More Americans Are on Facebook Than Have Passports (and What It Means to Our Brains)

Yes, that is a true statistic, according to a report I found today from Social Times, where they created some bullets and presented some interesting statistics, which it turns out they grabbed from a huge infographic from the team responsible for a new and not-yet-launched site called Tripl. Check out the ginormous infographic yourself here, or I can summarize that part of it really quickly for you:

155,000,000 Americans are on Facebook communicating with friends & family
but only
115,000,000 Americans own a passport and can travel outside the U.S.

So if I'm understanding this infographic correctly, 50% of the U.S. population is on Facebook, yet only 37% have a passport.  (You know, if you haven't yet, take a look at it — it's an impressive infographic, I have to say. And there's a lot more information than just about Facebook and passports. You can find out what percentage of the social networking travelers connect to their social graphs while traveling, which airlines have the most Facebook likes, etc, etc.)

And when I first saw that headline, I was intrigued. Wow, that's really something, right? But now that I've got it sorted out, pondered it for a minute or two, I have to say what I'm thinking, which is, "So what?" At the end of the day what am I going to do with that information? I can tell you. Absolutely nothing. At some point, I might say to someone in a conversation, "Oh, I saw these statistics online that showed that more people are on Facebook than have passports.", but I guarantee you that I won't be able to state the numbers right then and there, because they never actually settled in — I've bookmarked the article for if I ever need the information, so I'm done with it.

An article in the San Jose Mercury News published on 7/14/2011, Google is changing your brain, study says, and don't you forget it, confirmed something that I'd been thinking, at least about myself, for quite a while now, which is that in our now 24/7 wired world, we no longer need to memorize or even know facts and figures if we can look them up. The article confirms this, saying:

When we know where to find information, we're less likely to remember it -- an amnesia dubbed The Google Effect by a team led by psychologist Betsy Sparrow of Columbia University.
Goodbye, soul-searching; hello, facts-at-fingertips.

The finding, published in Friday's issue of the journal Science, doesn't prove that Google, Yahoo, or other search engines are making us dumber, as some have asserted. We're still capable of remembering things that matter -- and are not easily found online, Sparrow said.
Rather, it suggests that the human memory is reorganizing where it goes for information, adapting to new computing technologies rather than relying purely on rote memory. 
We're outsourcing "search" from our brains to our computers.

 So we're not getting dumber, we're just outsourcing some functionality. Whew, what a relief! :-)


  1. Regarding the Google Effect, my husband pioneered that. He hasn't remembered anything in 31 years that he knows I will remember for him. :)