Echo chambers are dangerous. And mostly we don’t even know when we are in them or participating in maintaining them
According to Google…
an enclosed space for producing reverberation of sound.
Echo chambers can happen in spaces we hang out be it family, Facebook, work, gym, anywhere actually where we are with like-minded people.
The danger is not in the hanging out with the like-minded folks, the danger is in the way we support each other’s ideas without question.
Let’s pick on Facebook, mostly because it’s easy and everyone can relate in some way.
Here goes, someone hears that vaccines are bad despite all the evidence that vaccines are not dangerous and actually save lives of children and adults worldwide. (Let me make it clear I don’t care about this argument in any sort of personal crusade It’s just the topic that came to mind. But, for the record I go with the science over an actor/model. You can yell at me later).
However, they know better than the science and start a group. They encourage their friends to join and slowly the group grows to 1000 people. They post all the screenshots of famous, non- scientific people (often celebrities, because they have some sort of warped credibility), saying it causes autism. Enough of these things are posted, along with recipes for gluten free food and cute kittens, This group bonds with each other, their mutual fear and they start becoming fanatics about their cause. They become so certain they are right because they have 999 other people agreeing with them and fueling that same fire.
Then someone in the group starts to question this.
They ask questions about what authority Jenny McCarthy has to her claims. They bring up concerns about an outbreak of measles and post an article that AJ Wakefield’s study in 1998 declaring a connection between autism and vaccination was unanimously discredited.
This is not well received by this group of concerned facebookers.
The backlash this person receives from the others in the group is severe and immediate. They are kicked out of the group and the group goes back to fueling their fire
Pretty soon there are a couple of thousand kids not getting vaccinated and then one gets mumps or measles and there is an outbreak and what was once a controlled disease is no longer controlled. Focus and finances are taken away from other diseases which do not have a solution yet and spent on a disease that was under control
The Global News reports
The [public health] agency is so concerned that it’s pouring $25 million over five years into figuring out novel ways to reach out to Canadian families about the importance of vaccination.
Twenty five million dollars? To fix a problem that was already fixed?
How could this have been different if people of all opinions were allowed in this Facebook group? Where a discussion could be had about the science of things? Could lives have been saved? And if we take a Domino Effect perspective what could have been the unforeseen fallout? Could resources have been taken away from another illness moments before a cure thus cause many deaths? Could research to actually address autism be halted to focus on the vaccination threat?
This happens because we can’t talk to each other; because we live in a society where it makes sense to listen to an actress and former playboy model over science and then embed ourselves in an echo chamber to convince ourselves that we are more right than we actually are.
This is an extreme example and an easy one to pick on.
The reality though, that is that most of our echo chambers are hard to recognize. We disguise them. We call them our tribes. Our people. They can sound like really cool things to belong to but that often just masks the homogenous nature of those groups.
I had a group of friends I “hung” out with and said to a friend
Me: Not all tribes are bad.
He said: Ah, how many men are in your “tribe”?
Me: Oh, umm.. none.
Him: How many old people?
Me: oh, umm.. none…
Get my point? We find ourselves in these echo chambers without even knowing we are in them and that is dangerous.
Look at your groups.. how do they measure up? How diversified are they?
if you don’t question something then what is the point of believing in it?