The Microscopic Echo Chamber: The Internet

The Internet has changed how communication works in the modern era. Today, people can communicate for free with a post or even do a video conference from all corners of the globe.

As far as technology is concerned, it is a far cry from the days when a person had to rely on memorizing telephone numbers to reach out to a friend, let alone before the 19th century when letters were the primary source of long-distance communication.

The ability to converse with other people on any subject is perhaps the greatest expression of free speech available.

But in creating such an open platform where anything goes, it has created a nasty precedent. It gives consumers the freedom to ignore information (whenever factual or not) that could challenge their belief.

Today, there are numerous places to gain information for news.

Compare that to sixty years ago when televised news sources only came from three or maybe four channels and had to be caught at the right time.

Currently, news can be accessed at any point, at any place, and can be customized to one’s preference in fiscal, social, and other issues.

Most lament the lack of transparent bias in journalism. As an example, Breitbart is tailored towards right-winged ideology while the Daily Kos is an example of a news website that promotes left-winged views, but both profess objectivity.

Because of the variety of options that exists for people, news sources are no longer expected to be objective. Bias in regards to journalism has become not only accepted, but encouraged.

Objective journalism is a dying breed in today’s world as even the news section of popular left or right-leaning websites (which includes major company such as CBS and Fox News) are rife with thinly disguised agendas.

Anyone who wishes to be informed today about news is expected to put in a lot more effort than when information was not as easily dispersed. But journalism is hardly the end of where people put efforts against conflicting opinions.

The Internet allows people to specialize in many topics. As said before, any topic in a free society can be discussed. The issue is not the question of whether people can access these topics, but if they are willing to reach out to people that think differently from them.

Where, I believe, the problem comes from is that most people are unaware of how easy it is to get sucked into an echo chamber.

Google customizes their search engine to conform to what the person typically sees so that the person can continue to be exposed to similar ideas and contents.

But when the person forgets to challenge his ideology, he ends up conforming to what he thinks is right (no matter how absurd or perilous it may be to him or other people), shutting off dissenting opinions from his own.

The echo chamber exists everywhere, from online video game communities, sports, politics, religion, and even in educational communities. If people are not willing to challenge their own beliefs and be tolerant of other’s opinions, it is no wonder why there is a sentiment of the United States being – ironically – divided. Humans want to have their opinions validated and disagreements can come across as offensive.

The truth is, safe spaces have not and will never exist. Many neglect the realization that the Internet is public.

Once a post or video is made on the Internet, chances are that it will stay there for the rest of that person’s life. Even if the site where the person made the post (or the page) gets taken down, there is still a good possibility that an Internet archive has kept records on the post.

This means that anything said on the Web is subjected to criticism, whether the person asked for it or not, and can affect a person’s future. It also means being forced to face harsh truths about life if we want to be functional members of society. People do not inherit the ability to become great, they must work for it.

That is why when people shut themselves off from other’s opinions, even when the opposing viewpoint is backed up by facts, they set a dangerous precedent for themselves. An unwillingness to have their beliefs challenged disables thoughtful discussion and important personal growth necessary to become a functional member of society.

I made the mistake of giving in to the echo chamber numerous times while I was on the Internet.

Constantly, I searched through the Internet for evidence that supported what I wanted to believe. My refusal to be objective resulted in me being shocked and disappointed when things did not turn out the way they did.

Eventually, I had to realize once and for all that I had made it into a habit to not challenge my own belief and that it was time to accept that I was not nearly as important as I wanted to believe.

The most painful part was the recognition that work was hard and that nothing worthwhile in life came easily. But I had to learn to deal with disappointments to get to where I am at today.

I am still an avid user of the Internet, but I know now that it must be used to enlighten others, not to place my own ideologies above everyone else.

If I had to give one piece of advice, it would be this. No one should ever allow themselves to be controlled by what is said on the Internet.

Instead, be free from untransparent bias and become a light in a dark world.

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