How To Move Beyond Your Political Echo Chamber
Unfortunately, echo chambers in politics are strong especially in the age of social media.
With the 2020 election season officially underway, it’s important for voters and even fellow journalists to avoid the pitfalls of what happened during the 2016 Presidential election. Not only does that involve being aware of active measures campaigns attempting to influence the United States democratic process, but it also involves investigating our own personal biases when encountering factual evidence.
What Is An Echo Chamber And Why Is It Problematic?
Merriam-Webster defines an echo chamber as, “a room with sound-reflecting walls used for producing hollow or echoing sound effects —often used figuratively.” However, Google dictionary details the meaning in relation to political science. “An environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own, so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered.”
One of the major problems with being within an echo chamber thought bubble is how it can alter individuals relation with the truth. If a matter of evidence is interested in a political conversation which challenges preconceived notions continually pressed within an ideological echo chamber it can lead to the psychological phenomenon known as cognitive dissonance.
Leon Festinger first developed the cognitive dissonance theory. The theory suggests we all have an inner drive to hold all our attitudes and behavior in harmony and avoid dissonance. This is known as the principle of cognitive consistency. The conflicting attitude, behavior, or thought process must change in order to relieve one of their dissonances. The Khan Academy further explains the theory.
Instructional design provides another example of how cognitive dissonance can take form:
Consider someone who buys an expensive car but discovers that it is not comfortable on long drives. Dissonance exists between their beliefs that they have bought a good car and that a good car should be comfortable. Dissonance could be eliminated by deciding that it does not matter since the car is mainly used for short trips (reducing the importance of the dissonant belief) or focusing on the cars strengths such as safety, appearance, handling (thereby adding more consonant beliefs). The dissonance could also be eliminated by getting rid of the car, but this behavior is a lot harder to achieve than changing beliefs.
How To Solve The Echo Chamber In Politics
Unfortunately, echo chambers in politics are strong especially in the age of social media. Individuals often become saturated with information when they join Reddit threads, Facebook groups, or filter their Twitter feeds to only show information they believe (or subconsciously wish to be true).
This modern relationship with social media, combined with the lax regulation platforms exercise is what made each easy targets for those wishing to spread disinformation.
However, there are a number of ways well-meaning seekers of information can prevent themselves from becoming drowned in false claims and misinformation.
- Trust those who source their claims
- Learn to differentiate between factual claims and opinions
- Don’t believe everything you hear/read
The last two are extremely important. Factual claims will include evidence or intelligence which will allow the reader/viewer to fact check the article, podcast, or video. Due to how easy it is for misinformation to spread on the internet, not everything you hear or read will be accurate — it’s important to not take all information at face value.
While this isn’t a cure-all for the echo chamber problem, taking these steps will definitely help.