Echo Chambers

Echo Chambers



Echo Chambers

What is an Echo Chamber?

Echo chambers are a symbolic place where people’s preconceived ideas are intensified by repetition and alternative opinions are eschewed. In an echo chamber the only voices one hears are those they want to hear. The echoes get louder, and the chamber gets bigger, and what’s left is just one side of an argument telling itself it’s correct over and over again, until nothing else can be heard. 

How Do Echo Chambers Form?

An echo chamber can be simplified as someone only getting information from one source, or type of source. As such, people are stuck inside a metaphorical closed room, where all they hear is their own viewpoints thrown back at them, rather than proper critical thought. Examples of this in the modern world include various social media platforms. Whereas in the past, people might read a newspaper that had a variety of differing opinions, now someone can easily find and subscribe to a person or media source who provides information that fits with their already-held view. Thus, the digital information age has provided very fertile ground for echo chambers across a great many topics. It would be easy to assume that access to almost limitless information would improve critical thinking, and while in some cases that has happened, examples abound of situations where quite the opposite might be true. 


What are the Solutions for Disrupting Echo Chambers?

Some social media and media companies are taking the approach of changing their algorithms to ensure that users get exposed to multiple news sources, instead of just the ones that they prefer. There are other websites that allow for users to receive each news story from three separate sources. This gives users the ability to see an issue from all angles, and encourages critical thinking.  

 What Makes Echo Chambers Dangerous?

Echo chambers, in a way, are the peak of confirmation bias, in that even scientific evidence can’t stop the proliferation of certain confirmed viewpoints. And what’s left is a group of people completely alike in their thinking, where truth speaks more quietly than belief—rather than belief growing from truth. This demonstrates practically why echo chambers pose such a serious problem, perhaps more now than ever, because the prevailing wisdom on any topic should always be the truth, not the people who shout loudest.

Truth-seeking should break echo chambers and allow beliefs to adapt in the face of new evidence. Systems should be designed to make people aware when they are being exposed to unsubstantiated claims and provide tools to gain access to factual information. One thing is clear: to solve a problem like this, reaching across divides, stepping outside of our own echo chambers and enaging in open and truthful conversation will be hugely important.

more content we think you'll like