An introduction to this study of family use of the Internet.
"My family and I are constantly trying to keep in touch with the
technology. We may not be computer wizards, but the intention to learn and make
life easier is definitely there."
Sometimes drowning is not always a negative thing. I say this in reference to the way I feel as I take a look at the technological universe in which we live. It acts as a pool of water. Those who specialize in a specific field and have devoted their lives to making the human species more connected - those who feel they have seen all there is to see and are just waiting for the next, more powerful thing to surface - are watching over us as a lifeguard would.
Those who understand the general overview of what is happening on a day-to-day basis and are able to keep in constant contact with the technology world, are floating around on inner tubes, or just bobbing in the water.
Then there are the rest of us: absolutely amazed by what has occurred, what can occur and what will occur. Occasionally getting frustrated with teaching ourselves or waiting for the equipment to cooperate, we grasp for someone on the surface to hold onto, just for a breather.
Sometimes however, it is nice to sink to the bottom. There we are able to work at our own pace and feel comfortable drowning in the pool of information that has been placed upon us.
I've been held captive by my computer
As I am approaching 20 years of living on this Earth, I am able to say that amidst all the video games, cable, music, answering machines, cell phones and pagers, computers with their growing capacities are the tech tools that place me in a complete state of amazement.
Although, I was not an avid user until I came to college, I did experiment with the ideas of e-mail and chatting online while I was in high school. Now that I am at Elon University, I find myself on the computer constantly. The first thing I do when I come home from somewhere is sit at my computer. I check my e-mail four or five times a day. If I am bored I will turn to Netscape Navigator, my browser, to search for information regarding dance or other sports.
Spending money, saving time
In the holiday season that just passed, I was unfortunate enough to have my wisdom teeth removed. This cut my shopping time drastically. I was able to go online to purchase four of the seven presents I planned to give. It was wonderful!
I was also able to make plane reservations for my boyfriend to come see me over the break. It was so easy, Ticketless Travel on Southwest Airlines only requires the traveler to bring a photo ID and a confirmation number to the gate.
One day, after getting really bored, I decided to enter my entire family in the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. Hey, it could happen.
The dancin' queen
The Internet comes in handy a lot when I am looking for items Elon has to purchase for our dance team. We have been able to find our shoes and our warm-up suits online. I also use it to find out about the dance teams that are associated with area professional and minor league sports teams. I read press releases on them, and in instances I have contacted coaches about tryouts and clinics. I enjoy seeking information about camps, workshops, conventions and competitions - this is a primary reason for me to go online.
My roommate was able to find out about the location for nationals for the dance team she coaches and for the Elon University Dance Team. Because of the Internet, we are on dance-specific mailing lists and we can order catalogs that offer goods or services that may benefit our team.
My first vote came with online help
This year was the first year I was able to vote in a major presidential election. Since I attend college in North Carolina but I prefer to vote in Virginia, I knew I needed an absentee ballot.
My other roommate and I went online and had our Virginia election ballots sent to us so we could vote. It was much easier than having to go re-register or having to leave the house to go get a ballot.
Within eight or nine days, our ballots arrived and we were able to vote and send them back just in time for the election.
Web vital in shopping for a college
When I was in high school and in the process of college-hunting the Internet played a tremendous role in helping me to find the place that was right for me. In a sense it connected me to Elon.
I knew about Elon, and I had already been contacted about dancing here, but when it came to finding out about applications, campus and student life, athletics and other general information, the computer was one of the first resources my family and I consulted.
The Elon Web site wasn't as up-to-date and nice as it is now, but it still contained a plethora of information useful to me in making my decision. I was also able to use e-mail a lot to stay in touch with admissions and my dance team coach before I arrived for school.
Gotta stay connected
I am one of those people who leave Instant Messenger on constantly because I have Road Runner, which keeps it from tying up the phone line.
I am always curious to see who is online when I am, and to see if anyone has tried to talk to me while I was gone. I feel a lot more comfortable taking to people online simply because I have never really been a phone person.
I'm sure my parents appreciate it also, seeing how it dramatically cuts down on long-distance bills.
All in the family
My parents are Internet users. My mom doesn't use it too much, but it does come in handy when looking for cheap prices and comparing products. She also explores travel online.
My godmother plays games a lot online - things such as free cell and solitaire - mostly card games. She also uses AOL a lot to look up general information and has been using it lately for health information of all types.
My sisters are on the computer constantly. It has really been what they have grown up with, and they, I am sure, are much more able on it then I am. They love to chat on Instant Messenger, and use e-mail all the time to communicate.
My father's job is studying the Internet. He is the director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, and he is consistently on it to do research and connect with people. His job is also to see how other Americans and their families use the Internet as a part of their lives, whether it be every day or on occasion.
His study group also researches what those who do get online are actually exploring.
My grandparents are also online. They just recently got hooked up and don't use it for anything much besides e-mail. My grandfather uses it the most, and sometimes he checks out Web sites of interest, but he and grandmother use it mostly for communication.
We're all basically staying afloat
My family and I are constantly trying to keep in touch with the technology. We may not be computer wizards, but the intention to learn and make life easier is definitely there.
The Internet has benefited us in everything from ways to communicate, to purchasing gifts, to travel. As long as I am not completely lost, I think I have done a pretty good job in staying afloat.
It helps to know if I start going under someone or something of a younger, cooler, more advanced generation will be there to bring me back up.
Elon University, North Carolina
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Last Modified:January 2001
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