How To Exit The Echo Chamber

cartoon yelling repeated echo chamber
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Echo chambers are formed when your set of principles, beliefs and value systems are reinforced by others who share the same set of principles, beliefs and value systems.

In these chambers, alternative ideas aren’t welcome. The ones that rule are the ones shared by all.

What’s more, they’re impervious to doubt, often helmed by leaders who make themselves scarce when new perspectives dare to make themselves seen.

BIRDS OF A FEATHER

Remember high school? The land of freaks and geeks, cheerleaders and jocks?

For many, high school is a place where ideas thrive, individualities roar and diversity has a chance to spark change.

For some, however, it’s the perfect breeding ground for the echo chamber.

After all, in the process of natural selection, freaks and geeks cling to each other, understanding that together they’re less vulnerable than alone.

Similarly, cheerleaders and jocks view themselves as kindred spirits, attracted to each other’s good looks and unshakeable confidence.

These examples are admittedly cliché, but in our defense, they’re more common than you might think.

In some cases, echo chambers feed off of peer pressure.

In others, there’s no need for it: you could find plenty of support groups for your set of principles, beliefs and values rather than feeling pressured to conform to theirs.

multicolored high school lockers

COGNITIVE DIVERSITY

Consider this: cognitive diversity the inclusion of different perspectives, beliefs and values in a group setting has contributed to positive breakthroughs and great success stories at the workplace.1

And why wouldn’t it?

Discussing contrasting views respectfully while listening actively to others’ unique perspectives creates a learning opportunity, rather than focusing on a single, unquestionable idea.

This makes complete sense, and yet so many people find it incredibly hard to “kill their darlings,” or let go of the belief systems that have become embedded in their identities and personalities, even when those belief systems are fundamentally wrong.

So, to escape the echo chamber, you’ll need to forge meaningful connections with others, even when their viewpoints clash dramatically with yours.

This means that you’re not allowed to unfriend your besties on social media just because their political views differ vastly from your own.

It also means that you’re encouraged to create experiences, ideally in-person, with those whose views directly oppose your own. Don’t just send them a tirade of DMs ranting about why they’re wrong and you’re right.

This is what the echo chamber wants you to do.

Instead, you should hear each other out and build experiences where each person gets to walk in the other’s shoes, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

patchwork silhouettes colorful diversity

HOW TO EXIT THE ECHO CHAMBER

For starters, keep an open mind.

Understand that opposing views aren’t always born of sacrilege or disdain. Oftentimes, the road that leads someone to form a certain idea is paved with good intentions.

Politics, for instance, has created some of the loudest echo chambers out there.

Conservative and liberal views are like plates tectonic they’re constantly colliding with each other on issues like immigration and abortion.

These days, your affiliation to a political party, especially if you’re “blue” or “red,” can be a prerequisite for beginning a relationship with someone.

For example, your new love interest can have plenty of things in common with you, including your mutual love for chicken and waffles (yummy!)

Things are going great. Heck, you can even picture a future with them!

But the moment they diverge the moment they say, “Yeah, I voted for Trump,” or “Sure, I voted for Biden” you ghost the hell out of them and add them to your list of failed romances.

Why?

As in, why did you add their name to your “black book” of failed relationships?

Why did they vote for Trump or Biden?

Why didn’t they vote at all, if that was the case?

Leaving these questions unanswered is validating someone else’s pass to enter the echo chamber where their beliefs will always be validated, never challenged.

social media icons splattered with paint

Social media (especially when it comes to fake news) is another platform where echo chambers thrive.

Much like high school, social media lends itself to homophily: the tendency to associate and bond with similar others.

We don’t know what’s populating on your Instagram feed, dear reader, but believe us things can get real vapid, real quick!

Social media users can easily echo the ideas of the people they follow without understanding the full picture.

They figure, we’re cut from the same cloth, so what you’re saying must be right!

But this is dangerous. And it should stop.

To exit the echo chamber, don’t be afraid to question everything, including your own beliefs, and don’t always believe what you hear.

More importantly, be open to hearing others’ perspectives.

After all, there is no red or blue.

There’s only gray.

  1. Schindler, J. (2018, Nov 26.) The Benefits of Cognitive Diversity. Forbes Coaches Council. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2018/11/26/the-benefits-of-cognitive-diversity/?sh=1ea754ae5f8b
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