Having been very active on many forums in my life, I can say that it can work for or against you, but will most likely work against you if you don't have much real life interaction. The types of interpersonal skills we use on forums can be very different from the ones we use when we are offline.
What we gain from online communication are things like argumentation skills, humor, and a base of general knowledge. I've found these things translate to real life very well.
The skills that atrophy are:
- Verbal skills
- Recognition of social cues
- The ability to easily bond with people over small/irrelevant things.
- Being able to respond quickly with the right thing to say.
- Possibly hygiene
Online communication is very convenient and topical, so it teaches us that conversation needs to be relevant and goal-oriented... which is a stringent requirement for offline communication, and it becomes a vicious cycle. Being able to facilitate communication that's [seemingly] not goal-oriented is one of the most important skills you can have on your tool belt because it can make the difference in landing that job you've always wanted or in getting the deal of a lifetime.
It's even possible for you to take on some bad habits like:
- Not allowing a conversation to end just because you want to be right.
- Making off-color jokes in inappropriate settings.
- Using language that may be more technically correct but comes off as talking down to people.
- Not remembering to close the door when peeing!
To be clear, I don't think the topic of the forum really has much to do with the net result of one's interpersonal skills. It could be electronics or it could be body building.
An answer to your question depends very much on who you want to be interacting with offline. If it's meeting up with other electronics people that makes you happy, there's probably little harm in spending most of your time online. If, on the other hand, you want to improve your interactions with everyday people, you are not doing yourself many favors by spending hours on a forum for such a specialized topic. If electronics is your passion, I would certainly not recommend giving it up – the time you spend on the forum is valuable. You can keep doing that while spending a proportionate amount of time practicing your interpersonal skills, even if that means doing things with people that aren't goal-oriented (which was very hard for me to get over).