Originally published by Leigh Kendall – 1st March 2018
Social media makes information so easy to gain, and to share.
A criticism of social media is that it can be an echo chamber. Echo chamber is a term borrowed from its original definition to express how social media networks can become a place where views and opinions are reinforced and amplified. We can become convinced that we are right not only because…well, we know best!…and also because everyone else thinks the same way.
Clicking and sharing without thinking is easy. We’ve all done it! Plus, social media algorithms are set up to show us more of the information we prefer, providing social proof and therefore reinforcing the echo chamber.
Republic by Cass Sunstein is an excellent read for anyone interested in learning more about echo chambers and social media.
In his book, Sunstein says:
“Echo chambers can lead people to believe in falsehoods, and it may be difficult or impossible to correct them.”
He talks about homophily – the tendency we all have to group with like-minded people. It is a very human approach!
If you have heard a presentation about change by one of the Horizons team, or have been involved with The School for Change Agents, you may have heard the concept of having a spectrum of allies.
When creating positive change, it’s important to find your people – and it’s equally important to remember that means not only the people who think like you. You need to find, connect, and work with the people who don’t think like you – and who may well disagree with you.
Why? It’s not to make your life more stressful, difficult, or to cause resistance. It’s because we need thought diversity – a whole host of views, experiences, and viewpoints – in order to achieve successful, sustainable, positive change.
We need our assumptions to be challenged to make sure that we are on the right path – and we need to have the humility to accept when we are wrong.
You don’t always have to agree with people who hold differing views to your own. Taking the time to understand where each other is coming from can be a huge investment especially in a situation where there is an impasse. A mutual appreciation can help remove resistance and move things along to achieve a common goal.
In a social media world that so often presents views as fact, and where views are polarised views, we need to remember this more than ever.
The world is not a binary black and white, either/or…we need to reflect the beautiful complexities of life and the world in general, which is full of shades of grey and compromises, polarities, both/and.
Social media doesn’t have to be an echo chamber: there is a wealth of diverse opinion and people willing to engage in open, constructive debate.
Be inquisitive and inquiring. Be humble.
Admit when you are wrong (or mistaken).
And remember what Thomas Huxley said about Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution: “New truths begin as heresies.”
“If you think about social media as a place where we express our choices and opinions and beliefs,” she said, “that simple fact of expressing them, in itself will strengthen our belief.” Just by the public act of “clicking ‘like’, you immediately in fact make yourself more committed to that idea than you were a few seconds before”. And the smarter or more informed you consider yourself to be, the more likely you are to look for confirmation bias for that opinion. And the harder it is to admit you were wrong.