Echo Chambers

I’m down to 30-ish friends. The rest have been unfriended for being racists, homophobes, rape apologist dude-bros, nasty little misogynists, idiots who claim the Civil War wasn’t about slavery and the Confederate flag isn’t a symbol of hate and division, and/or Trump supporters.

It’s refreshing to have a FB timeline that isn’t full of nutty nutter bullshit from privileged white persons (mostly males) and the pretzel-defying contortions they fold themselves into to deny all facts while pointing “but look over there!”

However, putting ourselves in an echo chamber is actually not that great of an idea. To only surround ourselves with those who think almost identically to ourselves while shunning all others who have opposite views creates an extremely polarized society. Hence, our current predicament.

I try hard to argue with myself about this, and I can’t help but feel somewhat annoyed by my consistent swing back to “but these people simply live in a fantasy world.” I contort myself into the same pretzel-defying logic that others do just to try and find myself at fault, for being no better than they are for refusing to even listen to them anymore.

It sucks. A lot of people I grew up with are now outside of my echo chamber. A lot of people I really liked and/or respected are now persons of suspect intelligence, moral views, and what I fear are ideologies based on tainted propaganda designed specifically to separate those who are susceptible to such incredulous beliefs even though factual evidence is literally beating them over the head.

But, at the end of each torture session, I still cannot accept the friendship or sincerity of anyone who believes whites are superior to all other races (insert various twisting and pretzeling about why blacks commit crimes, do drugs, have 17 babies, you know the drill).

At the end of these internal therapies where I try to see things from “their” side, I simply cannot accept that women should be subservient to men, lie about being raped because they’re attention whores, are at fault because of what they wore, what they said, what they posted on Instagram, and worse, that their bodies need to be regulated by men, because men are in fact superior by all accounts and without us, humanity would come to a standstill and we’d all be extinct.

When I’m done with the mental gymnastics of trying to find a logical center point to meet these people in the middle, I understand completely (until the next session) why I cannot accept a person’s view that claims to have read the Constitution of the United States of America and yet still somehow believes that their particular religion should be the only one allowed, and all others, especially those dirty, bearded, jihadi terrorist Muslim refugees (whether they were born here or in some bombed-out shithole that we liberated and turned into a utopian theme park) and lazy, rapist-murdering Mexicans who are not only stealing lives and our property, but also our jobs, need to be tossed out on their asses then forced to build a giant wall from the other side (before we send them back their dusty, sand-filled shithole that we’ll bomb again next week).

In the end, no matter how much it pains me to force myself into an echo chamber where I’m surrounded only by voices that are like mine, what I consider to be full of reason even if they aren’t 100% in line with my own, I realize that I’m on the right side of history. My children and grandchildren and yours will look back and wonder how the fuck we survived 2016 (or really any year since the end of WW2). They will shake their heads because the old guard, the dying breed, the ones we excluded from our echo chambers as being too extreme, too ignorant, too reliant on faith and the words of demagogues, are barely a blip on the radar anymore.

There will always be extremists. They cannot be eradicated by any means other than evolution. As you may remember, while evolution is complex process that cannot be boiled down into even a simple long-winded FB post, evolution is about the survival of a species. Evolution is about how species change, adapt, overcome, simply to survive to the next generation. Social evolution works much the same way. If we do not adapt by using our majority voices to counter racism, to bring awareness to it (especially those of us who are white and have influence, a much louder voice than the minorities being oppressed or outright murdered), to enact a social movement for positive change, we cannot evolve beyond a few generations because that path leads to division, which leads to fear and retaliation, which leads ultimately to death on a larger scale (whether all humanity or just one particular race or culture is a roll of the dice in this technological age of weapons capable of mass destruction on a scale never known before in our history).

If we do not evolve and stand firm, using the Constitution, a living document capable of evolution itself from the will of the people who still uphold it, then religion can and will be forced upon us from all sides. In a state-sponsored religion, how can those not of that faith be considered anything but heathens, rabble rousers, subversives, and of course, terrorists?

Social evolution is a concept that takes in the reality that homosexuals, transgender persons, gender fluid persons, bisexuals, whatever labels society or the persons themselves want to attach, are human beings at heart. Human beings who love, who have feelings and opinions that are really no different than anyone else’s in the grand scheme of things (“I just want to work a decent job, have a good life/family, and be left alone to pursue my dreams that fall within the bounds of the law”). Social evolution and biological evolution intersect yet we are a planet teeming with billions of our kind, negating any negative effects of a small segment of humanity no longer reproducing.

Or better yet, reproducing because of our modern technology when it was previously unthinkable, and raising children in loving homes, teaching these children that racism is inherently evil, religion is a personal thing with protections both to and from it written into our most sacred document, that little girls and little boys can both be astronauts, athletes, clothing designers, homemakers, whatever they want, and that society is evolving to remove the last few remaining roadblocks to make it happen.

