Internet forums have a positive impact on life satisfaction and lead to increased involvement in communities outside the confines of the online world, according to a study published in Computers In Human Behavior. Redditors might be doing it right. The study approached users on a range of interest, lifestyle and hobby forums. The study split users into two groups: stigmatized subjects (like mental health discussion), and non-stigma related forums (sports, cooking and the rest). They were then polled about their reasons for joining the forum, how they felt about it, their life satisfaction and offline engagement with "issues raised in the forum". Author lead Dr. Louise Pendry of the University of Exeter said that: "As well as finding answers, our study showed users often discover that forums are a source of great support, especially those seeking information about more stigmatizing conditions."
"Moreover, we found that users of both forum types who engaged more with other forum users showed a greater willingness to get involved in offline activities related to the forum, such as volunteering, donating or campaigning." Unlike social networks, that have arguably substituted in for forums for a lot of people, The study highlights that forums still often maintain a degree of anonymity, which adds the effect when discussing issues with a stigma -- something that real names and face pics typically demolish.[Image credit: Antonio Zugaldia]