An echo chamber is a room where your own sounds come bouncing back to you. Like a cave, where your footsteps reverberate into the depths and even the sound of your own breath is returned to your ears from a thousand different directions. Being in such a place for very long can drive a person mad.
And yet it has never been easier to build your own echo chamber online.
Metaphorically, an echo chamber is a safe space that we can build by isolating ourselves from ideas that we don’t like. Or by associating only with ideas that we do like. We can block words that we don’t like on Twitter, unfriend people who offend us on Facebook, attack people’s posting history on reddit, and only tune into certain news channels.
It’s all very natural to do. We don’t want to be confronted with ideas that make us uncomfortable.
I think we should, though.
If all we hear are voices that sounds just like ours, what does that really do inside our own heads? If we only listen to ideas that don’t rub us the wrong way, how are we growing? If we surround ourselves with people who think the way we do, are we really thinking at all?
How many times have you heard “oh, that person believes X, so I’m not going to engage with them”, or something to that effect?
Is it possible that you could disagree with someone on one topic and still believe that they might have something to contribute on another?
What if we could disagree with one another in a civil manner, without resorting to name-calling or attacking one another’s character?
Or is it really necessary to throw the baby out with the bathwater?