Humans are social beings, and we have survived partly because of our ability to have meaningful discussions. Many of our ideas and values are challenged and dropped as we engage in these discussions. We learn new insights and enlarge our views from being part of these discussions.
Imagine a situation where there are no discussions or exchanges of ideas, and everyone just believes in what they feel should be true. That is what an echo chamber is. But what does it entail, and how can you engage in civil discourse to break free from it?
What is an Ideological Echo Chamber?
When you live in an environment where your ideas, opinions, and thoughts are all you hear and seek out similar perspectives, you live in an echo chamber. It can happen to anyone or a group of people, making them believe their beliefs are the standard since what they dish out is what they receive.
An ideological echo chamber is best seen as an environment where a person or group only sees what they want to due to having their opinions or beliefs echoed back to them.
Does this sound familiar? If it does, then it simply means such a person or group of people are not welcoming of the idea of using civil discourse to reach consensus or dialogues.
Whether ideological or not, Echo chambers foster misinformation and warp a person’s perception so much that they’ll have issues considering different viewpoints.
As far as information is exchanged, echo chambers can occur anywhere, and any ideology can be part of an echo chamber.
Because echo chambers prevent the persons in them from considering opposing views, civil discourse is relegated. It prevents them from using civil discourse to debate their opinions, and they view opposing views as attacking them.
We see this daily in various online groups on social media platforms and news agencies. In fact, social media algorithms are designed to feed you information that resonates with opinions and views we already believe in.
Echo Chamber and Confirmation Bias
An echo chamber is intensified by confirmation bias, a tendency to seek and favor information that reinforces preexisting beliefs. This is a natural human propensity. You can witness this when someone in a debate search for and only acknowledges information that supports their side of the discourse.
The human brain is wired to aggregate toward similar views and people with similar views. We go through life, gaining different experiences and thoughts and filtering different information. Hence, seeing another person espousing the same views and ideologies feels good.
This behavior is inborn in humans and spreads across various cultures. It is hard-wired into our DNA. The good news is that once we’ve acknowledged this innate behavior, we can take charge of our thinking process and how we analyze information.
We can engage in healthier conversations using civil discourse. Once we realize that not everything we think about is right, we might be more inclined to snap out of any echo chamber we find ourselves in or the ones we created for ourselves. But how do we do that?
Recognizing Ideological Echo Chambers
You must do certain things and actions to break free from echo chambers. Although these might be different for everyone, the result is always the same.
Most times, our circle of friends is made up of people with whom we share the same viewpoints, and our idea of support is having this same set of people who always agrees with us. These friends tell us what we want to hear or already know, creating an echo chamber.
But there are mountains of valuable insight to gain when we connect with people who share opposing opinions. And we get more opportunities to grow when we exchange viewpoints using civil discourse.
You don’t even have to agree with these differing opinions, just to understand the point of view.
To recognize echo chambers, check if any of these is positive.
If you, a person, or a group of people:
- Only have, agree on, and listen to one perspective on a particular issue
- Do not pay attention to countering views or opinions
- Have a belief or view that has no supporting data or facts or has limited evidence
Suppose you perceive this in your interaction with others. In that case, you are in an ideological echo chamber and should leave there at once by practicing and learning to engage in civil discourse.
An ideological echo chamber can greatly limit learning and acquiring different views or learning new things. It makes it very easy for disagreements to ruin an otherwise interesting discussion or lead to heated arguments, which will not lead to a productive climax.
However, by using civil discourse, you will be able to actively listen to other people’s opinions, even if it differs from yours, and learn the importance of respectful discussions and how they can lead to productive ends.