Elon University

One Week on the Internet in 2001: The Hyde 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.

“We have more time to have personal time because of the Internet. I don’t know if the Internet creates or breaks down schedules, but you don’t have to sit around waiting for whatever it is, your news, the ability to shop, you don’t have to do it after 5 p.m. when you leave the office.”-Jim Hyde

Hyde Family Photo By Jamie McCreery

Heidi Hyde walked with her son Hutch into their computer room one day. Hutch Hyde surprised his mom when he pointed at the computer and told her his favorite Web site. “Nickjunior-dot-com,” the two-year-old stated firmly.

“I’d never heard him say that before. That he knew to connect the computer to dot-com – because he knows Nick Jr. from TV – but to add the dot-com – I was impressed,” Heidi said.

The Net is woven through their lives

Although Jim and Heidi Hydes’ children, Tyler, a 1-year-old, and Hutch, are too young to sit down in front of the computer to pull up a Web site themselves, the Internet has influenced their lives.

Their favorite videos came from Amazon.com and many of their toys are from ToysRus.com. Mom works as an insurance claims analyst, doing much of her work through the Internet so she can spend time with her children during the day. Heidi also decorates her children’s rooms with things she finds online.

Jim, director of manufacturing for Holt Sublimination, uses the Internet at work, but some of his finest Internet hours have been spent exercising his enthusiasm as a die-hard Syracuse University basketball fan. The Internet has allowed him to keep tabs on the team long after his graduation from the New York institution.

“The Net’s nice, because the news is at our fingertips, immediately,” Jim explains. “Syracuse’s starting center was ineligible but was reinstated today, I mean I knew that at 3 in the afternoon. I can remember growing up … when those kids from Syracuse were ineligible, and you wouldn’t find out about it until 11 at night, when ‘ESPN Sportscenter’ came on.”

Their first computer was a Gateway, which was purchased so Heidi could start “Net commuting,” doing all of her job from her home. The Hydes say this has allowed them the advantage of a second income. “I’m working on the Internet,” said Heidi, “and without that I doubt if I’d be working at all.”

Shopping, travel planning and headline checking on the Web

The Hydes use a vast array of Web sites on the Internet, including Expedia, Continental Airlines, US Air, AA.com and Delta for comparing airfares. They also look up the news on CNN.com, Herald.com, ESPN.com and E-commerce.org. Of course for shopping there are spiegel.com, yahoo.com, 1home.com, eddiebauer.com and target.com, among others.

“I feel pretty progressive on the Internet,” Heidi said. “I mean we already shop over the Internet.” Jim added, “You know we search for news. We play games. We communicate. We buy everything.”

More personal time due to this tool

They see other benefits to all of this. “We have more time to have personal time because of the Internet,” Jim said. “I don’t know if the Internet creates or breaks down schedules, but you don’t have to sit around waiting for whatever it is, your news, the ability to shop, you don’t have to do it after 5 p.m. when you leave the office.”

Jim made a further good point on communication on the Internet. “Instead of having to sit down like back in the late ’70s early ’80s and catch every bit of news off of NBC Nightly News, you go to CNN.com and you click on the three stories you want to read,” he explained. “Ten minutes later you’re done, so in reality you’ve saved 20 minutes… it’s not a newspaper where there are 54 pages you have to leaf through. On the Internet you click on the story you want and the ones you want as long as it’s on. It saves a lot of time.”

It’s important, but it isn’t everything

The Internet, as great as it has been for the Hydes, does not rule their lives.

“There are lots of companies out there trying to make a buck on the Internet ,” Jim said, “and you know its from, oh call this number and we’ll order your pizza for you. America’s becoming a bunch of sloths from that perspective. I think it’s a joke that people go pay 10 bucks for somebody to order their dinner and deliver it, instead of climbing in the car, driving four minutes, picking it up and coming back with it.”

In the future, Heidi said she would like to see online voting on the Internet. She sees it as a potential improvement to the current system. Jim said he is looking forward to the advantages the Internet will offer concerning their children’s future schooling.

They both say the Internet is an intricate, welcome part of their lives now and add that it definitely will continue to be vital in the future.