The Study
An introduction to this study of family use of the Internet.

The Families
Feature stories reflecting the Internet's impact on study participants' lives.

The Diaries
Statistics reported by people taking part in the project.

The Researchers
Janna Q. Anderson of the Elon School of Communications and 25 student researchers compiled this study.

The Neighborhood
Details about the town of Elon, N.C. and the neighborhood in this study.

Elon University

Pew Internet & American Life Project

"On the whole, I see the Internet as a nice tool to complement already existing methods of research, planning and daily life. I don't foresee myself becoming an Internet junkie anytime soon. I use it when I have some spare time to kill or if necessary, but besides that the Internet is nothing more than a toy." -Lee Serafini

Lee Serafini Lee Serafini

The dawn of the 21st century brings the dawn of a new age of computer use. Although I am a University student and at the prime age for the Internet Generation, someone forgot to open my blinds and let the sun shine in on me. I have not jumped at the chance to get connected and become one with the World Wide Web.

There aren't many specific reasons for my lack of Web use other than I just don't find it as amazing as other people do. Sure, there is a wealth of knowledge and an abundance of information to be found, but in my mind it's an overabundance.

Searches are maddening

Take Web searches for example. You type in a simple word or phrase, and you'll get anywhere from zero matches to hundreds of thousands of matches found. If I get nothing back from the on-line information house, then frustration sets in and I begin to curse the computer. If thousands and thousands of matches appear, I have no clue where to begin and again frustration sets in and so do the aggressive adjectives.

Many people like to play games, shop and do just about anything on the Web. In staying with my personal theme, I don't.

I've never been much of a video game connoisseur, so interactive button-pushing doesn't attract me. As for on-line shopping, I'm still not 100 percent assured that some Web pirate won't use some secret decoder to copy my VISA number and run rampant with it, probably on-line.

Communicating is OK

There is one aspect of the Internet that has tickled my fancy: e-mail and, most recently, Instant Messaging. A close friend helped me get connected one winter morning while I was hunkered in an 8 a.m. class striving to stay awake.

Like any new toy, it was fun to play with for a while but the luster wore off. (Shows my love for the Net.) E-mail is a horse of a different color. E-mail is convenient, fast, cheap and just plain elementary, but when I open my account and see more messages than there are hours in a day, I just grin and proceed to close it on up. I don't want e-mails from clothing companies let alone from adult and teen porn sites. I just don't bother reading unless I recognize the address.

I am a college student, and I also work part-time as a reporter for the local daily newspaper, so I do utilize some Web sites on a regular basis either to kill time or to look up information for a story I'm working on. My bookmarks include www.espn.com, www.cbssportsline.com and many Atlantic Coast Conference schools' Web sites.

On the whole, I see the Internet as a nice tool to complement already existing methods of research, planning and daily life. I don't foresee myself becoming an Internet junkie anytime soon. I use it when I have some spare time to kill or if necessary but besides that the Internet is nothing more than a toy.

The family uses it a bit

Keeping consistent with my theme, my family isn't the Jetsons. We purchased an IBM Aptiva in the summer of 1999. It was the state-of-the-art at the time complete with all the trimmings: sleek, black color; Bose sound system; Intel Pentium II processor and all. Shortly thereafter, we got linked to the Internet, but I was off to lovely Elon University, and the Internet just sat mostly unused at our home.

My grandparents live with my mom and sister - a really nice family situation. And they actually take advantage of the Net from time to time.

"I used it when I got home from work," Grandfather John Serafini said. "But she (grandmother) didn't even know how to turn it on let alone use the Internet at first, and I really didn't have the time to show her."

We have a regular dial-up modem through an Internet provider named Erols. There have been no thoughts about purchasing a high-speed connection, simply because the Internet doesn't get used enough. John explained that if the time comes that faster access to the Internet is needed, then high-speed would be an option but not now.

John has been pretty e-mail savvy since we got the computer. He has fallen into a horrible pattern of printing out all the messages he gets and filing them away. His explanation for this inconceivable action is, "I just like to see what I got."

Grandmother gets into it

My grandmother, Barbara, has just discovered the world of electronic mail. She uses it to keep in touch with her sick brother. Barbara quietly saunters down the basement stairs after rest of the members of the household have retired for the night. She diligently finishes the laundry and turns on the computer. She plays solitaire and responds to her brother's e-mail, grinning like a child who just found Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve.

"At first I didn't know what to do with the computer so I was uncertain," she said. "After a while I just decided to give it a try and say the hell with it." She still enjoys writing cards the traditional way, most in part because that's all she has been ever used to, but likes the simplicity of e-mail.

Mom says she has no time to learn

The family has many of the same complaints I do about cyberspace. My mother, Tammy, explained that the Internet is too vast and complicated. She knows what she wants to look for but has no idea where to begin.

She has never been one to sit around for any length of time. She owns her own construction company, and is always in meetings with subcontractors or out visiting job sites telling the people on the crews how to do their jobs. With the addition of a new one to our family her time has become even more sparse.

"If I had time to fumble with the Internet I still don't think I would," she explained. "I consider going to the mall to shop or into Doylestown to shop my time - time that I can spend by myself with myself. It's nothing against the Internet."

My sister, the expert

On night after I acquired my new IM skills, I was working in the Burlington Times-News newsroom when my sister chimed in to see how life was treating me.

After a few minutes of catching up she told me that she had just recently downloaded Napster (the much-debated music-acquisition Web site). I have trouble just going to some Web sites and working my way around them, so it was pretty amazing to me that this 14-year-old accomplished this.

While my sister hasn't yet reached the level of computer technician, Brielle can do almost anything on the Internet. "I guess I just spend a lot of time using it," Brielle said. "If I have a few free moments, I'll go down and check my e-mail or see who's on IM. It's fun and becoming a way of life for me."

This might not be a bad thing, since it keeps the phone lines open and costs down. Brielle has made many friends throughout the world through her time spent at Irish dance camps. She regularly chats with her friends from Ireland and California thanks to IM.

"Without IM, I wouldn't have the chance to talk with my friends as much as I do," she said. "Now I can talk with them as if we were at camp again."

"If the phone bills say down and her grades up then it's fine," Tammy said. Breille has used the Internet to do research for many reports for school, buy birthday gifts and send cards. She can motor through cyberspace like an astronaut through real space, and she doesn't have her driver's license yet.

We're using it a little anyway

The Internet is a great tool for many things, but it can be too big and intrusive for others. My family hasn't flocked to the computer to use the Internet like others have. Maybe that's a testament to tradition.

The saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" fits my family to a "T" at this point in time, I guess.

It will be up to the younger generations of the Serafini family to begin to move into cyberspace. Most of us older folks like where we live right now.


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