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?