Echo? Part 1

At some point in life, everyone has been at that party or reception or graduation where they know about two people. Inevitably, awkward small talk occurs when you find yourself in an unfamiliar group. Sometimes the small talk goes well and you make new friends, other times not so much. The ‘not so much’ option usually happens when you hold extremely different views from the people you have been tossed in with. In public, in-person settings, it’s hard to avoid differing views than our own. But in our online lives, it’s much easier to hear and see only what we agree with. I’m writing this post because I want to talk about troubling trends I’ve been seeing on social media outlets like echo chambers and their effect.

Echo Chamber
From Christophe Bruchansky on LinkedIn

Echo Chambers

First I want to define an echo chamber in the way I think of it in an online setting. To me, an echo chamber is tweaking what comes across your news feed or to your inbox to be only things that you agree with, or hold a similar opinion to. While it’s fine to like pages that you agree with the message of and search for things that you appreciate, there’s a big difference between showing support and being closed-minded.

Just want to interrupt myself to clarify here, I’m not calling anyone close-minded. I’m also not trying to call people out. I just want to make people aware of what we are doing to ourselves on social media. 

We have a tendency to only want to hear what we agree with or like. Take it from Robert Cabrera, who wrote this article for The Odyssey called “Echo Chambers, Confirmation Bias And The Closing Of The American Mind”. Despite this tendency, in a climate of highly polarized issues and little to no middle ground, I have to wonder if we are making things harder for ourselves by neglecting to hear other perspectives. When I talk with someone about issues we disagree on, I find myself learning valid and factually backed arguments for their opinion. These facts may not change my mind, but the other person has educated me on another side of the issue. It has opened a door in the echo chamber. It’s as simple as following the President on Twitter, whether or not you support him, because you hear what he has to say. You don’t have to like what you read or hear, simple exposure to other ideas opens up your echo chamber.

echo part 1
From The Odyssey article “Echo Chambers, Confirmation Bias And The Closing Of The American Mind”

If you’re not convinced you want to hear other opinions, look at it this way: learning other sides to a debate is also educational, and often encourages you find further support for your opinion. Still need more to crack open that door? This post by Emily Webber focuses on the importance of diversity of ideas and how it helps businesses succeed. (I highly recommend reading her blog–very well done).

I have more to say on this topic than I anticipated! Check back soon for part 2 to this post about weird things I’ve noticed on social media–like “militant close-mindedness”.

 

Re-Inspiration 101

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of other people’s writing without doing much of my own. I found myself stuck in the same kind of loop, writing about the same things and mostly complaining about my life. I took some time away from the blog to get re-inspired, and I found a few really helpful things that I want to share. These tips don’t just apply to blogging either, they apply to anything you may need inspiration for!

Take a Break
From MHFA blog

1. Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Break!

Though this may seem a bit self-ingratiating, taking a break from what you’re doing can give your brain time to recharge those creative juices! This post from Huffpost US Edition talks about how taking breaks actually helps productivity. If it can help people with boring desk jobs, imagine how much taking breaks can help us do our creative tasks like writing and painting and thinking of new ideas for content!

2. Look at the Other Kids’ Work

Now, this doesn’t mean to copy other people’s ideas. However, using others’ ideas as creative inspiration for your own ideas can help get through a creative content dry spell. I mentioned that I’ve been reading a lot lately, this is why. For writing purposes, I find that reading helps jumpstart my own ideas. Not just other blogs, but novels and news stories as well. This article from Psychology Today talks specifically about the benefits on creativity of reading fiction. My thoughts are that reading other people’s work gets your mind out of the loop it’s stuck in with your own work.

Perspective

3. Revisit Old Ideas

If you have a topic you really love that you’ve already worked on, look at a new side of it. If there’s something you’ve developed a new opinion on, show people that change. Now obviously this doesn’t mean to rework things you’ve already written or painted or whatever, it just means to get a fresh angle. If you’re struggling for new material, go back to something you know and do a new version of it differently.

4. Change Your Settings

Sometimes we are not just stuck in a mindset rut, we’re stuck in a workspace rut too. Working in the same exact place all the time can get monotonous, and then our brains get bored. This article from The Atlantic talks about specific environment changes that can help boost creativity, like dim lighting and ambient noise. Having a clean workspace may not always be great for creativity either. In an episode of the new podcast from NPR, Live from the Poundstone Institutethe hosts discuss how messy environments often lead to more creative ideas (at least with ping pong balls). If messy doesn’t work for you, that’s okay too. There are a lot of ways to change up your workspace, including going somewhere else. Personally, I like coffee shops, but you can find your own niches to work in.

Hopefully some of these ideas work you next time you’re in a creative dry spell. Feel free to comment if these ideas were helpful, or if you think I need to find some new material. I’ll take whatever you got! 🙂