More than a third of Americans believe that the virtual worlds they visit online are as important as their dealings in the real world, according to a study.
Forty-three per cent of internet users who are members of online communities say they “feel as strongly” about their virtual community as they do about their real world communities, according to research conducted by the USC-Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future.
"Large numbers of internet users hold such strong views about their online communities that they compare the value of their online world to their real-world communities," said the report.
More than half – 56.6 per cent – of those logging on to online communities visited the virtual world at least once a day.
However, the online world has also lead many Americans to conduct regular social interactions offline.
The Digital Future Project found that 20 per cent of online community members take actions offline at least once a year that are related to their online community.
The internet was also causing a rise in the amount of social activism taking place, according to the study.
Just under two thirds of online community members who participate in social causes using the internet say they are involved in causes that were new to them before they regularly used the internet.
Strangely, that figure hasn't translated into the web being more political.
Only 59.5 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that the internet has become important for political campaigns, despite the mid-term elections taking place in 2006.
That figure was down from 64 per cent in 2005.
The 2007 Digital Future Project surveyed more than 2,000 individuals across the United States.
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