Friday, 15 September 2017

What is an Echo Chamber and Am I In One?

An Echo Chamber, when referring to the online community describes how you will hear your own views validated, amplified and reinforced. It leads to a dangerous thought process – “everyone feels the same as me” – to put it bluntly, they don’t.

Think about the people you follow and interact with online. If you are in a metaphorical Echo Chamber, most of the individuals that you interact and engage with on a regular basis fall into the follow categories. People you admire. People who inspire you. People who have similar jobs, social economic backgrounds and lives as you. People who have similar views. These people probably feel the same as you about the big issues of the day. Feminism, Terrorism, Racism, Equality, Global Warming. All big issues and most people have a strong enough view that they will openly admit they come down on one side of the fence. I haven’t met anyone who is ‘on the fence’ about global warming. I have met people who think it doesn’t exist and people who dedicate their lives to protecting the environment. These issues encourage strong views.

The problem is, the current climate on the internet is building to one of an almost fanatical intolerance towards any sort of debate or disagreement. I was recently blocked from a popular feminist’s Twitter feed because I stated (and I still believe, rightly) that it was ridiculous to try and ban the word ‘Feminine’ in relation to feminine hygiene products. Personally, I’d rather spend the time campaigning for girls who have to skip school because of their period in this county (this happens – google it) than trying to get yet another part of our standard lexicon banned – I don’t agree that seeing the word should ‘trigger’ anyone and I personally think that if it does, they should grow a fucking backbone – don’t worry, I know this is a #unpopularopinion but I’m still entitled to it. I’m #sorrynotsorry if that triggers you.

Deleting and blocking people who have different views to you isn’t going to help you accept and be tolerate of the world around you. It paints a false picture, that everyone feels the same way and you are on some sort of crusade together against the trolls that disagree.

If all of your friends are super-liberal, middle class white people around the same age, how are you ever going to be able to understand and interact with anyone not in that socio-economic group? If you are blazing through your life thinking that you are right and that’s it, because the group you surround yourself with completely agrees with you and anyone who doesn’t is triggering some sort of anxiety in you so deep that you feel the need to erase their terrible opinion completely from your mind and vision, you need to branch out. Not everyone is the same and not everyone will always agree with you and that is a beautiful thing that the most intelligent, successful and happy people in the world are able to understand.

Beware the Echo Chamber. It can convince you that everyone is in the same boat, that everyone thinks the same. It can encourage normalisation of behaviours that are not accepted in wider society. If every single person you know smokes Cannabis and talks about smoking Cannabis and treats it very normally, does this mean society as a whole is accepting legalisation? Nope, it just means you have surrounded yourself with people whose moral compass points the same way on this factor. Try going to a Woman’s Institute tea party and having a discussion about using CDB oil to treat rheumatoid arthritis. You won’t get very far.

This isn’t a dig to anyone who does delete people who disagree with them. You might want you online space to be all fairies and rainbows and happiness and butt-licking, but it’s vital to be aware that in doing so, you are creating a false and fragile community that doesn’t offer a real reflection of the world, in the wider scheme of things, you are doing something even more dangerous to your own mind – convincing yourself of a false reality and closing yourself off the a diverse and beautiful world of opinion, debate and disagreements.

I want your opinion on this post – negative, positive, on the fence, you don’t like my hair, whatever. All opinions are valid here – I don’t want to be in an Echo Chamber. 

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