What’s Going On: Caught in our own political echo chambers
It’s been called the most famous echo chamber in the world.
Because of the amazing acoustics associated with it, the Studio Two Echo Chamber has been used by various musical artists including Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Oasis and Adele. Countless movie soundtracks were also produced there including some from Star Wars, The Hobbit, Harry Potter and Lords of the Ring series, and most recently, the Oscar-winning The Shape of Water.
It was inside that studio the patent for stereo recording was perfected as well as several other techniques still used today.
Despite all that though, the studio is likely best known for the road it’s located on thanks to another famous recording: Abbey Road.
Like many who followed, The Beatles used Abbey Road’s Studio Two Echo Chamber to create incredible music that still resonates today.
It’s been 50 years since Abbey Road was released, and the studio is hosting a series of lectures and tours to commemorate the anniversary, giving the public its first opportunity to walk around the famous echo chamber.
While the Abbey Road studio may feature the most famous and arguably productive echo chamber, it certainly isn’t the only one. There are numerous man-made ones throughout the world, and several natural ones as well ranging from the Grand Canyon to your ordinary cave.
But in the midst of the information age, a third type of echo chamber is emerging: The Social Media/online echo chamber.
With an abundance of news and opinions literally at our fingertips, we as a society have never had access to more information in the history of mankind than we do at this very instant. Yet thanks to the growing amount of animosity in our political discourse, we have become more and more closed off to any perspective, experience or opinion that doesn’t align with ours.
I have witnessed this on several occasions, both personally and professionally in the last couple years. There have literally been instances where in one week a reader cancelled a subscription because the paper’s opinion page was too liberal while another cancelled because the same opinion page was too conservative.
In both instances, they were right and wrong. We take great pains to make sure both Republican and Democratic viewpoints and policies are promoted and discussed on the opinion page, and my column is a reflection of that. As a true independent, I embrace political agendas and ideologies that are shared by both parties and run contrary to them as well.
Unfortunately, though, for some readers any kind of opinion counter to their belief system will result in the immediate rejection of the message and the avoidance of it.
Simply put, they would prefer the echo chamber where the only ideas and concepts that enter their thought process coincide with their beliefs.
As people increasingly receive their news through online sources such as Twitter, Facebook and Google, that echo chamber has become all the more sophisticated thanks to personalized algorithms. In this world where mathematic formulas meet computer software, information fed to individuals is custom designed based on their previous consumption habits. In other words, if you spend all day reading articles from Breitbart and Fox News, you can expect all sorts of pro-Trump news reports. If CNN and the Huffington Post are your medias of choice … you will see the opposite.
There are real dangers associated with informational echo chambers and are we are starting to see evidence of it. As our society becomes more and more politically polarized, we have become increasingly unwilling to even consider a different viewpoint or perspective. As such, we aren’t seeing people who hold those opposing viewpoints simply as someone different from us but as our political enemy.
And when we start viewing our fellow countrymen as enemies, we have a real problem.
The Beatles proved echo chambers have a place in music. But in our personal lives we need to avoid them and ensure we are at least receptive to consider a viewpoint that initially doesn’t align with ours.
Gregory Orear is the publisher of The Journal. His award-winning weekly column, “What’s Going On,” has been published in four newspapers in three states for more than 20 years. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.