A recent study by the Digital Future Project found that nearly half of Americans view their online social ties as important as real-world contacts.
This percentage is likely to increase as more and more people communicate and socialize through online communities and social networks like MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn.
From CNET News –
For many people, membership in virtual communities can be just as important as real-world social ties, according to a new study.
An estimated 43 percent of Americans who belong to online communities say they feel just as strongly about their virtual worlds as their real-world counterparts, according to the USC Annenberg Digital Future Project, which released Wednesday its sixth annual report examining the Web’s impact on society.
The findings seem to be in accordance with the ease of meeting new friends online. According to people polled by researchers at the Center for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School, they met an average of 1.6 new friends per year in real-world settings after originally meeting online. Those surveyed also made an average of 4.65 friends who remained virtual pals only.
In addition, more than 40 percent of Internet users said that the Web helps them stay in touch with more friends and family.
Jeffrey Cole, director of the USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future, said the findings are a testament to the Web’s growing importance for social purposes.
“More than a decade after the portals of the (Web) opened to the public, we are now witnessing the true emergence of the Internet as the powerful personal and social phenomenon we knew it would become,” Cole said in a statement.
Source: CNET News