The Echo Chamber
One of our regional cinema superstars passed away suddenly due to a cardiac arrest some months earlier. This was the time when we were slowly coming out of the effects of the deadly second wave. The anxiety and panic had not abated entirely. His death triggered a phenomenon where healthy people started getting their heart checked, families started advising each other not to work-out anymore and even the slightest gastric trouble was misconstrued as a heart issue. And within a month, I ended up getting myself a treadmill test to ascertain everything was ok and if anything, I was short on Vitamins.
I initially thought I was being naïve and weak when I panicked and got myself examined for heart disease. It was only when I confided in a well-meaning friend that he said I was being absolutely normal. This was something that had gripped the state…and then he said something interesting.. “We are all living in an echo-chamber…and the noise is just getting multiplied.” The conversation ended up adding a phrase to my vocabulary that was hitherto unknown to me. But the echo-chamber itself is such an integral, inevitable part of our lives.
Come to think of it, I had experienced the echo-chamber sans the social media as well. There were a few of us going through a rough patch at work. The patch continued for more than a few months and our levels of dissatisfaction were high. All of us were ardently trying to switch and used every opportunity to crib about our present roles. In other words, we built ourselves an Echo-Chamber where we echoed to each other the negativity. Each small problem that was fed to this chamber by any of us magnified the negativity. The negative reinforcement became our daily dose of dopamine and we thrived on it for a long while. With time, some of us started moving out of the organisation in search of greener pastures and suddenly the situation became bearable all over again. But we were so used to the “music” from the Echo Chamber of negativity, that it felt unnatural to not crib and embrace positivity.
The more I read about it, the more ubiquitous and far-reaching seem the effects of the Echo-Chamber. Entire political campaigns are tailored around it and for the un-discerning mind, what your hear or see is what you are made to see and eventually this becomes what you’d want to see. For most us who want to consume news and not exactly evaluate it critically, the Echo Chamber created by our social media feed, the news channels we watch and the newspapers we follow become the gospel of truth. I’m reading this book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” at present, where the author talks about how difficult it is for our brains to hold opposing views and it is simply much more economical for our “mental resources” to subscribe to what we have been sold as truth for a length of time.
The effect, in my opinion, can also affect how families think and react to situations. Call it conditioning or the confirmation bias, the Echo-Chamber simply cannot be ignored. Could we harness it positively, though? I’m struggling to answer that. Could you keep feeding optimism in a country or organisation or a relationship without actual results, progress or the work that is required to fundamentally strengthen each of these institutions? The end result could be a lot of self-validation and a morale boost. But inspiration can only last so long without the perspiration.
My final thought is around how even as individuals we possibly live in echo-chambers that are constructed by our own thoughts and experiences. Our levels of happiness, contentment and even sadness are possibly consequences of what we keep feeding our mental echo-chambers each day. I remember reading that on an average, 95% percent of the thoughts we think daily are the same. May be, making the other 5% different and worthwhile could be the opportunity to explore ourselves beyond the Echo Chamber!!