10 Silly Internet Mistakes You Need to Stop Making Today

The Internet is a wonderful thing:

  • It allows you to videochat with grandma in real time.
  • It gives you free access to the Library of Congress.
  • It empowers you to do financial transactions without visiting the bank.

However, it can also make you spend three hours watching LOLCats. Make smart use of your web access and avoid these 10 little Internet mistakes.

1. Taking Notes on Your Computer

All computer makers are trying to convince us that their products are the "next big thing." However, pen and paper still beat any digital device at taking notes for better long-term comprehension.

Studies show that when people take notes on laptops, they tend to transcribe what they're hearing without thinking about the actual content. Note takers that write longhand are better at remembering the content because they have to process the content.

This doesn't mean that you have to give up on all digital devices. You can get the best of both worlds by using a tablet that allows you to write longhand and keep a digital copy of your notes.

2. Reading Too Much Email

Email is a major time thief. It steals around 13 hours from your week every week. If you were to gain back just five hours out of those 13 spent on checking email and allocate them to every workday, you would be able to accomplish more every workday.

Try one or more of these tricks to reduce your time spent on email.

  • Gmail users, install the Inbox Pause plugin to pause new emails arriving to your inbox and avoid distractions.
  • Reduce the number of times you check email a day and use smart autoresponders to ask people to accept your policy.
  • Avoid setting up meeting times over email. How many "Re:re:re:re:fw:re:fw:re: Meeting time" emails do you answer per day? Pick up the phone or walk over to your co-worker's cubicle, and get it done.

3. Not Keeping a List of Action Items

Don't be like Alice in Wonderland: If you don't know where are you are going, it doesn't really matter which way you go. And that's how you end up stuck in Twitter, Instagram, or Words with Friends all day. (See also: 11 Time Saving Hacks From the World's Busiest People)

You need to be aware of what needs to get done today. The most productive people in the world, including Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and celebrity chef Bobby Flay, map out what they want to accomplish every day. This list forces you to focus and get stuff done.

Keep your list in front of you throughout the day and you'll keep those Internet distractions in check.

4. Spending Too Much Time Online

Go out and play. Why?

  • Turns out that using the Internet in excess is related to having depressive tendencies.
  • Quickly switching between websites decreases your ability to experience emotions as you get used to chasing instant gratification.
  • Too much online chatting and emailing decreases your ability to pick up on verbal and body cues in real life conversations.
  • Rely too much on Google and you'll develop decreased memory capabilities.

Take the time to unplug. Your body, mind, and social life will thank you.

5. Following an Ex Online

Let. It. Go.

There's a good reason why you broke up with that person, even if you may have forgotten it! Social media provide us an "opportunity" to keep tabs on our exes, but there's nothing good that will come out of it.

A study reveals that Facebook-stalking your ex leads to a variety of negative feelings, sexual desire, longing for your ex, and lower personal growth. The more that you check on your old flame online, the harder it is for your to move on.

6. Replacing Your Doctor With WebMD

Medical sites, such as WebMD.com and MDAdvice.com, are great for gathering information. However, those sites shouldn't replace your doctor.

Doctors across the country report that their patients are arriving at false diagnoses based on those sites and often taking the wrong course of action. Remember that the Internet is a tool and, as such, it can't make up for years and years of study and professional experience.

It is okay to use medical advice sites as research tools — it's not ok to use those sites to self-diagnose. False diagnoses create unnecessary anxiety and may cause physical harm to your loved ones or yourself. Seek the advice of a certified health professional.

7. Making Private Information Public

If anybody can find online…

  • Your birth date;
  • The name of your first pet;
  • The name of the street of your first home;
  • Your mother's maiden name; or
  • The make and model of your first car…

…then you're increasing the chances of somebody hacking your online accounts.

Software giant Microsoft found that strangers have a 13% chance of guessing the answers to security questions within five attempts. The more information about yourself that you make available online, the greater the chance strangers (not just rocket-scientist hackers!) will get a hold of your online accounts.

8. Using the Same Password for Everything

Up to 55% of Internet users the same password for their most visited websites.

The password to your Instagram account can't be the same as the one for your online banking. One leads to your pictures, the other one to your money. Your life savings deserve better protection than "password123." It seems like common sense, but, unfortunately, the top three passwords of 2013 were "123456," "password," and "12345678."

Create strong passwords by using at least eight characters, including numbers, applying CamelCase, and avoiding full words. Also, update your passwords on a regular basis.

9. Posting Inappropriate Things on Social Media

Think twice before you post anything on social media, it may cost you your job. Make sure to check your employer's policies on use of social media, even during non-work hours.

10. Not Updating Settings for In-App Purchases

Free is not always free. Some free apps may cost more than you think.

There are so many in-app purchases out there that in 2014 Apple agreed to settle with the FTC charges for kid's in-app purchases without parental consent by paying a minimum of $32.5 million to those affected.

Prevent any unintentional charges from your children (or yourself!) to your credit card from in-app purchases by updating these settings on your smartphone:

  • Require a password for all in-app purchases;
  • Create a strong password (see #8 in this list);
  • Lock the screen of your phone with a password (if you have small children);
  • Create a separate profile on your down device for your children (if available); and
  • Educate your children about when it's ok to make in-app purchase.

What are the worst Internet mistakes you've made? Share them in the comments!

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