Beware of the echo chamber

A picture appeared in my Facebook feed this morning that is a timely reminder for us all to be aware of the echo chamber effect. I’ve reproduced it later in this blog. It reminded me that the views and opinions we receive via social media are, adverts aside, ones we have chosen to see.

Our contacts are just that; our contacts – they are people we feel affinity too and we like, follow or friend them on that basis. Their views are similar to our own. We agree with most of what they say and they probably agree with a lot of what we post online too.

Occasionally someone we follow goes too far, oversteps acceptable boundaries or simply promotes a political viewpoint we disagree with enough to unfollow them. This shows our disapproval (if they actually notice) but also removes the opposing view from our daily diet of downloads and posts.

I’m not advocating following or ‘liking’ social media feeds of bigots, misogynists, racists and the like. I am suggesting that, from time to time (inspired by the image below from my Facebook feed) we make a conscious attempt to engage with media messages and political positions we don’t agree with.

Echo chamber

It’s worth regularly asking ourselves the question “how do I know what I know?”. Once an idea that fits our world view is safely inside our echo chamber, it resonates and gains status, eventually being admitted to our canon of personal wisdom.

Certain knowledge in our echo chamber resonates with us on a personal level. We lionise the views of those who agree with it, seeking additional confirmation and reinforcement until assertion is elevated to the status of irrefutable fact. It then becomes part of the narrative by which we make sense of the world around us; “This much I know about the world, of these facts I am certain”

We should regularly review where we get our ‘facts’ from. What do we know about the source? How has their world view caused them to filter what they are saying to us? Are there other, unrelated sources which would corroborate/refute what I am being told?

Treat your social media feed and the blogs you follow with care my friends – they are but a flawed and distorted mirror designed and curated by us to show us a reflection of the world in our own image. Go and read something you disagree with and change your perspective every once in a while.

NB: The concept of engaging with policy proposals and things we might normally disagree and weighing them for their relative merit is part of the system-leadership philosophy that underpins the SBM Roundtable core group #SBMRT17