Divya Manian

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Visualization Lies

I fell in love with this bar chart as soon as I saw it:

But, there is a danger of a single story - a story that seems to vindicate your point of view. So, I wanted to get to the truth of this statistic.

The first thing the chart claims is that the data comes from an eMarketer report. So I went digging. Here is a press release from them that seems to have the data that is represented in the chart. Here is what they say about that data:

eMarketer forms its estimates of time spent with media based on a meta-analysis of data from dozens of research sources, including survey and study data.

Note the word “estimates”? Essentially, what eMarketer is stating is that the data is just a lot of smoke and the fire is so far down that nobody knows if it is a fire or a dragon or the beginnings of a black hole.

Just makes me wonder how much of other fluff all this analysis of the emergence of “Social” as the next territory is based on.

To be fair, from what I see around me in the US and in India, I know a significant portion of the population spends its waking hours hunched over their mobile phones rabidly checking Facebook. I have no doubt Facebook is where everyone will spend significant portion of their time online. But, cooking up fake data to confirm our suspicions seems hardly a good way forward.

How about we do less “analysis” and more observation of the world around us?