MOM LOST IN CYBERSPACE, DAUGHTER SEARCHES
ON-LINE GETS CAUGHT IN NET
by Barbara Moore
Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, New York
September 10, 1995
I fear I am losing my 76-year-old mother to the
Internet. She is moving full speed on the Information Highway and is in
full orbit in Cyberspace. You see, my mother is addicted to e-mail.
Just a year ago things were not too bad. Sure, my mother
was sending messages to as many people who would give her their e-mail
addresses. But she had to go to the university from which my father had
retired to use the computer. Then, last Christmas, my parents bought a
computer with a modem to use at home. My mother now could dial-in to the
university’s computer at any time of the day or night.
That’s when things began to change.
I first noticed a difference in my daily e-mail messages
from my mother. In the past she had told me what she and my dad had been
doing and had the usual questions about how to deal with our relatives.
Now her messages were full of questions about dialing-in: “Sometimes I
get disconnected before I can print my messages. What is happening?
ANSWER ME ASAP!”
Our weekly phone calls turned into help desk sessions:
“Hello, Barb is that you?”
“Hi Mom. How’s Dad?”
“Never mind about him. I’ve got this problem with the
Last spring my parents came to visit for a week. Without
access to her e-mail messages my mother was restless and irritable. She
kept worrying about all the messages she was missing. Finally my dad
couldn’t take it anymore and pleaded with me to get her back to her
e-mail. So I taught her to dial-in to my work computer and use the
telnet command to get to the computer in Lincoln, Nebraska on which her
e-mail messages were stored.
Both dad and I sighed with relief once she was back
on-line. Of course we did have to hear about each of the 15 messages she
had waiting for her, including the weekly message from my brother.
(Every Monday morning he sends mother a message consisting of three
short sentences. One is about the weather.)
I have to confess that even at this time I didn’t think
it was a bad thing that my mother was out in Cyberspace. In fact, I
thought she would balance out the Internet just a little bit and help
women claim part of this domain which is used so much by young males. So
I innocently introduced her to discussion groups.
The result was she no longer depended upon family and
friends for her daily fix of e-mail but could get dozens of messages
from complete strangers. I happily showed her how to sign up for the
Feminist Digest discussion group. Long before the story about the statue
of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott
languishing in the basement of our nation’s Capitol hit our local
papers, mother had learned about it from Feminist Digest messages.
“I’m going to e-mail my Congressman -- oops Congressperson -- and
demand they FREE THE GRANITE THREE!” she wrote in a recent message.
Right on, Mom!
Then came the live chat phase. The first time I showed her
how live chat works we were on Women’s Wire, an on-line commercial
service. Unfortunately, no one else was chatting at that time. She
wasn’t too impressed.
Then she read in the newspaper about how Tom Hanks and Ron
Howard kept switchboards across America tied up when they were featured
on an on-line chat about their movie Apollo 13. My mother, a real movie
fan, was sorry to have missed that one. Soon thereafter, she began
participating in on-line, real-time chats. And now she wants her own
show: “Tomorrow night, 6 p.m. EST, 9 p.m. PST, a live chat with June
Moore from Lincoln, Nebraska.”
“Why would anyone log-on to chat with you?” I asked her
in an e-mail message.
“I have lots of things I could tell people,” she
replied. “I could share my recipe for dirt cake. And I can give out
advice -- it’s not fair that just you and your brother get it. Now the
whole world can benefit! :)” She used the on-line symbol for a smiley
Last week my dad called (we usually talk over the phone as
it is difficult for him to get to use the computer). “Your mother is
not going on our summer trip. She refuses to leave the computer,” he
“What, I can’t believe that. She loves to travel. You
mean things have gotten that bad?” I asked.
“That’s right. I don’t know what to do.”
“Don’t worry, Dad. There has to be some self-help
groups for people addicted to e-mail. I’ll dial in and search the
So I logged onto the World Wide Web and searched for help
for my mother. During my searching I found an interesting home page from
Atlanta about the summer Olympics and I stopped to read a few pages.
Then I came upon a fascinating page showing the pre-historic cave
drawings recently discovered in France. And then I stumbled upon a
wonderful home page full of movie reviews.
“Would my mother love this page!” I thought to myself.
“I should show her how to get to it.”
It’s now a week later and I’m still looking for the support group my
mother needs. I’ll look again today but first I must check out a
home page about the 4th World Conference on Women to be held this
fall in Beijing ...
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Rochester, New York