Amplified Beyond Echo Chambers
Updated: Apr 5, 2022
Imagine a world where everyone agrees with you about everything. No matter what your stance is on politics, religion, arts, or even sports, no contradicting opinion could be ever seen or heard.
Seems unthinkable, right? Especially with the rise of technology today, sparking discourse about our differences has never been easier. Take, for instance, the conversations that surround the upcoming national elections: a single, collective public opinion bubble appears to be far from reach, with opposing camps using social media to disseminate biased, curated narratives for their own benefit.
However, with algorithms deciding what we see, what we hear, and who we interact with in the digital space, this unimaginable world is actually closer to reality than we think. Despite our contrasting views, social media is known to keep us within echo chambers: spaces that are aligned with our own outlooks.
What is an echo chamber?
An echo chamber is an environment where one solely encounters information or opinions that simply reflect their own. In social media, this is done through algorithms based on stored user data which enables platforms to know what post to feed you next.
The self-curating ability of social media creates filter bubbles that narrow down your feed to content that you want and weed out posts that you’d potentially disagree with. This fuels confirmation bias, which is our natural tendency to favor information that reinforces one’s existing beliefs. Essentially, this impels individuals to only believe what they think is right and reject what they think is wrong.
How do echo chambers affect the political landscape?
While echo chambers may seem harmless, it brings danger when used to peddle misinformation. Through this, it has the ability to distort a person’s perspective, making it difficult for them to consider opposing viewpoints and discuss complex topics. According to data analyst and researcher Dominic Ligot, while it’s normal behavior to denounce information you don’t agree with, exercising our critical thinking skills also entails entertaining contrary opinions.
With social media’s capacity to divide various communities when it comes to politics, it does not only reinforce bias, but it can also lead to greater polarization and extreme positions as users become more isolated from opposing facts and opinions.
Now, try to evaluate what your social media feed looks like today. Is it drowning in pink or colored in all red this election season? If you answered yes, you could be in an echo chamber and here are some tips on how to amplify your voice beyond it.
How can I step out of my echo chamber?
The very first step is to acknowledge that echo chambers exist. Our online communities do not simply mirror the rest of society, which is why we should be proactive in engaging with people beyond our circles. To help you out, you can also begin challenging their existence with something close to our hearts as ACTM members:the 4 C’s of IMC.
1. Communicate clear messages online and offline. When given the chance to spark conversations outside social media, grab it! There is a greater fight happening beyond our screens and we can participate simply by unplugging and talking to people you personally know: your relatives, driver, workmates, or even your hairdresser. This is honestly no mean feat so be sure to come prepared with clear and factual messages and steer the conversation away from too much emotion.
2. Create consumer-centric strategies when engaging with people outside your circle. Diversifying your reach also entails understanding where opposing opinions come from. With this, you can start by learning about why other people believe a certain way. Examining their interests, aspirations, anxieties, and fears help humanize them and see the bigger picture behind their actions. This then could help you approach others in a more context-driven manner and relay your messages more effectively.
3. Stay consistent with facts. One of the best defenses you have against being trapped in echo chambers is your capacity to think critically. With this, you can be more wary of what you see online and be more intentional with the content you share. Though it may seem easier to cling to baseless or biased news, we must know better to stand our ground by being consistent with factual information. As such, make sure to align your stance and opinions with facts that come from credible resources.
4. Be creative in defying the algorithm. Take back your ownership of your social media by being more mindful of the data that you feed it with. When researching, you can try to use incognito mode or explore other search engines that minimize data collection or prevent tracking your search history. Doing so can then help you have a more objective lens when browsing social media.
DeVos, M. (2021). The Echo Chamber Effect: Social Media’s Role in Political Bias | YIP Institute. Yipinstitute.com. https://www.yipinstitute.com/articles/the-echo-chamber-effect-social-medias-role-in-political-bias
GCF Global. (2019). Digital Media Literacy: What is an Echo Chamber? GCFGlobal.org. https://edu.gcfglobal.org/en/digital-media-literacy/what-is-an-echo-chamber/1/
Gregorio, X. (2021, October 20). Robredo’s supporters try to break through their echo chambers. Philstar.com; Philstar.com. https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2021/10/20/2135438/robredos-supporters-try-break-through-their-echo-chambers
Regalado, P. (2021, November 16). Are You in a Pink or Red Bubble? Here’s How to Look Outside It. Reportr.world. https://www.reportr.world/news/pink-bubble-leni-robredo-red-echo-chamber-bongbong-marcos-social-media-algorithm-explainer-a4832-20211116
TEDx Talks. (2019). Challenge The Echo Chamber | Adam Greenwood | TEDxRoyalTunbridgeWells [YouTube Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKyFL389qe8