The Hubris of the Echo Chamber

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Like many, I was not only surprised, but shocked by the recent US elections. Michael Moore warned us back in July, but he was ignored. Nate Silver told us, and was ridiculed for that.

Many academicians have been warning people that more and more we live in echo chambers, self-reinforcing patterns and opinions, because we aren’t made aware of the alternatives. Google will show you different results than it will your co-worker, in each case trying to appease whatever expectations Google assumes you each have. Likewise, Facebook learns what you want to hear and who you want to hear it from, and dutifully refuses to challenge your preconceptions. This reinforces the idea that you are well grounded in reality.

Tuesday’s election should be a wake up call against the echo chamber effect.

Like almost everyone I know, I expected an easy Clinton victory, with even the senate changing. Everyone I know was wrong. I was wrong. And we’re all shocked, because our echo chamber no longer matched reality, and many of us weren’t prepared for that.

I’ve been aware of the echo chamber effect for some time, and have tried to break the edges of it. I read websites and threads within websites such as Reddit that challenge my ideology. I’m more than aware of the Gamergate crowd and their grievances and antics, even as I disagree with both. I know the Sad and Rabid Puppies. I don’t agree with them, and I’ve always assumed that they were a vocal minority.

But at least I was aware of them.

The whole Trump popularity thing? It caught me completely by surprise. I worried a bit when I read Michael Moore’s thoughts, but then mostly ignored him, as did my media sources. I saw the Nate Silver controversy but thought, eh, we’ll see… And see we did.

I need to work harder to break out of my echo chamber. How about you?