The echo chamber effect is when someone shuts out all ideas they don’t agree with and subscribe to only those which confirm their beliefs.

We tend to surround ourselves with like-minded people and subscribe to like-minded media sources like cable news or talk radio in an attempt to educate ourselves about the world. It’s human nature to gravitate to the things that you already agree with.

What this actually ends up doing is creating a bubble where ideas & beliefs are reinforced by transmission and repetition inside a closed system while competing views are rejected from entering the system or being repeated inside it.

We here at ZestyThings.com don’t like to discuss politics or religion – we’ve tried to make the site a ‘neutral zone’ devoid of topics that cause high amounts of controversy.

We do however enjoy exploring how those ideas live and propagate through communities. Click here to view the infographic as a .pdf file.

How the Echo Chamber Manipulates Perception

The path of an idea through or around the echo chamber is initially determined by whether or not the idea conforms to the existing belief system inside the chamber itself. Let’s take a look at those paths and how they’re represented in the infographic above:

Idea Conforms to the Existing World View Inside the Echo Chamber

  1. Idea attempts to enter the echo chamber from an external source.
  2. The news outlets repeat this news to you and your friends, and you repeat to amongst yourselves and like-minded friends who haven’t seen the news.
  3. Other like-minded news outlets see subscribers talking about this idea and begin reporting it to capitalize on the news.
  4. You and your friends see the idea now coming from multiple news outlets, lending credibility to the idea.
  5. The idea now circulates within the system, constantly repeated by those within the chamber, which amplifies the message.

Idea Competing with the Existing World View Inside the Echo Chamber

  1. Idea attempts to enter the echo chamber from an external source.
  2. News outlets inside the chamber fail to repeat the idea. They may even actively discredit the source. If the idea comes straight to you or your friends, few if you (if any) repeat it inside the chamber.
  3. You and your friends reject the idea since it didn’t come from one of your ‘trusted’ news outlets. Your circle discredits the original source and therefore, the idea itself.

Both the conforming and conflicting ideas may have each started with just a single source, but those inside the chamber are now receiving the conforming idea from multiple directions. This causes those inside the chamber to believe this is the dominant worldview. Competing ideas are tossed away and never resonate leading those within the echo chamber to believe that this belief is held by some fringe group outside the majority.

The Echo Chamber Effect explains why conspiracy theories thrive and why specific religions dominate their local geographic areas. It’s why the Republican party firmly believed that Mitt Romney was going to win the election in 2012. It’s also why the Democratic party thinks that George W. Bush is somehow to blame for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

pixabay break out of the echo chamber

How to Get Out of The Echo Chamber

Experts agree there’s only one way out of the echo chamber. You have to force yourself to engage with news sources you may hate. The very prospect of this can be extremely uncomfortable.

Every time you block someone on Facebook for non-personal reasons, you are actually building your echo chamber. Hiding things that you don’t agree with doesn’t remove them from the world of reality.

The scariest part about engaging competing ideas is that you may discover you were the one wrong about something. Human egos hate that.

On the other hand, by knowing how other people think, you may be able to argue your points more effectively.

The echo chamber effect is one of the strongest phenomena that divides humanity. Learn to recognize your own and begin breaking down those walls.

Sharif Jameel is a business owner, IT professional, runner, & musician. His professional certifications include CASP, Sec+, Net+, MCSA, & ITIL and others. He's also the guitar player for the Baltimore-based cover band, Liquifaction.

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