Some key findings are that:
- 43% of members of online communities feel as strongly about those communities as their real-world communities
- More than 20% take real-world actions connected with these online communities, such as meeting people face-to-face
- Online participation leads to social activism, with large numbers of people both participating in causes that they would otherwise not know about, and being more active in causes than they otherwise would have been
- Almost all users say that online time does not reduce the amount of time they spend with friends and family in person
All of this suggests that it is time to stop talking about online versus real-world. Online life has become a significant part of real life for many people, and the number of such people is growing rapidly.
To me, the findings about activism are particularly interesting. Online life is often portrayed as the domain of the very young, and as rather insubstantial and superficial. My experience is that it can certainly be a light-hearted medium, full of fun, but it can also be serious and powerful. Often it’s both of those at the same time, as with Vasco’s Journal.
The serious/frivolous distinction is as simplistic as the online/real-world distinction. It’s time to recognise that each of us travels back and forth through all these spaces all the time.