Smashing the Walls of the Echo Chamber
We all have a strong set of core values; we wouldn’t have come as far as we have if that weren’t the case. We do our best to sleuth out the most important facts and figures, and we craft for ourselves a narrative of the truth that aligns not only with what we value, but with what we hope others will value in themselves.
This helps explain why we’re all so good at attracting like-minded individuals to ourselves and our causes – when you’re passionate about something, it shines through, luring others with the same passion to the same luminous sources. And yet, this also poses an incredible problem for all of us. In the immortal words of Frank Zappa, “One of my favorite philosophical tenets is that people will agree with you only if they already agree with you. You do not change people’s minds.”
He’s right, of course. You cannot change someone’s mind who vehemently disagrees with you. But what you can strive to do is to go all the way back to the beginning of the process and remember how they arrived at their position in the first place: based on their values and the information that they deemed was important and reliable. The people with core values that oppose our own are not the people whose hearts and minds we even want to win over, but what about the people with similar values who just chose to emphasize a different selection of facts as their starting point?
The biggest problem with information these days is not that there’s too much of it, but that we’re surrounding ourselves with people who are already beginning with the same predispositions that we are. If we’re all going to the same sources, if we’re all reading the same interpretations and presentations-of-facts, how are we ever going to grow? This problem — the echo chamber problem — is something we’re all unwittingly creating for ourselves. If we fall prey to it, we run the risk of shutting ourselves off from important information that might add nuance or value to how we construct our overall narrative.
And yet there’s one simple value we all share that makes us recognize the dangers of the echo chamber and the need to break out of it: the truth matters.
It’s sometimes a disconcerting process, especially when the new information challenges our preconceptions, but new discoveries are exactly what we need to break out of our comfort zone and reach our full potential. Because at the end of the day, we don’t just want a selection of available facts, we need the full suite of information that’s out there. We don’t just want interpretations from voices that already agree with us; we need a variety of views that emphasize different points, all of which may be important to us in varying degrees.
It’s a bold step to take. Sometimes it means acknowledging a positive advantage in one of our competitors, or admitting a fault or prior bad decision, or that there’s a difficult situation with no universal solution. But it also means that you’ll discover new things with the potential to delight and convert new eyes and ears to a way of thinking that might not have occurred to them before. And that’s how you grow in today’s world: not by staying within a safe social space, but by informing and inspiring your audience to take a step they never would have considered otherwise. So step out of your comfort zone and discover something new; you just might be surprised at who comes with you on the journey.