It’s a Big, Social World Out There

Courtesy of

As a purveyor of PR, my morning ritual is one of recon – catching up on the latest news and trends in media (be it traditional or online) with various news aggregators and e-newsletters. Usually it’s pretty standard stuff related to media trends, changes in the industry (ahem, Huffington Post) and journalist moves; so imagine my surprise when I stumbled across a post about social media and travel on “More Americans are on Facebook Than Have a Passport.”

Say what?

Surely this had to be some scandalous exaggeration. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love me some Facebook, but my passport is a ticket to far-flung destinations, exhilarating adventures and some pretty righteous stamps.

Thinking this had to be some clever lure to get me out of the newsletter and onto the TechCrunch site (it wasn’t), I uncovered what is quite possibly the coolest infographic ever. Luckily, the folks over at Tripl were kind enough to allow me to repost it here for your viewing pleasure.

I had previously written about my newfound interest in FourSquare and if it could have utility in the travel space as a user-generated guide book, but this takes my humble musings and turns it into something legit (p.s. infographics may just be my new favorite thing).

What struck me most is how the online/social media space is changing how we not only interact with each other, but when, where and why we interact. Take some of the stats in the infographic:

  • The majority of us are plugged in — 72% use social networking when traveling. This stat, in my mind, brings up the age-old debate: can you really enjoy a place if you’re constantly checking in? I recently was criticized for being more concerned with my check-ins and tweets, instead of enjoying my surroundings and present company. While I disagree, I get how it looks. When you try to balance a new medium you enjoy with being present in the moment, it can be a little hard to know when to say, when
  • Check it: FourSquare is now available on 6 continents — I’m guessing scientists have yet to find the need to be the mayor of an Antarctic research station, but I digress. It’s impressive how far location-based services have extended. Maybe my FourSquare user-generated guide book isn’t too far behind…
  • Companies that understand the role of social media and learn how to engage in meaningful conversations with their customers are being rewarded. Put another way, Southwest Airlines is KILLING IT. I have had friends on Facebook and Twitter sing their praises and I’m intrigued at how they’ve managed to earn such loyal customers and be fully engaged in the social media space – consistently. Oh, and did I mention they now fly out of Newark? After my recent tussle with Continental, I might have to do some “research”
  • People have opinions and LOVE to share them online. Case in point? has 50 million reviews for 495,000 hotels. This is staggering – no wonder it’s the go-to website for nearly everyone I know. It’s a time saver when you need to find a good place to rest your head or are visiting a new city and don’t want wander aimlessly around wondering where to eat

All in all, it makes for a fascinating case study on how far we’ve come in the social media space and how it will continue to evolve as the technology gets better, faster and serves some function that we can’t even imagine.

It also makes me think back to my post-collegiate backpacking trip (or as my best friend Zuri and I liked to call it “Wheppa 98”). When we left for my three-month adventure, life went on without us and I found I didn’t miss it or really want to know what I was missing. I was fully present in the moment and aware of everything around me.

I’m not sure what that trip would be like now if I had my trusty iPhone. I’m sure I would have just as much fun (although my Mom would definitely be calling more often), but I doubt I would have felt as untethered and free. And while I love those moments in time where I’m completely off the grid, I do think it’s amazing to be able to connect with people the world over sharing common interests and stories through this new social world. It brings us together and connects us to something bigger than ourselves, which is the reason why we travel in the first place.


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