Echo Chambers and Challenging Your Comfortability

In a world more ultra-connected than ever, it's so easy to accidentally find yourself in vacuums and echo chambers. It's so easy to be friends with your friends, to only follow the people you agree with, to only listen to the channels of opinions that align with your own. Our social media apps do this for us, this targeting of information based on what we've liked in the past, and we haven't even realized all the ways things have been modified or filtered or just plain left out.

And here's my question: if the only things you ever read or hear or see are the things you agree with, how much are you really growing?

Sure, it's easy. It's comfortable. It's safe.

When everyone you interact with thinks, believes, and acts relatively the same way you do, it's frictionless. It's harmonious. 

But it's also more shallow, more superficial.

Your flavor of opinions/beliefs/morals/etc is only one flavor out of SO MANY in the world. Why would you not want to taste the others?

You can be vanilla all day long, that's fine. But wouldn't life be better if you just tried a sample of raspberry or espresso or salted caramel every once and a while? Nobody is asking you to change your ways entirely or become some whole new thing, but why not experience other things? Why not take a taste and see what you think and mull it over for yourself?

Maybe it's just me, but I don't want to live a sheltered, safe, shallow life.

Now, don't get me wrong: this is not me saying to go start debates and fights in the Facebook comments with people who believe differently than you. This is not me saying you have to be BFF with people you adamantly disagree with. This is just me encouraging you to realize the ways you've surrounded yourself with people and information that are comfortable and try to take some steps out of that and expand your mind and heart.

Here's an example from personal experience:

In college, I was heavily involved with Intervarsity (a Christian organization) and I lived with girls who were all in my small group and fellow believers. I had an amazing community, but most of them believed essentially the same things I did, liked the same things I did, and were pretty similar to me. Every break when I went back home, I would catch up with two of my best guy friends. These guys could not have been more different from me. They weren't believers, they weren't churchgoers, they went to different schools and studied different things, they had very different interests, and their worldviews were polar opposite from mine. Hanging out with them was the absolute best. Our conversations were rich, complex, challenging, enlightening. I got to see glimpses of the world through their eyes, and it opened my own to more of what was around me. I didn't necessarily change my mind about things I believed, but I instead strengthened my beliefs as I defended them, spoke about them, and analyzed them.

I left those conversations feeling convicted of my own beliefs and feeling confident in myself in new ways, and it was so powerful. I've never forgotten those conversations.

I've recently started listening to a podcast called "Sooo Many White Guys" with Phoebe Robinson, and it's challenging me similarly as well. The host is a black woman, and I am a white woman. Her life experiences (and those of her guests of different ethnicities, sexual identities, etc, as well) are vastly different than my own. As she talks with her guests, I'm again getting glimpses into worlds I never knew a thing about, simply because they weren't my own.

It's stunning.

It's hard too, I won't lie to you. It's uncomfortable at times. I'm having to confront the ways my privilege blinds me. I'm having to examine my own opinions and determine if they're valid or if they maybe were misinformed and out of line. I'm having to defend my beliefs and truly own them as I hear other conflicting beliefs presented.

But it's beautiful.

It's changing me.

Only listening to the friends who are like me doesn't change me like that.

They encourage and affirm me, sure, and that's a wonderful, necessary thing.

But the friends who are nothing like me? They make me stretch. They make me grow. They make me deeper, better.

The books that write of things I don't know about, don't agree with, don't think are true? Those books push me. They invite me to wrestle with everything inside of me and come out more well-informed and aware and sure.

The pastors that preach on the Bible in a way I've never heard before? Those pastors push me. They, too, invite me to wrestle with what I believe to be true of Scripture, and they call me into a place where I'm seeking the Father more wholeheartedly and earnestly to hear what is true from Him above all else.

The podcasts, the news channels, the social media accounts, all the things sharing opinions and information and updates with me? They push me. They require me to be discerning, to think critically, to look deeply at what is being said and make my own meaning from it.

These things that are different, they're the things that make me better.

I encourage you not to stay in an echo chamber in your life. Don't stay stuck in the places where everyone around you tells you what you want to hear, what's safe to hear, what's comfortable to hear.

Step out into the noise, however you find you can do that safely and in a healthy way, and encounter the things that are other from you.

See how they challenge you, how they change you.

Come back and tell me if it's true that you're better as a result, too.

One way I'm working on this is reading books by more authors of other ethnicities than me, and Amber and I are inviting you to join us in that for #COLLABOREADS this month! Grab a book from an author of a different race and link up with your review on August 24!