An introduction to this study of family use of the Internet.
"Both my parents - with whom I also communicate over the Net -
predicted that I would probably lose most or all of my high school friendships
when I went to college. They probably have this inaccurate perspective because
they didn't have the Internet when they left for college, and in their experience
they personally lost those connections."
My Internet use extends to mainly e-mail or searching for information for a project. I spend about 10 to 20 minutes a day answering e-mail, although since I started taking this Internet research class, two weeks ago, I have spent more like 40 minutes daily sifting through e-mails. Many of the extra e-mails are from classmates and our professor, Janna Anderson.
If I'm bored, I sometimes just surf the Net to kill time and see what I can find.
When I am working on a specific project on the Internet, searching for information may take as long as a few hours or it may only take a little while, depending on how much I have to research.
Staying in touch with old friends
What I really enjoy about the Internet is that it allows me to remain in contact with friends - close friends from high school with whom I'm still communicating even though its been more than three years since my last class with them.
I might talk to John, a student at Bentley College in Massachusetts, Mark, who attends Xavier University in Ohio, or Liz, who's in college at John Carol in Ohio. My friends Brant, Denny and Chrissy all go to Miami University in Ohio. I could also end up talking to Sujay who lives out in California (if he's going to college, it's a big secret and he won't tell anyone).
Even friends who are still in high school are easy to keep in touch with. For instance, there are Katie and Niana, who go to my alma mater, Gilmour Academy in Ohio, and will soon be graduating.
Amazingly enough, I could end up talking in a private room or through e-mail with Brant, Denny, Sujay, John, Mark, Chrissy, Liz, Katie and Niana, all at once while we are all in our own rooms at our separate locations.
There is no doubt we still stay in touch because of the Internet. Both my parents - with whom I also communicate over the Net - predicted that I would probably lose most or all of my high school friendships when I went to college. They probably have this inaccurate perspective because they didn't have the Internet when they left for college, and in their experience they personally lost those connections.
To this day, I think I surprise them when I'm at home and I tell them I'll be out for the night with my friends from way back in high school.
A family computing history
In 1985, my dad and mom bought their first computer. It was an IBM that was mainly used by my mom to help her with school work while she was earning her Ph.D. in information science at Case Western Reserve University. It wasn't really for family use.
We acquired our first family computer around 1994 or 1995; my brothers and I used it to type papers and play games over the Internet or just search for stuff. It was also an IBM.
More recently I was given my own computer as a going-to-college gift, in 1998. It is an IBM Aptiva. I find that I hardly use it for more than research on Yahoo.com or for writing to my friends.
Buying books on the Net
My mom also uses Yahoo.com as her main browser. She often checks up on the weather at different sites. She says she only goes on the Internet once a week now, to check her e-mail and keep in touch with her children and a few friends. This takes about 10 minutes for her to do.
She also uses the Internet to buy about 10 books a month and to comparison shop. Occasionally throughout the year, she does gift shopping on the Web. She says she finds it amazing how easy it is to shop over the Internet.
I have made purchases from Web sites, but it is not my preferred shopping method. I like going out to malls to shop for the clothes I want. I bought one book, Jimmy Buffett's "Where is Joe Merchant," and a few CD's online, including "The Bob Marley and The Wailers Legend" and "Pink Floyd: The Wall."
When I make purchases, I try to use Amazon.com or another well-known Internet site. I think I don't more purchases over the Internet because I'm much more accustomed to going out to a store to make purchases. It's the way I did things most of my life. Sometimes I don't even realize that what I bought could have been found on the Internet.
Credibility questions online
If a Web site appears to be reputable to me, I generally trust its information. I rarely try to find out if the creator of the site is actually legit; I wouldn't have much of an idea how to do so. Any of the credentials listed could just as easily be falsified data for all I know.
My mom on the other hand will always look at the provided bibliography. She says she looks forward to being able to do more office work at home over the Internet if technological developments head that way.
Even though I find it distracting to have both the television and the Internet on simultaneously, I sometimes do it. I never listen to radio music on the Internet, but I often use MP3s. My mother says she hates playing music while online.
When mom is on the Internet she does not watch TV, but if an advertisement she has previously seen on TV has a Web site, she sometimes will write it down and check it out later.
I have never found a Web address in a magazine or TV ad and then used it later, although I admit I do sometimes write them down. They seem to disappear almost immediately for some reason.
My mom does not use the Internet as a source for getting the daily news, because our family receives both the Cleveland Plain Dealer and The Wall Street Journal.
Mom and son differ on screening sites
My mom uses parental controls to screen the Internet sites her children use. If I had children, I don't think I would screen what they looked at. I would trust their common sense.
They will need to know the Internet in their generation because it will probably grow to be a more and more intricate part of humanity. If my children were to see something that they didn't want to see, then they would hopefully move on to something more acceptable. Plus, if they want to see "adult" content, then they should be allowed to if they're curious. When I think about it, I admit I might like to screen some of the weird stuff from them.
Still getting used to the whole idea
I have never used the wish-list option that Internet shopping sites provide. Just to show how tech-savvy I am, I'll tell you I don't know what a wish-list option is or how to use it.
This leads into my biggest frustration, my ignorance of just how useful the Internet is. I may go to the store for pants or a CD without ever even thinking of using the Internet.
Another frustration is when I am searching for something on the Internet, and I can't find the specific detail I want in the article I have found. I would like to be able to write to the author and ask him if what I assume he's implying is accurate. Some sites do provide that option but its not always clear in the complex Web sites where that option is or if it exists.
The real solution for this is probably for me to take a class on the Internet, but I haven't managed to fit that into my schedule yet.
Instant Messenger is awesome
The biggest benefit and surprise on the Internet has been Instant Messenger. I don't use it so much for communicating with Elon University buddies, because it's easier to just call them rather then sign on and hope they're there.
I spend two to three minutes to an hour or so a day writing back and forth on IM. It's a rare day when I spend an hour writing, though, unless it is an interesting or important conversation.
I am totally amazed at how it immediately appears - a conversation with someone else on my monitor. It is so cool.
I know there are other channels of communication that I could use, but they require patience. Letter writing is one of my least-favorite ways of communication, so I think that spending money on a computer and an Internet hookup is worthwhile. It saves an immense amount of time.
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Last Modified:January 2001
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