Elon University

One Week on the Internet in 2001: Crystal Allen

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 26 ethnographic researchers who conducted the study also composed individual magazine feature-style stories sharing details about their own families’ uses and applications of the Internet.

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By Crystal Allen

“Internet Fever knows no age, race or ethnic boundaries. It can affect anyone. All you need is a computer, or a borrowed one, and some kind of Internet connection. One common strain is America Online. With dial-up, the connection is slower, but it offers one deadly side effect: Instant Messenger.” -Crystal Allen

Allen Headshot“Can you please turn the Instant Message volume down???”

Those words reverberated repeatedly throughout the dorm halls last year. It was the first sign of what I like to call Internet Fever. The symptoms include silent roommates – except for an occasional burst of laughter for an unknown reason – blurred eyes, the onset of early carpal tunnel syndrome, and a sense of withdrawal from your surroundings.

The fever can last for an undetermined length of time. When the fever breaks, or you sign off, you return to normalcy – much like emerging from a coma. More than likely you look at the clock and wonder what you have been doing for the last 15 minutes, hour, or in extreme cases, two days.

Internet Fever knows no age, race or ethnic boundaries. It can affect anyone. All you need is a computer, or a borrowed one, and some kind of Internet connection. One common strain is America Online. With dial-up, the connection is slower, but it offers one deadly side effect: Instant Messenger.

Instant Messenger, or IM, can make your Internet Fever much longer and much more dangerous. Your ears begin to ring with the dling, dling noise that may haunt you at any time of the day. Your eyes glaze over and all thoughts of work flee from your mind. This type can be intensified if television is incorporated. The symptoms will worsen dramatically and you will fall deeper and deeper into Internet hell.

I am a victim of the fever

I will admit that I, along with many friends, have fallen victim to Internet fever more than once. I no longer live in the dorms at Elon University and thus have lost my Ethernet connection. This has made it so my fever episodes have become and less frequent but they have not been completely eliminated.

I am a self-proclaimed Internet nerd. I love the Internet. I think the Internet provides me with a way to learn so many different things. The Internet is not without its flaws, however. I hate it when I get an incorrect link. I hate it when it takes three hours to load one page. I hate it when pictures do not work. And, believe it or not, I have come to hate Instant Messenger.

I am on the Internet at least three or four times a day. My typical routine is to sign on by way of America Online and check my e-mail. I then go to Elon University Web mail site and check my mail there.

A lifeline to the world …

While trapped inside this beautiful place – the campus environment we fondly refer to as the “Elon Bubble” – it is easy to lose touch with the outside world.

I connect with my grandmother and a few other family members online. I also have a list of my girlfriends from high school that I send e-mails to. We may be far away, but e-mail helps me keep up with all their gossip.

Here at Elon my sorority, Sigma Sigma Sigma, has an e-mail list as well. It makes it easier to keep track of meetings and also provides me with a way to reach all my sisters at once. It has become a much-needed alternative to a phone tree, which we all know never works.

My AOL account is reserved for friends and family, while the Elon account is used when I order something or for school purposes. Before signing off, I will check both e-mail accounts again, just in case I missed something the first time.

The time between is spent surfing the Web. I pride myself on my knowledge of useless trivia, and I think the Internet has helped me to continue to learn stupid facts that no one but me cares about. In turn, it has made me a formidable vicarious participant on ABC’s “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”

Traveling the World Wide Web

I began my obsession with travel after going to Ghana for Winter Term last year. Since then, my interest in foreign countries has grown to an alarming level. I get an e-mail every day from www.away.com that sends me a picture of some exotic locale and calls it “My daily escape.” Little do they know, the picture sometimes sends me into a travel frenzy, and I plan trips to those exotic locales. While I have not yet actually been on any of the journeys I have planned, I am hoping that my career as a roving travel journalist will take me to all those places and many more that I have not begun to imagine.

One other thing I am in desperate need of (other than a vacation) is a summer internship. I use the Internet to research internship opportunities in my hometown. I also look up exchange programs like Semester at Sea online. While I am waiting for my exciting trip around the world, I plan trips a little closer to home by using www.randmcnally.com for directions.

My downfall on the Internet is online shopping. Fortunately, I have learned to be more of an online browser than an online shopper. As much as I love shopping, I have to constantly remind myself that I am a college student without a job and on a limited budget. I buy a lot of presents online. I look for things that are hard to find in stores. One of my new favorite sites is www.uniquegifts.com. Artwork is another thing I look up a lot online. I fell in love with African art when I was in Ghana, and frequently visit www.africanart.com. I never fell into the MP3 trap. It probably had something to do with the fact that I have an iMac, and it is hard to find compatible software online. Believe it or not I am one of the few people that has never used Napster although I do think it is an incredible invention.

Keeping in touch …

I can also count my family members in the group of people who have never used Napster. I am the most Internet-savvy person in my family. Sometimes I will get a call from home with someone saying, “Crystal, how do I do this again?” It makes me feel needed.

The Internet has brought my family closer together. I have a Web site I developed in a class last semester. My parents visit www.elon.edu/student/callen to see what I have been writing. They also go to The Pendulum online (www.elon.edu/pendulum) to see if I have written any articles for the University paper each week. My grandparents also do the same thing.

My mother uses a computer at work all day long, but not the Internet. If there is a computer problem, she is the one to fix it. If the problem is with the Internet, then it is my job. My dad is famous in our family for his hunt-and-peck method of typing. Both he and my brother Billy use computers at work but they do not spend half their lives surfing the Internet as I do.

The impact of the Internet

The Internet has made my life much more interesting. It allows me to see things I never would have seen otherwise.

I have visited foreign lands, talked to friends and kept in touch with my family all without leaving the comfort of my apartment.

The Internet will continue to impact our world in ways that I never thought possible. Maybe, just maybe, one day someone will develop a cure for the Internet Fever and people can continue to browse without any of the disastrous side effects.

As Andrew Brown once said “The Internet is so big, so powerful and so pointless, that for some people it is a complete substitute for life.”

The thing to remember when you are using the Internet is to not become one of those people. I learned it the hard way, let my experience be a lesson to all of you. Do not, I repeat, do not fall victim to the Internet Fever.

(You can let me know what you think about my story, or my family’s story by e-mailing me at callen@elon.edu)

Click here to return to the homepage for this project: https://www.elon.edu/u/imagining/time-capsule/one-week/