The Echo Chamber– It is not my place to tell anyone how to think or vote and it is only my place to tell someone how to act if their actions infringe on my, or my family’s, well being. What I can have is an opinion. However, what has become overwhelmingly obvious in our current, “information age,” is that many of the opinions you are subjected to on a day-to-day basis, whether live or online, are based on bias laden pseudo-facts masquerading as actual quality information. These, “facts,” are often harvested from the lists, or feeds, we reduce people to and create for ourselves by editing and carefully selecting who we, ‘friend’, ‘follow’, and ‘like.’ Anyone with opposing views or ideas are often muted or deleted. A quality debate, where both sides are well prepared with well thought out and researched points of view, is rare. Any debates that are had often devolve in vulgar name calling threads which are devoid of any substance and if any, “information,” is used it is often cherry picked and edited to an extremely narrow viewpoint. Our self created echo-chambers only reflect back what we already believe and remove any chance that our comfort bubbles will be popped. While it may be true that our culture can produce smarter machines that at any point in history it is also true that, despite having infinite information at our fingertips, people are becoming less informed than ever.
Now this post is far the from only one on the internet referring the modern phenomenon of the self induced, “echo chamber.” A simple web search will reveal articles from both sides of numerous debates outlining how the other is fooling themselves by subscribing to their own like minded, “sources.” At least the two polarities can agree on something. However, when they don’t agree the debate turns into nothing more than internet trolls from both sides trying to shout-down the other camp. Rarely is an attempt made by either group to actually try to understand the other side’s position; basically it is a matter of, “that person doesn’t believe exactly what I believe so they can Fuck Off!.” Angry trolls ready to spew vitriol are everywhere. Isn’t that great? What an enlightened stance to have in 2016. Don’t research the topic. Don’t look into the validity of the opposing point of view. And certainly don’t question your own views or possible biases as that would be very uncomfortable. Just parrot what others who already share your beliefs say and, “share.” Then misrepresent those opinions as facts. The great irony is that it is easier than ever to validate information but less people than ever actually do it.
The saddest part is that in a democracy debating divergent views to form a consensus is supposed to be a core value. In modern times people don’t want a debate. They want a government and sources of media which already represent exactly what they already believe and they don’t want those beliefs challenged. The world can only be one way- MY WAY. However, that was never the intent of democracy. People who claim to be hardcore adherents of left or right wing points of view (or on a side of any debate) are equally to blame. Neither side holds the high ground. Facts be damned!
A fact, as defined by the dictionary, is:
- something that truly exists or happens
- something that has actual existence
- a true piece of information
To meet the three criteria in the above definition a belief, statement, or point of view would require reasonable evidence to morph into a fact. A belief in something is not proof. Solid evidence is required. I can believe my eyes are green all I want even though the evidence proves the fact they are blue. The belief in this example is not relevant as what actually exists are blue eyes. A fact has to have the ability to be independently demonstrable so that anyone can draw the same logical conclusion based on evidence which can be verified, tested, or observed. The echo-chamber doesn’t need or care for facts as no one in the chamber will challenge anything as they already believe what is being reflected back to them. Even if a troll appears in the chamber the collective helps to shout them down and, “prove,” to members of the group the correctness of their ideas. Social media is excellent and providing the mechanisms for the chamber to flourish through muting, un-friending, and blocking. That isn’t to say some lunatics shouldn’t be muted, blocked, or even reported; it is just an illustration of how easy it is for people to filter and omit dissenting views in this day and age.
Personally, I’m a centrist who believes most, if not all, politicians are scum-bags. They say and promise what they need to get elected and then, once elected, cater to either the big-money sources who funded their campaigns or to legislation from which they derive a personal benefit. I’m conservative on some issues and more liberal on others. Socially, I’m liberal more often than not. Fiscally, I stray more into the conservative camp. I’m likely not alone. I’m not extreme in any of my views. The only, “extreme,” view I have is a firm belief that people should do a better job on educating themselves on issues facing society from numerous non-corporate or non-partisan sources of fact-based information rather than from their own highly curated feeds on social media. Oh, and if your views differ from mine, be open to a respectful debate based on facts not fictions where both of our assumptions can be challenged and we can mutually learn and grow from the exchange.
The echo-chambers we’ve created for ourselves have done nothing progressive despite they are largely created with technology. Actually, they are regressive since they essentially allow us to cover our eyes and ears and become ignorant of ideas which could rightfully challenge our long-held beliefs. They allow us to wrap ourselves in the warm blanket of, “I’m right and someone else is to blame,” and float through life in a waking sleep. Learning something new and being exposed to new ideas are not bad. Having your ideas challenged is not bad. Getting out of your negative echo-chamber and growing your knowledge and view of the world can only help- it won’t hurt. I sincerely hope there are more people out there that feel this way.
You may be wondering why I posted this on my MS blog. The truth is we see these echo-chambers in our community as well. Whether it is doctors versus natural approaches or pharma against anti-pharma, most camps seem very entrenched and unyielding in their approaches to opposing views. I feel it would be far healthier to have open-minded debates leveraging all ideas and information. Who knows? It may be the synthesis of these disparate schools of thought that helps people with multiple sclerosis live better lives. I could also be crazy.