Humanity has evolved in a biological sense over hundreds of thousands of years. It is only recently, in a very tiny slice of humanity’s total time on this planet, that we’ve rapidly evolved socially. Much like in the old days when there were other hominids that were in competition with us, we won out in the end because of how we evolved both our bodies but also our minds. The largest reason we are able to have language and a global network to communicate using that language is because humanity’s most important lesson was “teamwork.” Until our species formed small groups which served as the early framework for civilization, we were a fractured species, one constantly on the verge of ending up in the same boat as Neanderthal and many others. But something clicked within our brains, made us the best at forming secure relationships which blossomed into groups which evolved into early human civilization in the Cradle of Humanity (Tigris/Euphrates is one, there are others as sapiens didn’t all head to Iraq to begin the world’s first true civilization).

Working together, as a team, promoting the welfare of the entire species instead of one person at the top, or many persons at the top and ten times as many at the bottom, is what made us great, made us the dominant species on this space rock. When humanity or society stops working together and begins collapsing in on itself with division and strife, great civilizations end, either with a bang or a drawn-out whimper. Worse than this is when one society or civilization destroys another. How many great minds, possibilities, has humanity lost over the millennia because of war, aggression, the belief that one society or ideology is superior to another?

At the end of all this mental wrangling and self-flagellation about how I’ve allowed myself to become polarized to the point I cannot even entertain the opposition’s existence as being anything but a detriment on both society and human civilization, I know that in the end, if we keep our voices strong, our mostly unified fronts unified, if we do what’s best for our species instead of just ourselves, if we teach our children and patiently teach the adults around us willing to accept that change is inevitable and it’s not going to be in their favor regardless of how much they wish it to be otherwise, we will eventually evolve to the point we not only safeguard our entire species (including the planet we live on), but we will also work together to expand our species into other star systems, possibly galaxies, to ensure our ongoing survival can no longer be snuffed out by a single madman who is so petty that he stays awake until 3AM just to act like a petulant, mean-girl bully to a single individual for pointing out his narcissism and lack of compassion.

A mean-girl bully who stays awake and attacks a woman at 3AM for simply disagreeing with him is NOT the man I want in control of the most powerful military on the planet, one that can wage war on a scale that guarantees that all but the hardiest of living organisms on our only planet will become extinct.

3 thoughts on “Echo Chambers

  1. This was an interesting read! There are many sentiments scattered about that I agree with, but there is one underlying theme I take issue with.

    In the third paragraph, you acknowledge that creating a FaceBook echo chamber is exactly the polarizing action that has led us to the current state of affairs, but you appear to spend the rest of the article using the same pretzel-defying logic you bemoan in order to justify your conscious decision to avoid people on social media whose views are different than your own (read: your conscious decision create an echo chamber).

    In the penultimate paragraph, you offer a rationalization: “At the end of all this mental wrangling and self-flagellation about how I’ve allowed myself to become polarized to the point I cannot even entertain the opposition’s existence as being anything but a detriment on both society and human civilization, I know that in the end [humanity will prosper (in an egalitarian sense)]” (paraphrasing)

    This idea, while commendably self-aware, struck me as precisely what the other Side might be thinking. From their perspective, they might see the social acceptance of behavior they believe to be morally abhorrent and the collapse of traditions and values as nothing else than “a detriment on both society and human civilization”. In echo chambers of their own, they might feel justified in believing that “in the end [humanity will prosper (in a Biblical/moral sense)]”. Basically, I think that both Sides believe their principles with the same earnestness as the other.

    I also think that neither Side has a definitively ‘truer’ system, but rather that it is a matter of perspective. The great thing about perspectives is that they can be shifted; however, the further we retract towards our political poles, then the less we interact with people with differing points of view, and the less likely we are to actually change anything.

    TL;DR: echo chambers are bad

    • This post was in a lot of ways a method for me to try and piece together exactly how I myself have come to the point where I’m hesitant to engage with anyone who has opposing views. I know I’m doing myself a disservice by automatically discounting anything they say, and the honest truth is that I’m both ashamed of it (I like to think of myself as a person who is fairly objective, understands there are usually two if not more sides to everything, and has an excellent grasp of reason and logic) and more willing to practice it now than ever.

      You might be correct that no side has a “truer” system and it’s a matter of perspective, but I cannot accept a system or perspective that punishes or rewards based on skin color, gender, sexuality, or religious belief. If the “other side” feels their traditions and values are collapsing but refuse to admit those traditions and values are built on a foundation of oppression, fear, and hatred, then I’m quite adamant that those values and traditions are what holds humanity back from achieving true greatness.

      My problem isn’t that people have different beliefs. My problem is when people refuse to listen to facts, reason, and logic, instead sticking their fingers in their ears while yelling nonsense lyrics so they don’t have to listen.

      Yes, echo chambers are bad. There’s no question about it. But when every attempt to have a reasonable discussion about subjects that the “other side” refuse to even accept the most basic facts and instead continue to “believe” because they “feel”… What exactly are one’s options?

      If you show a student that 2+2 = 4 and they argue endlessly that they “feel” based on “beliefs” or “religious teachings” that 2+2 most certainly does not and never will equal 4, do you leave them in the class so they can spread their beliefs to the other students? How long do you try to convince this student before realizing that there will never be enough proof for him/her to accept 2+2 = 4?

      And yes, I choose to believe that I am on the “right side of history” because to believe otherwise is to believe lies, fear, oppression, and hatred will somehow better us as both a species and as a civilization.

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