Why must we escape our echo chambers

If you are an average Internet user there is a specific set of websites that you visit. You follow 2-300 people on Twitter, most of whom are the ones you like and agree with. On Facebook, you have deleted a friend or two because they aggressively disagreed with you on a certain topic. You have a strict comfort zone policy for liking Facebook pages and the same applies to the FB groups. Social media, in sum total, is a one-way affair: you strike the annoying one out arbitrarily.

Stop. You are doing it wrong!

You are living in a bubble where the only opinions that you hear are ones that you agree with. Your own voice gets amplified by bouncing off the walls, and other people in that bubble, again and again till it becomes so distorted that it can possibly become disconnected from reality. This bubble is also called an ‘echo chamber’.

To listen to the opinions that you disagree with is necessary for your own survival.

Maybe you want an Islamic system in the country, or you may want a secular society and believe you are a progressive. Maybe you are a die-hard nationalist who wants the enemies of the country defeated, or a feminist striving for gender equality. You are a smart intellectual being and know at least one thing nobody in the whole universe knows. But listen, it is possible that you don’t know anything about at least one thing that other people know about.

That one thing may be the thing that might one day save your life or your tribe.

“You don’t have to assume you’re right, because you’re not. You’re ignorant and you’re biased. So you’re not right but you should listen to the other person and hope that they tell you some way that you’re stupid that’s useful so you can be a little less stupid in the future. Wouldn’t that be good? You go after the unknown, you don’t protect what you know. You already know what you know. You go after what you don’t know. That’s why you have to talk to people you don’t agree with. That’s why you have to talk to you enemies.”

You have read this story many times:

The king is dying of a rare sickness or a magic spell. He sends his seven sons to find a cure. All sons, one by one, travel to a faraway land where they meet an old man who seems stupid and blabbers about something apparently incomprehensible. All those who don’t listen to that man meet tragic fates, but one son listens to that man. The one son who listens to that man is the prince who eventually finds the cure that saves the king and in the process becomes heir to the throne.

This story is older than the Internet and older than history, and there are many versions of it. It means that along your journey through life, you will meet people who seem to offer nothing of value; but if you listen carefully they might tell you something that will help you achieve your goal.

So, not just your enemies and not just the people you disagree with, you must also listen to people who you think have nothing to offer to you. The people who drive you, the people who clean your house and iron your clothes, the people who bring you tea, the people you meet along the way.

When you are driving to a friend’s house you are visiting for the first time, you might get lost along the way. You might stop to ask for directions. Before asking for directions, do you ask, “Are you a liberal or a conservative?” because you only listen to liberals? No. You take whatever advice you are given because you are lost. We are all lost. So, lets listen to other people, especially people who we don’t usually listen to.

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Waqas Ahmed

Waqas Ahmed

Waqas Ahmed is Editor, Digital Media, at Daily Pakistan Global. You can reach him at waqas@dailypakistan.com.pk