebook (except for the occasional update of my Facebook blog page). Do not have the Facebook app and only have Messenger to keep in touch with some friends. IG is where I am active the most and I use it for personal entertainment and keeping in touch with others. So many posts and feeds are so curated these days, though. That’s great if you are after such content and find inspiration from it, but other times it can be quite formulaic and depressing.

    Like you, I also don’t play games on my phone. I have minimal apps on my phone and every now and then will take some time to declutter what I don’t need. Don’t do delivery or transportation apps either. I daresay I use less apps than you 😜 Hope you are doing well, Lani ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s probably a generational thing. I imagine an older demographic uses FB and more ‘third world’ countries. It seems dated, doesn’t it? I had some nice years on IG and have deliberately kept my acct, but I do find it depressing — maybe it’s the ads? Delivery is VERY popular here. What about in Oz? I’ve used it a few times. I might use it more if it was in English. And transportation is what I use the most, when you don’t have a car or reliable public transportation, it’s great. Game changer. Hope you are doing well, too! Thanks for stopping by ❤


      1. Delivery is very popular in Oz too. Personally I rather cook as I cannot justify food delivery fees. Having time to cook and live life prioritising wellness is important to me. And so I think it’s always good to have an internet break here and there 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. 1 of my sisters, just 5 yrs. younger was shocked I had submitted my resume to corporate databases in my job hunt over 15 yrs. ago.

    She had been in her job as a pharmacist, for the past 3 decades. So no job hunting for her.

    I was very surprised by her naivete…she does use the Internet, email and chats with her 3 adult children.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think there are many of us who don’t question what’s going on behind the proverbial curtain. Often, if we have our needs met and we’re doing alright, then we just want that to continue.


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