Jacqui Cheng over at ars technica examines the latest results from the sixth-annual report of the University of Southern California's Annenberg Center for the Digital Future. It tracks changes in Internet usage and attitudes about that usage in the United States. And it says that the internet is allowing people to make new friends while keeping in touch with your existing peeps.
What might be a surprise, though, is that all of this online interaction is apparently not detracting from interaction with close friends and family offline. While 37.7 percent of respondents said that the Internet helps them communicate more with family and friends, "almost all" users reported that increased Internet interaction has no effect on the amount of time spent with those people in real life.
Internet users also report that the Internet helps them make new friends, both online and off. Internet users, on average, have just under five contacts online who they consider to be "friends" but have never met in real life, and almost two friends in real life that they originally met online. Those numbers may seem low to those of us who frequent events like Arsmeets on a regular basis, but the report claims that the number of offline friends that originated online has more than doubled since the project began six years ago. Tipping the scales on the high end, I think it's fairly safe to say that well over 80% of all of my real life friends and acquaintances originated from the Internet in some way - that's well over just two people.