Purpose of education as quoted by John Dewey,
“The aim of education is growth; the aim of growth is more growth.”
This is an inspirational quote as it talks about intellectual growth and echos the purpose of education as growth and further growth. But in the current context, this quote is challenged by the ever-growing dominance of echo chambers. Echo chambers can be explained as self-created ecosocial habitats where one encounters like-minded people with similar perspectives, ideas and opinions. These echo chambers have exponentially multiplied in the past two decades due to many reasons and one of them being the growing dominance of social media.
The challenge is to know if you are trapped in an echo chamber? A simple psychological litmus test will spit out the answer for you, here are a few questions:
- Do you surround yourself with people who support the same political ideology?
- Have you lived in one place for over 15 years?
- Are you part of like-minded social media groups?
- Are you friends with people who share ideas, perspectives, likes and dislikes similar to yours?
- Do you passionately defend your perspective?
If you have answered ‘yes’ three times or more you might be creating and living in echo chambers. You are in danger of stunting your intellectual growth by feeding on confirmation bias within these echo chambers. Break free! Take this an urgent plea and wake up call to reflect on your perspectives, beliefs, opinions and ideas and audit their validity by deflating the echo chambers. You can break free of these echo chambers that are reinforcing your existing ideas and perspectives to create mental walls towards other people’s perspectives and ideas. The echo chambers create a mental wall that completely blocks the exchange of new ideas since you prefer staying trapped inside these chambers.
Recognising the existence of echo chambers is the first step toward breaking free of bias, stereotypes and discriminating ideas. Then the question arises, how does one get out of these echo chambers. A few simple strategies will help you avoid and escape the trap of echo chambers.
- Make some ‘weird’ friends! I use the word ‘weird’ as we tend to associate it with the unknown. People who speak differently, and think differently are not weird, infact they would be a great starting point to escape echo chambers.
- Listen to the ‘absurd’! I use the word ‘absurd’ as we tend to associate it with contradicting perspectives. Listen to multiple perspectives; when debating or discussing complex ideas make a habit of listening not countering. The next step is to make a note of all the different ideas and make an effort to present your ideas without contradicting others.
- Burst the ‘filter bubble’! I use the term ‘filter bubble’ which refers to technology, artificial intelligence and social media conspiracy. This conspiracy reinforces your existing ideas and filters away new ideas forcing you to decay in monotony instead of growing in multiplicity.
- Make fun of yourself! I use this term to reinforce the need to find your sense of humour. Do not be afraid of being contradicted, infact challenge your own perspectives by critically ridiculing them. As a wise man once said, “ Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”.
- Like the ‘unlikeable’! I use the term ‘unlikeable’ as we tend to preconceive what we like and do not like hence defining the ‘unlikeable’. Try giving a ‘like’ to an idea or perspective that you don’t endorse or believe in. This will bring down the echo chamber algorithm that is fed into every social media site and internet interaction to imprison your thoughts and intellectual freedom.
Echo chambers are particularly harmful in academia, they kill the pursuit of knowledge through inquiry. Therefore getting out of them is an urgent need, it is ceasing our growth and the growth of an intelligent species called humans. Echo chambers are amplified by technology; recognise it and save yourself by being more inclusive, open-minded and cognitive divergence.