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Are Canadians too dependent on the internet?

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How tough would it be for you to go back to the days when the online world was more than a click away?

It's safe to say that access to the web has become a daily necessity for many. This became strikingly clear on Wednesday in southern Ontario and elsewhere within the province as many Rogers customers were left with no internet access for hours. When affected customers came back online, an outpouring of anger flooded social networks.

On Twitter, the hashtag #rogers was trending in Canada. And thanks to 3G-connected smartphones, the lack of internet access didn't stop people from turning to the internet to complain about their lack of it. "#Rogers is ridiculous...never dealing with them again," tweeted one user.

If Canadians were looking for a clear sign that internet dependency continues to climb, this was it.

To look further into why people were so outraged by the outage, CBC News spoke to University of Waterloo professor Aimée Morrison (http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2013/01/10/f-internet-service-outage-rogers.html).

As an expert in the field of digital studies, Morrison wasn't surprised to learn about the stress that Rogers customers experienced due to the lack of connectivity. "People feel very vulnerable and frustrated when their internet goes down," she said.

Morrison finds herself depending on access to the web just as much as the next person. "If I wake up in the middle of the night I can check my email at the same time as I'm checking the time. Or if my husband and I are arguing about what a word means, and the iPad is right there, I can just check that definition. If the wireless isn't working, there's always the 3G network. So we always assume there's some kind of internet perpetually available."

This behaviour is increasingly common in households across the country, she says, which is why a lack of access could easily lead to panic as it did on Wednesday night.

Morrison says that some Canadians may not even be aware of their internet-dependency. "People don't realize how many internet-enabled services they kind of use passively and constantly throughout the day." It takes a complete outage for some people to admit how much they rely on their web-based devices."

She says that according to to research, internet-dependent users find it difficult to disconnect for a full day. "At some colleges in the U.S. now, it's considered unethical to ask people to unplug for 24 hours, because they are so deeply connected."

Some Canadians may have taken the outage as an opportunity to focus on things outside of the virtual world. One user tweeted that she did some reading, played with her pets and watched a DVD to make use of the spare time.

How much do you depend on your internet connection? Have you made an effort to unplug? What would happen if you went offline for 24 hours?

Let us know in the comments below.

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