From “Study: Want Community? Go Online” [emphasis added]:
Nearly 40 percent of Americans say they participate in online communities, with sites around hobbies, shared personal interests, and health-related issues among the most popular. That’s according to a survey conducted by ACNielsen and commissioned by eBay.
The survey was conducted in late September. Of 1,007 respondents, 87 percent say they are part of a community. Of those, 66 percent say they participate in shared personal interest sites. Next comes hobby sites (62 percent), health community sites (55 percent), public issues sites (49 percents), and commerce sites (47 percent). Others participate in social or business networking sites (42 percent), sports sites (42 percent), alumni sites (39 percent), or dating sites (23 percent).
“We are finding that affinity is quickly replacing proximity as the key driver in forming communities,” said Bruce Paul, vice president of ACNielsen. …
“I think that a lot of people initially connect [on online communities] because they share information, which for a site like eBay is beneficial because they learn and grow from each other,” said Rachel Makool, director of community relations for eBay. “Then, of course, relationships form, and they grow from there.”
Researchers note that among offline communities, only membership in religious congregations (59 percent), social groups (54 percent), and neighborhood groups (52 percent) are more common than participation in online communities (39 percent). Professional groups (37 percent), activity groups (32 percent), school volunteer groups (30 percent), and health/country clubs (31 percent) came in behind online communities.
The study also shows that though 30 percent of online community members interact on a daily basis, only 7 percent of offline community members interacted that often. It also reveals that 47 percent of offline communities have an online component, such as e-mailing or chatting online.