Let’s talk about echo chambers; a term which you might have heard in fancy parliamentary debates but never bothered to fully understand.

I still remember my teenage years. Full of raging hormones and tumultuous thoughts. One very prominent complaint I had was that I felt trapped, isolated, and confined.

I felt as if nobody could understand what I was saying, and as a result, it was pure torture. Not being able to communicate effectively, being misunderstood. And this made me scared of those outside my little bubble.

I thought I was right and they were wrong, nobody could convince me, my thoughts reigned supreme. Logic was out of the window.

Does this sound familiar? This misunderstanding and confusion? This constant denial of other people’s logic, this bubble?

This bubble my friends is an echo chamber, a term you might have heard floating around in news circles, specifically, echo chambers on Facebook and other social media sites.

echo chambers

This is a widely confusing and varied subject, like maths. But unlike maths, this thing has real-life implications (Science and Commerce students will understand the pain).

Anyway, the key to understanding echo chambers lies in the name itself. An echo chamber is basically an ideological space where no other contrasting thoughts or values can be entertained.

For example taking a leaf out of Abhishek Upmanyu’s book, the tradition of respecting elders and other nonsensical Indian practices that have no reasonable explanation can’t be debated upon. We are simply told, “Aisa hi hota hai”. No contrasting thoughts allowed = Echo chamber.

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But, now you must be asking yourself, why is this such a problem? People have the right to their opinions and the example seems pretty harmless. But as every mom says, “Too much of anything is bad”.

When there is too much isolation, too much living in your own little bubble, when echo chambers form around sensitive issues like politics or religion, sHIT hits the CEILING.

Because people simply are not willing to listen, understand and compromise. These issues are so sensitive and close to their hearts that any dissenting view is treated as disrespect.

Now, this begs many questions, primary among them being why? Why are people so attached to their ideologies, their beliefs that any dissent is automatically disrespected. And secondly, why is there such a violent reaction?

The reason is that these beliefs are the bedrock of people’s lives, any attack shudders them to the core and makes them afraid that their world will come crashing down.

Just look at Twitter, since it’s a cesspool of hate and misinformation. Multiple echo chambers exist. And it’s a clear and present danger.

And therefore, people create these chambers. Where, by definition, only their view is allowed.

It is their safe space.

A place where they feel comfortable.

And this is problematic because whatever we shout or say in an echo chamber, it comes back to us, only louder and in a repetitive manner. Our minds become used to the kind of data that favor our opinion even though it might be outright false.

This is what happened in the recent US elections wherein there were false accusations and information floating around like in every election but due to the creation of an echo chamber, people believed this information only, even though it was false, and discredited the real facts and clarifications simply because they came from the other side of the ideological aisle.

Trump supporters created echo chambers

Even in India, similar voices clamor together in bigoted and xenophobic statements against minorities. People believe these false claims because it is the people of their side or their faith who propagate it.

I myself have many friends who share such content and defend it. I do not blame them for this as they have no contrasting view and that’s why this is what they believe. But I do blame them for not allowing in any contrasting view.

The presence of contrasting views and dissent and debate and discussion is the only reason we possess the relative stability that we have. When people understand each other, listen and then act, that’s when we have peace.

But if we create our own separate chambers, shout and clamor and not allow diverse views to seep in. We are harming ourselves.

There is no harm to listen to the other person’s logic, just like there was no harm to listen to my mum on why it was not okay for me to go out late when I was young. If we feel trapped, isolated, and confined, then the person on the other side does too.

We don’t have to agree on everything, but would it really kill us to listen?

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