Online World As Important to Internet Users as Real World?

USC-Annenberg Digital Future Project Finds Major Shifts in Social Communication and Personal Connections on the Internet

Is the online world as important to users as the real world?

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, according to the sixth annual survey of the impact of the Internet conducted by the USC-Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future.

Among a broad range of findings about rapidly-evolving methods for online communication, the 2006 Digital Future Project found that 43 percent of Internet users who are members of online communities say that they “feel as strongly” about their virtual community as they do about their real-world communities.

“More than a decade after the portals of the Worldwide 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,” said Jeffrey I. Cole, director of the USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future.

“The Internet has been a source of entertainment, information, and communication since the Web became available to the American public in 1994,” said Cole. “However, in 2006 we are beginning to measure real growth and discover new directions for the Internet as a comprehensive tool that Americans are using to touch the world.”

The findings about online communities and more than 100 other issues are published in the 2006 Digital Future Project, the comprehensive annual examination of the impact of online technology on America.

The project surveys more than 2,000 individuals across the United States, each year contacting the same households to explore how online technology affects the lives of Internet users and non-users.  It also examines how changing technology, such as the shift from Internet access by modem to broadband, affects behavior.

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