For some internet users, online communities are so important in their lives that they value their online experiences as much as the real world.

The 2007 Digital Future Project’s survey reveals that 43% of online social network members ‘feel as strongly’ about their virtual communities as their real lives.

The USC-Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future, which compiled the report, has been interviewing the same 2,000 individuals for the past six years to monitor the impact the internet has on their lives.

According to USC director Jeffrey I. Cole:

“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.”

Other findings about online communities include their effect on offline activities and interaction between users:

• 20.3% of community members take offline actions at least once a year which are related to their online community.

• 56.6% log into their community on a daily basis.

• 43.7% of online community members are more involved in social activism since they joined an online network.

• 70.4% of community members sometimes or always interact with others while logged in.

The survey also found that growing numbers of internet users are posting online, through their own blogs and websites, as well as photo sharing sites like Flickr:

• 7.4% of US internet users have a blog – a figure which has doubled in the last three years, while12.5% run their own website.

• 23.6% post photos online - this figure was 11% three years ago.