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Connecting the dots: What the Rogers network outage suggests about our digital habits

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The nationwide Rogers outage on Friday, which continues to impact some customers, helped tell us more about our digital habits, according to a communication arts professor at the University of Waterloo.

U of W professor Shana MacDonald says it made it clear how truly dependent we are on the internet.

“We couldn’t even go to the internet to find out what was going on,” says MacDonald.

It made everyday activities impossible to do.

“I woke up to my roommates scrambling looking for Wi-Fi. They were like, ‘it feels like the world is ending,’” one person told CTV News on Monday. “It felt strange to be completely disconnected from social media for the entire day, and it felt extremely boring,” another person said.

Even a simple trip to Toronto became a difficult task with no map apps at people’s fingertips.

“I have a friend who uses the maps. He didn’t realize where he was driving to, and he drove all the way to Montreal,” one woman told CTV News.

MacDonald says a day of being disconnected proved tougher for those who grew up with the internet.

“I think it would be a bit of a shock for digitally-born generations ,” says MacDonald. “Because most of their identity and social life is formed on the internet. I think that could be a more stressful or anxiety-provoking thought.”

Although, she says when people congregated at coffee shops or anywhere they could connect to the internet, people began forming a camaraderie of sorts.

“There was a sway in which people were banding together and having a shared common experience, which is rare because the internet can be so divisive,” she adds.

It suggests that putting down the phone or closing a screen could lead to better relationships, despite many forming in an online space.

“Arguably, they might be stronger because you would be developing the skills of having interpersonal communication in a way that would be more flexible and more connected in a non-online way,” MacDonald says.

While some people described the outage as a feeling helpless, it’s a helplessness that has been restored - for now.

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