I’ve been meaning to comment on this state of our era. The era of information and “experts” roving around freely. The echo chamber has been one of the most pervasive devices of this era.
You see, now a days we have the luxury of continuously propagating our ideologies through a vast network of varying echo chambers.
I wouldn’t be that concerned with it if it weren’t for the divisive nature of being stuck in an echo chamber.
Why? Because I believe that we all have the ability to create our own realities. A little esoteric but true.
We can find any piece of information to fit our narrative (confirmation bias) and live in that reality indefinitely. Just look no further than the various religions and philosophies out there.
For each of these schools of thought you can find opposing ideals that challenge the veracity of these disciplines.
I’m here to present a basic psychological view of what is plaguing our society today. This plague is what I observe as the decline of social discourse.
I know, there has always been fights and even wars between people of different religions and stuff.
We as a species are prone to the detriments of cultural tribalism.
I just want to throw my hat in the ring. A perspective that I’ve been intrigued by since the inception of social media, the current state of the internet.
I see that this aforementioned tribalism is propagated by algorithms designed to keep you on the platforms of your choice.
I understand why they’re designed this way and I would probably design them and implement them the same way if I were a tech businessperson myself. It keeps the money flowing. It’s also good business strategy and common sense. I want you to stay in my corner of the Internet for as long as possible even if it means that I lock you in an echo chamber. A place that feeds you your confirmation bias. A controlled reaction of ideas constantly coming at you in a positive feed back loop energized by your “liking”(Verb) of content.
The Echo Chamber
What is an echo chamber? Let’s visit the New Oxford American definition of an Echo Chamber.
“An enclosed space for producing reverberation of sound.”
Now if we were to make a minor tweak by way of changing one word, we have arrived at the working definition that will prevail throughout this article.
That definition will look like this:
“An enclosed space for producing reverberation of ideas.”
Now we can visualize what the current state of the internet looks like from your, and my, point of view.
This echo chamber is the device that allows for our own ideas to be echoed back to us. It also allows for our own voices to be echoed back at us.
For instance, when you proceed to write something, speak something, the voice that is echoed back at you via the algorithm is very similar to yours.
So what’s the issue here? We have a working business model and everything.
Well this all comes at the cost of the degradation of proper social discourse.
There’s three things that can happen when we have a disagreement with another:
- Have a debate that leads to some sort of truth and middle ground.
- Ignore the opposition.
My concern is that there seems to be a rapid decline (and I’m being generous with that notion) in our ability to do number 1. It’s almost as if we are evolving to strictly do number 2 and 3.
Number 2 happens when we step outside of virtual reality and bump into those who exist outside our echo chamber and 3 happens within virtual reality by way of echo chambers.
Later on we will explore the mechanism that causes people to act crazy when they can’t physically express themselves outside of the matrix which we are seeing more of but is an age old shadow behavior of our species.
The Echo Chamber Within The Mechanism of Groupthink
If I were to posit the orgin of echo chambers I would say that “groupthink” is where it came from.
The echo chamber is the projection of groupthink. But what is group think to begin with?
Taken directly from Wikipedia:
“Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Cohesiveness, or the desire for cohesiveness, in a group may produce a tendency among its members to agree at all costs. This causes the group to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation.”
We see that groupthink is a “psychological phenomenon” which means it existed for quite some time or at the very least it’s been in our DNA from the beginning.
The echo chamber via social media is simply the hologram by which groupthink is manifested.
Groupthink pre-internet existed more as a “clique”-ish type of thing where the undercurrents of ideas were pooled in tight knit social groups at the office, the warehouse, clubs, bars, churches, etc. In other words, people simply hung out where their ideas were echoed back to them.
The scary part of groupthink is that you are required to stay in cadence with the rest of the group or you will be punished in some way shape or form, including being outcast.(Think cancel culture.)
Again, why is this a bad thing? What’s wrong with people staying in their lane and being with people who share the same ideas as them?
Well, when we persist in this type of behavior we undermine evolution whether it be spiritual, biological or psychological.
How far can we as a species as a whole evolve if we stay in the same corners of our existence?
The hallmark of intellectual evolution is the ability for many different people to get together with a diversity of ideas to see where they converge and diverge to come up with advancements.
Making an effort to evade groupthink and the echo chamber is a good thing for our advancement as humans.
Let’s talk about what happens to the individual now that we’ve addressed the sociological implications.
Deindividuation: The Invitation Of Shadow Behavior
What would you do if you knew you could get away with it?
We see this kind of behavior played out in movies like “The Purge” where a society has a prescribed period of time to do whatever they want. The laws are suspended.
One thing is important to note. That these once law abiding citizens are wearing masks.
Deindividuation is at work here. But before we go any further let’s define deindividuation.
Taken from Wikipedia:
“Deindividuation is a concept in social psychology that is generally thought of as the loss of self-awareness in groups, although this is a matter of contention (resistance). Sociologists also study the phenomenon of deindividuation, but the level of analysis is somewhat different. For the social psychologist, the level of analysis is the individual in the context of a social situation. As such, social psychologists emphasize the role of internal psychological processes. Other social sciences, such as sociology, are more concerned with broad social, economic, political, and historical factors that influence events in a given society.”
The individual loses the sense of self-awareness. This stripping of the conscious mind allows for the demons of the subconscious to surface.
Once this happens all kinds of shadow behaviors run rampant attempting to destroy anything in its path. Within the context of social discourse, it is opposing ideas. But you can’t destroy an idea. It’s irrational behavior.
We see this behavior on social media with the plethora of anonymous accounts. People who belong to these echo chambers of groupthink tribalist use anonymity to lash out.
We see this a lot on various social platforms.
The “Remedy” For The Echo Chamber
As cliché as this sounds, tolerance is the answer. We need to grow up and learn how to tolerate other people’s opinions or we are going to destroy ourselves.
Stepping out of our cushy echo chambers is a way to learn that people who have opposing ideas are not evil. They are not your enemy. They are simply heroes in their own stories. But this doesn’t mean that you are the dragon that they needs to be slayed in their story all the same.
In other words, we are not our ideas. We are simply the apertures through which we are experiencing creation at the leading edge.
The swirling of all these seemingly opposing ideas can propagate intellectual evolution if we were to drop the ego.
I rectify the chaos that is current social discourse by looking at it as if it were an experiment being conducted by outside beings such as extra terrestrials.
To our credit I do see some spaces opening up to open having diversity of ideas. I’m even seeing the one or two individuals making an effort not to jump down someone’s throat for disagreeing.
For now, I think the best thing for us is to “agree to disagree.”