Elon University

One Week on the Internet in 2001: The Blume 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, detailed 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.

“I think it’s great that we have the source for so many different things. For me it makes life easier in a lot of ways, and better.” -Linda Blume

Blume Family PhotoBy Kristin Torcasi

Launching a business, finding medical information and support, career decisions, family bonds. The impact of the Internet is phenomenal for the Blume family. They say their daily lives would not be the same without this continuing advancement in technology.

Entrepreneurship in the dot-com world

Linda Blume has a passion for design. Upon entering the Blume household, one is taken aback by the simplicity of decoration that gives way to beauty. The high ceiling in the vast, white entryway provides the house with a very welcoming, spacious feeling. “I decorated it myself,” exclaims Linda.

Previously an interior decorator, Linda is creating an online Web design business with the help of her 17-year-old daughter, Mia. At the age of 15, Mia had already established her own Web-design business.

“She had a number of clients for whom she designed pages for in her spare time,” says Linda. Because she is a busy high school senior this year, Mia had to abandon the business due to a lack of time. Now Linda is revamping her daughter’s Web business and giving it a new start. “I’m still learning and gathering information and really getting ready,” she explains, “but we do have the business name. It’s Trillusion.com.”

Met first customer in a chat room

Linda has recently been diagnosed with a medical condition called fibromyalgia, so working at home is a tremendous asset to her. Fibromyalgia is a condition that affects the muscles, tendons and ligaments causing pain and fatigue. Not knowing how she will be feeling from day to day, the idea of a home office was greatly appealing.

Linda had originally set up a business selling romantic gifts online, but has moved to Web design for a number of reasons. Linda likes the flexibility that Web design gives her with her clients. “That way, I don’t have to have stock and have people making demands as much or as quickly … .And when I have bad days, I’m here at home.”

Web design also allows her to display her artistic and organizational talents on a different level. She once used her knowledge of design and color to design the inside of people’s homes, but now she applies her skills to designing their home pages. “Web design is related to my training,” she explains. “I have a master’s degree in interior design, and I want to do something that’s creative and imaginative.”

Although the business is yet to be up and running, Linda has already established a clientele. After she mentioned her business in an online chat room, a lawyer from Texas requested that she create a homepage for him. After agreeing to do so, Linda is getting down to business. She plans to advertise online and also through newspapers and other media in the local area.

Close … but far, far away

Many people have the common perception that the Internet has an isolating effect on family members. The Blumes disagree with this point of view. It has actually brought Mia and Linda closer together with the work they do. “It’s no different from any other interest,” Tom says. I mean, one of us could be reading a book, one could be listening to music, and one could be cleaning the kitchen.”

“I feel that it puts you closer to your family,” Linda says, citing e-mail and instant messenger. Mia feels the same way. “I e-mail every day to my sister.” E-mailing usually replaces traditional letter writing for the Blumes because of the simple facts that it’s there and it’s so easy. “You don’t have to worry about having a stamp,” Linda explains.

The Internet has also created a special bond between Linda and Mia. “She and I work together on things a lot more closely now, with the computer and our interests,” Linda says. Often frustrated with attempting to teach her “slow learning” mother the intricate process of Web design, Mia actually made a lesson plan book to help Linda out. Along with the help from her daughter, Linda also learns Web design through online tutorials.

Mia says she plans to attend North Carolina State next year, but she will continue to help her mother out with the online business. They will be able to e-mail ideas back and forth, and Mia will also be able to help Linda with the computer languages with which she’s not familiar.

Medical connection is important

In addition to its attractive connections to the business world and her daughter, the Internet also provides Linda with a link to a vast amount of medical information. Through the Internet, Linda is able to research and learn more about fibromyalgia.

She has not only learned more about her health, she has become a sort of fibromyalgia activist because of online capabilities. She has become part of a listserv linking her to other people with this condition and giving her a support system.

“I think it’s great that we have the source for so many different things because of the Internet,” Linda says. “For me, it makes life easier in a lot of ways, and better.”

She is able to order her prescriptions online. She enters online chats with people about her medical conditions, including some doctors that have done recent research with fibromyalgia. She is also a writer for an online newsletter for people with fibromyalgia.

Decisions, decisions

Having a computer in her bedroom has definitely contributed to Mia Blume’s extensive knowledge of the technical world. She had her own Web-design business by the age of 15, and being on the Internet has helped her make her career choice. “The Internet actually expanded my horizons, allowed me to begin developing creatively, and helped me realize what area of study I wanted to pursue,” she says.

“It has encouraged me to pursue graphic design,” exclaims Mia enthusiastically. Her artistic ability and interest in computers have come together to make it all possible. She searches around for different Web sites, looking for creative ideas, whether it be graphic arts, color combinations or page layout. She is now the editor of the newspaper and magazine at Western High School. According to her parents, “She’s dead set on what she wants to do.”

The Internet has also provided Mia with a wealth of information applicable to her studies. She is constantly online doing research for her classes and doing her homework. For some people like Mia, the bricks and mortar library is almost a thing of the past. “I can go to libraries all over the world on the Web,” she says. ” I went a couple years without going to a real library at all. I had to go recently to check out a book.”

Dogpiles of information

Tom is not as involved in the Internet as his wife Linda or daughter Mia, but he still uses it a good amount to send e-mail, check news and research things. His favorite search engine is called Dogpile. Yes, that’s right, Dogpile. It’s a compilation of many different search engines such as Lycos, Ask Jeeves and Yahoo. According to Tom, “It’ll drive you crazy because you get a tremendous amount of information, but you have the choices.”

Tom says the information exchange offered by the Internet has revolutionized our society. “The ability to find anything, whether it be data or information about whatever, is so different from when we were kids,” he says. According to Tom, the main source of information he had while growing up was the Encyclopedia Britannica and the library. If you needed to know something, “You had to go to that encyclopedia.”

Tom has recently been researching Italy online to plan for an upcoming trip in April. The family is traveling to Italy with Mia’s high school Latin group. He’s been using Dogpile to find many different sites about the country including ones with maps, weather information and attractions. Linda also downloaded a program called Babylonia to help her learn to speak a little Italian for the journey.

The family did a lot of online planning for a recent ski trip. They weren’t sure what resort they wanted to go to, so they looked at many different places online. They finally decided on Sugar Mountain at Banner Elk, N.C. They also found their accommodations online, but had to call to make reservations.

Beep, beep! It’s the Roadrunner

The Blume household has two computers; one downstairs in Linda’s office and one upstairs in Mia’s bedroom. Because costs were fairly high with two computers online and because dial-up connections are somewhat slower, the Blumes got high-speed Internet access through a cable connection with Roadrunner, a cable service offered by Time Warner.

Despite the perks of Roadrunner, Tom says he is more bothered with worries of Internet crime and privacy issues. “I just feel like we’re leaving ourselves open more with cable because it’s always hot,” he said. To prevent chances of anything happening, Tom is looking into information on a Web site where you can get a free firewall to protect your system.

Internet a valuable asset

Being labeled the most tech-savvy person in the family, Mia has gotten her strength through chatting with people and getting in with a group of folks she calls her “geek friends.” She says whenever she needs help or has a technical problem, she can chat with some people online and they eventually end up helping her solve her problem. “That’s probably the most positive thing about chat,” Tom explains. “Mia has learned from different people how to do different things, whether it be hardware or software.”

The Internet has proven to be a tremendous asset and part of daily life for the Blume family. A week of diary-keeping for the Elon-Pew study has been revealing.

“I started putting together all the different directions that I used on the Web and it’s just amazing,” Linda reflects.