Online communities are as important as real-world communities to a large number of Internet users, according to the sixth annual survey of the social impact of the Internet, conducted by the University of Southern California-Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future. The survey found that 43 percent of respondents answered that they “feel as strongly about” online communities as they do about those in the real world. USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future director Jeffrey I. Cole says, “We are now witnessing the true emergence of the Internet as the powerful personal and social phenomenon we knew it would become.” Over 20 percent of the members of online communities were found to take part in actions related to these communities offline, and 64.9 percent of those involved in social activism communities online were not involved in any social activism before participating online. Blog use by America has more than doubled over the last three years, from 3.2 percent of Internet users to 7.4 percent, and 12.5 percent of Americans currently maintain a personal Web site according to the survey, a number that has seen steady increase. Respondents say they have made an average of 4.65 friends online who they have never met in person, and have met 1.65 friends in person who they met online. Over 40 percent of users say that using the Internet has allowed them to communicate with more friends and family, although this number has decreased by a few percentage points since 2002.
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