Echo Chambers

An echo chamber is a metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a defined system. Inside a figurative echo chamber, official sources often go unquestioned and different or competing views are censored, disallowed, or otherwise underrepresented. The echo chamber effect reinforces a person’s own present world view, making it seem more correct and more universally accepted than it really is.  Wikipedia

…an unfortunate and largely unintended consequence of the rise of social media is that instead of being better informed and exposed to ever-broadening viewpoints, research shows that Americans today are more polarized and draw from shrinking pools of news.R. Sunstein

In the last decade or more, our government and society in general has become more polarized. The ability (willingness) to communicate with those who do not share our views/beliefs has become an endanger species.  There seems to be general agreement that a prevalence of echo chambers is a significant factor contributing to the state our society.

Echo chambers are ubiquitous.   Social media, news outlets, blog feeds, churches, families, neighborhoods, communities. If there is a context where differences exists, a “safe room” (echo chamber) will emerge and like-minded people will seek refuge.

Echo chambers are not a new phenomenon. They are the consequence of human nature’s inclination to tribalism.

Tribalism is pervasive, and it controls a lot of our behavior, readily overriding reason. Think of the inhuman things we do in the name of tribal unity. Wars are essentially, and often quite specifically, tribalism. Genocides are tribalism – wipe out the other group to keep our group safe – taken to madness. Racism that lets us feel that our tribe is better than theirs, parents who end contact with their own children when they dare marry someone of a different faith or color, denial of evolution or climate change or other basic scientific truths when they challenge tribal beliefs. What stunning evidence of the power of tribalism!

How Tribalism Overrules Reason, and Makes Risky Times More Dangerous

Not unlike many facets of our society, echo chambers are benefactors (victim?) of the digital and technological revolution.

Since we’ve become so attached to social media, we are less and less required to interact with people who disagree with us. Technology allows us to reach across state lines (and even oceans) to find people who share our beliefs and values. Until social media designers can address the fact that these platforms allow the increasing polarization of users into small, tight-knit communities, stopping the proliferation of misinformation will continue to be a challenge.    The social media “echo chamber” is real

I would suggest that technology has unleashed the ever present malevolent potential of echo chambers in ways never imagined. Some would suggest that the existence of democracy is threatened.

The subject of echo chambers has become increasingly personally relevant. After recognizing my self imposed political/social echo chamber, I made a decision to dampen the echoes and open myself to different sources.

My efforts have met with mixed success. The peril of trading one echo chamber for another is real. The most significant result of my decision, thus far, is that it has become a catalyst for more serious thought and investigation into the character and nature of echo chambers. this blog post is the first, in what I hope to be a series of posts, addressing questions, ideas and issues that I have encountered related to echo chambers.

Remember to “like” this post so our like-minded friends can enjoy it.

 

 

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3 Responses to Echo Chambers

  1. Clark says:

    Interesting post…..interesting post..

  2. Dave Carper says:

    George,

    I have a few thoughts and have not read any of your posts following as of yet. If I comment it will be in order of your posts so the post post won’t be influence of the current.

    Having read your blog about the “mule trading” story and how life changing this was for you, I am beginning to better understand your quest for truth, life balance and awareness. I appreciate your willingness to change and openness to hearing other voices speak into your life.

    I was interested in the term “safe room” and am hoping you write more about that. I was also captured by the comment, “The peril of trading one echo chamber for another is real.” Again I hope you take this further and talk more about “trading” and what you meant by “peril”. My immediate thought went to your change in religious affiliation later in life and the difficulty that went with that decision.

    As I have started to take notes and write my own comments this is what I have gathered. Echo chambers are not permanent and it may be a good discipline to not stay in one too long. Listen for the echo of God’s voice. These are more personally directed for myself than anything else.

    • George says:

      Dave, Thanks so much for the comments. I look forward to your comments.
      RE: safe room. BY safe room I mean a place to which we retreat to escape dissension, conflict regarding our view points, opinions, etc. Echo chambers inherently provide such refuge. It is my view that most people do not welcome divergent views and will seek refuge from them.

      RE: trading one echo chamber for another. Echo chambers are not discrete experiences. They are a reality of our human interaction. The “peril” is that even though I recognize I am in an unhealthy echo chamber and take measures to change, I will always be susceptible to my desire to affirm my rightness. A change of religious affiliation is a good example.

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