Elon University

One Week on the Internet in 2001: The Alexander Family

This feature article about Internet use at the turn of the millennium is part of “One Neighborhood, One Week on the Internet in 2001” a revealing ethnographic study of Internet use during the week of Jan. 12-19, 2001, by 24 upper-middle-class families in a small-town neighborhood. The information here was gathered through interviews and the completion of time-use diaries by individual family members in one of two dozen Elon, N.C., households. Entry and exit interviews and the family members’ daily diary Internet-use entries were woven into individual magazine-style stories on each family by the ethnographic researchers who completed this study.

“The Internet is valuable to keep the American public informed and able to communicate without anybody trying to water down what they are trying to say” – Hoyle Alexander

Alexander Family PhotoBy Nathan Holcomb

The Internet is taking our society to a new and exciting level every day we turn our computers on and get logged onto the information highway. Hoyle Alexander, 59, of Elon, N.C., is finding ways to interact over the Web. He takes time every day to put his ACER home PC to work. He gets connected to get up-to-the-minute information on the ball scores that interest him and to check his e-mail. His wife, Mary, is an interested bystander at times, but she doesn’t use the Net herself. Hoyle chose to use a local Internet service instead of going with a national company. Netpath, a local ISP for the Burlington, N.C., area, is well regarded. Hoyle said Netpath provides easy access, and its small customer base makes it less likely that he will get bumped offline at busy times of the day, unlike with some of the larger national companies.

“I know people who have America Online in different areas, and it will cut them off, takes forever to get on,” Hoyle said. “That never happens to me on Netpath … it never cuts off, I don’t have any trouble getting on. And that is really why I went with Netpath instead of America Online.”

Making use of the Web connection, Hoyle got on and got involved with the Internet about three years ago. Since then he has used it for a plethora of things. He is very involved with e-mail, not only with his family, but also with other friends and buddies as well. He takes time most days to check and send e-mail, and also checks out the stock quotes he is interested in following.

He explains that he uses the Internet for many things. “It has an entertainment value, plus it’s educational,” he said. “It’s just quick, easy access to information.”

Hoyle is an avid sports fan and one of the Elon baseball team’s biggest supporters, rooting for the Phoenix and his son-in-law Mike Kennedy, Elon’s head baseball coach. And since he is often gone from home – out watching the team play – he has found the Internet to be a quick way to check the scores of games that he missed. “I check out CNN Sports Illustrated and USA Today, and they have it just like that,” he explains with a snap of his fingers. “You can flip on there, get the ball scores and have a story about it, you know.”

Internet time in the study

Hoyle found that keeping a diary of his daily use of the Internet for one week in the study for the Elon-Pew Internet study to be very helpful in the way that he looks at the Web and its uses.

He said he spent a typical week on Internet interaction. “I was basically doing the same thing every day; doing my e-mail, checking my news and then the sports thing … there’s always a lot of other stuff to do on there.”

There are many things he has yet to try over the Web. He says it is because he is “leery” of the system, not because due to any fear of technology. He does not engage in online purchases. “I watch things like that,” he said. “Most of the time you go in and it will tell you if it is secure and unsecure. I’m sort of leery of it but not totally afraid of it.” He did add that he is considering trying out buying online sometime.

Due to his interest in buying and owning stocks, Hoyle said he knows that Internet trading is cheaper and he can do it himself without ever having to leave the comfort of his home. “I haven’t bought any stock over the Internet, but I may someday,” he said.

Speak freely about anything you want to

Hoyle is a strong believer that the Internet has changed our society and will do so even more in the future. The Internet has brought together people all over the world, he explained, and they can talk about problems and concerns they have, and do it without anyone telling them what they can and cannot talk about.

“The Internet is valuable to keep the American public informed and able to communicate without anybody trying to water down what they are trying to say,” he added. “People can communicate over the Internet without the government or anybody else bothering them, because you know the government’s not regulating it right now. Right now everybody can use it. It’s not controlled by anybody.”

Dealing with the Web

The Internet has become a vital part of most American family homes today. It gives us ways to communicate with people all over the world and quick access to anything we may need no matter where it is. Developments are being made every day, and our society takes hold of those and does many things with them.

The Pew Internet study has given many people a chance to see just how much of a part this information superhighway plays in their day-to-day lives. For Hoyle Alexander and the other families in the Ashley Woods neighborhood study, their personal look at what they do online has given them the opportunity to understand how search engine, Web browser, instant message, e-mail, Yahoo and many other words and phrases have become parts of their everyday language.