An introduction to this study of family use of the Internet.
"I seem to use it for just about everything - research, e-mail,
travel directions, airline tickets, shopping, school work - you name it, I do it
on the Web. There's really nothing you can't find with the click of a few buttons
and I try to take full advantage of what it offers."
For the tenth time today, Kim Eagens double-clicks on the "Execmail" icon of her desktop, hoping to see that 50 new e-mails have popped into her inbox folder.
Instead, "Funnymailer" is the only new e-mail for Kim to read, which does not come as a surprise to this avid Internet user. She disappointingly deletes her one annoying message, all the while, wishing she could kill her friend Emily for signing her up three years ago to receive these horrible daily jokes. She closes out the program and moves on with her day.
On most days though, Kim does receive a few e-mails here and there from her friends, sorority sisters or relatives to which she will either reply, delete immediately after reading or save for later.
Definitely a great way to stay in touch
"I love getting e-mails," Kim, 20, admitted. "I wish there could be new messages every time I check my inbox. It's so disappointing to wait all that time for the Intrex Internet server to connect to find zero new mail. Believe me, this happens a lot, too."
Used as a way to stay in contact with high school friends from New York, relatives who span across the country, and her sister Dawn, a senior at Wingate University in Charlotte, N.C., e-mail has been the greatest addition to Kim's computer-savvy status.
"My family is constantly telling me I'm a computer nerd, especially my sister. They think that because I actually like e-mailing that I am some sort of Internet whiz kid," admitted Kim. "My whole thinking is: Why not e-mail if it can save you so much money?"
Internet use not common in the Eagens family
Of the four members of the Eagens family, Kim is the only fervent user of the Internet. "I'm not too sure how I ever got so hooked on the Internet in the first place. No one in my family ever uses it. Well, maybe my sister a little," said Kim. "I don't really know what I would do without it and I'm so glad I learned to use the Internet when I did."
Mary Eagens, mother of Kim and Dawn, has recently been introduced to the Internet, but just can't seem to get a firm grasp on how to use it. "I think if I understood it better I would use it more often. Now it just seems like a it would be a hassle to learn," she admitted. "I've gone 44 years of my life without it and been fine. I can't imagine starting now. I really do think it's a great tool though and I'm glad it's available to use."
Tom, Kim's father, is general superintendent for Thalle Construction. He finds no time or need for the Internet in his field. He has been working in the construction industry since as far back as he can remember. Traditional ways have been his route to success. Though the Internet could probably be of some benefit to him in his career, lack of computer knowledge and experience have been barriers to becoming Web-savvy.
Dawn, soon to graduate with a degree in communications and public relations, seems to have gotten through college just fine without any major use of the Internet.
"Sometimes if I had a big paper to write, I would look on the Internet for some information, but then again, you never know if what you can trust what you find out there anyway," explained Dawn, 22. "It's just as easy for me to find a book in the library than it is to find credible information on the Internet."
No idea where it was headed at the time
"I first used the Internet back when I was a sophomore in high school," Kim said. "The first time I was introduced to it, I was in awe by what it could do. At the time though, I had no idea what I was actually getting myself into or what the Internet would eventually evolve into."
Now a junior at Elon University in North Carolina, Kim uses this advanced technology even more than expected. "I seem to use it for just about everything - research, e-mail, travel directions, airline tickets, shopping, school work - you name it, I do it on the Web," Kim stated. "There's really nothing you can't find with the click of a few buttons and I try to take full advantage of what it offers."
Most recently, Kim purchased clothing online using victoriasecret.com and jcrew.com. "Five years ago, I could never imagine pointing and clicking on a picture on my computer and a week later, the items are sitting on my front doorstep," Kim admitted. "It's pretty dangerous for someone who already has a problem with shopping too much."
College hunt made easy
From the time Kim and Dawn were in middle school, the Eagens family had planned to relocate to the South. "We knew we wanted to get out of New York," said Tom, a 35-year veteran of the treacherous New York City evening commute. "The lifestyle in North Carolina is so much more laid back and after living up North for so long and this was exactly what we were looking for." With this in mind, Kim knew she wanted to find a college somewhere in the South. Nevertheless, as a member of three high school sports team and two club sports teams, there was no real "off-season" for this busy girl.
"It was so hard to find the time to drive 12 hours to come and visit schools," explained Kim. "Though it seems like college would have come before sports, even still, it was hard for my parents to get the same time off work. Luckily, I was able to use the Internet to narrow down the schools that I was interested in and to contact people if I had any questions. Without the Internet available to me, who knows what college I would have ended up at."
Not only did Kim discover Elon online, she was also given the opportunity to keep up with the volleyball team that she would be joining upon her arrival to Elon. "It was great that I could go online to check scores of the games and the stats of my future teammates," said Kim. "It allowed me to get a feel for what I could expect in my near future."
Relationships without paying the price
"Why don't you find a nice guy who lives around here to date and forget these guys from Alabama and Indiana?" Mary questioned Kim. "But Mom, it just seems like every guy I meet seems to live at least 500 hundred miles away - I can't help it!" Kim responded to Mary.
This seemed to be the story of Kim's life for quite some time, until she met a "nice guy" from Elon - finally, her mother could be happy. However, while chatting with him one night, she discovered something that would make her mother ask this question yet again.
"When I asked him where he was from and he said, 'Switzerland,' I nearly fell off my chair," confessed Kim. "I couldn't even begin to imagine what my mom was going to say. When I finally told her, I think she really did fall off her chair."
As the end of the school year approached, Kim's boyfriend would be leaving to go home for the summer. A relationship with someone in Switzerland would not come at a cheap price for Kim or her phone-bill-paying mother. Despite their distance from each other and the outrageous international calling rates, Kim and her boyfriend were able to talk every day, as often as they pleased. E-mail and America Online Instant Messenger made this possible.
"My phone bill was pretty high to begin with," explained Mary. "I can't even imagine what it would have been if not for e-mail." Grateful for the technology, Kim and her boyfriend survived three months apart without missing a beat.
Whatever the reason, it's useful
Kim seems to find use for the Internet in all aspects of her life. Whether it is research, travel arrangements, chatting with friends, or continuing romance, the Internet seems to be incorporated as part of her daily life.
"I think the Internet is the best thing since volumnizing shampoo," according to Kim. "I hope corruption, hackers and all the other nasty stuff working against the Web, don't impact its overall use in the future. I would love to be able to share this amazing technology with my children some day."
Elon University, North Carolina
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Last Modified:January 2001
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