Why The Big Picture Matters (Illustrated)

Three images. Three charts  of which in isolation tell a very clear story. But each chart is actually part of the same larger story.

Internet culture values the here, the now and the instant. More information faster. Get it now, validate it later. But that is a deeply flawed model both for collecting data and understanding its significance.


It's pretty clear what's going on in this first image isn't it? Someone (myself as it happens) is experiencing a steep decline. If I was a website or an internet personality, I ought to be panicking at this many followers leaving me.

This is the sort of information that we get most often on the internet.


It's the sort of data that social networks like Twitter and Google+ give us. A snapshot with very little context.

Wait a second though, that's really not the whole picture. This second image shows that the decline, while clearly present, is not nearly as dramatic as it first appeared. Instead of a cataclysmic drop, it seems what we're really looking at is a slow decline. Our perception of the situation changes.

The better blogs and newspapers out there will attempt to give you this level of context. They will revisit stories or update them in an effort to provide a clearer picture. But do you pay attention to those or have you already moved on to the latest news?


And finally we get the whole picture. In this case my G+ follower numbers from beginning to date. And yes, there is still a decline. But in reality what it is is a slow trend back towards the norm after a period of artificially high growth. Our perception of the story, of reality, changes again.

This is the bit you almost never see on the internet. We usually get books that cover this sort of scope years after the event. They're still producing new analysis on World War II for example

TLDR! Get To the Point!

Everything about the culture that surrounds you encourages you to snap judgements. Everything is extremes because those judgements are based on a tiny slice of information. It's like looking at the world through a narrow slit rather than taking in the entire landscape.

Everything around you encourages you to participate in those snap judgements. To make black and white categorizations.

Resist the temptation.

About Eoghann Irving

Overly opinionated owner and author of eoghann.com. You can get updated on his posts directly on the blog here or through the usual social networking suspects. What? You expected me to say something interesting here? That's what the blog posts are for. Eoghann has often wondered if people read these little bio things we have to fill out everywhere on the internet and, assuming they do, why?


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