Echo Chambers

Curious about the blog post Brigitte and Stew referred to in the podcast? Well, here it is:

Hello-lo-o-o-o
Are you there-ere-ere-ere?
Can you here me-e-e-e?

I can only hear myself. I can only hear the media I want to listen to. I can only hear what I want to hear. I’m in an echo chamber hearing the same words over and over and over again and while the words change, and the stories change the opinions expressed don’t. The same worries repeat and suddenly I’m sure in my beliefs that have been reaffirmed by the people who are like me. Over and over and over again.

The word echo chamber has been echoing through my brain for several days now. I sit and listen to my, admittedly, liberal media. Some of media leans more liberal, while others toe the line, but I’m getting fed a lot of the same opinions. The only dissent is found in CNN’s round table discussions and even then I find that I’m siding with the liberals at the table and all too willing to label the conservatives as blind or unwilling to listen. I’m sitting in an echo chamber of my own design and I finally tried to be a Socrates and look outside of the cave.

And when I looked I saw millions of people just like me sitting in their own echo chambers. Some crimson red, some navy blue, some baby blue, some rosebud pink. There were even a few purple boxes in there. Curiously there weren’t any white, because everyone believes in something these days. But I looked and I didn’t see a world where I knew what truth was. I saw a world where I thought something was truth, but I had to find at least three other sources to back up that truth because fake news is a real epidemic.

I saw my fellow box sitters staring at their version of reality inside their echo chambers and I felt a sense of helplessness. How can you help someone out into the real world, out of their box or cave and see what really is out there? How can you have a conversation with someone in a navy blue box from your crimson box or vice versa? How can you politely discuss the changes that are happening in the world right now if you insist on believing that your reality inside your box is the only way to adequately view the world? How can you only listen to Fox News and Brietbart and call yourself educated? How can you only watch CNN, MSNBC, and Foreign Policy and pretend that you know the opinions of everyone sitting in their own boxes?

Short answer: you can’t.

The problem in America right now isn’t that we aren’t trying to be informed. A good portion of the public is trying to be informed, but we tend to be selective. No one likes to have their ideas and values challenged. Everyone prefers to be validated. and sometimes that’s just simply not possible. We can’t ever agree on something across partisan lines if we’re not even willing to entertain the ideas that the other party has to offer.

Anger is a secondary emotion that usually veils a more important root emotion we try to protect. My anger often stems from a fear that what the other side is saying is correct that that will challenge everything I hold dear. My anger towards some of the political decisions right now is harbored in fear that the international arena could be blown to smithereens by a tweet and an incompetent signature.

But that anger will get us nowhere. We have to be willing to listen. We have to be willing to entertain thoughts that discomfit us. We have to be willing to stop, slow down and decide where we are right now. Are we inside our comfy little box we built all by ourselves and filled with our favorite things?
Or did Socrates the philosopher drag us outside into the abrasive sunshine so that our unaccustomed fingers could feel the truth, that dirt is rough and dusty, that mud is clingy and gooey? Did he show us that the sun shines brightly and the moon smiles softly? Did he wait with us for a rainstorm so we could feel that rain can pelt a person as well as caress them? Did we see that snow can be cold and dreary, or it can be warm and playful? Did he show us the flowers so we could learn that red flowers sometimes smell just as sweet as the blue and that purple flowers may just smell the best of all?

We have to climb out of our echo chambers, we have to stop listening to the sounds of our own voices. We have to stop yelling louder and louder trying to outdo the person of the opposite color sitting next to us.

Peace begins with a smile.
Peace begins with earnest listening.
Peace begins with compromise.

We cannot afford to sit inside our echo chambers anymore. In fact we never could afford to sit inside them. We especially do not have that luxury now.

Step outside, see a sunset, smell the distinctive smog smell, feel your boot squish in the mud. Then get to work, because the smog isn’t going away by itself, and the mud is gonna stay muddy unless you plant the grass.

Get going. Listen up. Be better.
Smash your echo chamber and go outside.

Brigitte writes the occasional blogpost like this one here.

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