The Echo Chamber Becomes Your World
In all my travels around the world one thing becomes crystal clear: people everywhere assume the world is like their world. Ambient income levels, intelligence, work, commute, foods, schooling, shopping, even times and types of get togethers become 'the norm.' And once they're 'the norm' we set our horizons and assume that this is 'the norm' for all humanity.
A small, but classic example of this is the 'Youth service' at our church (and many similar churches in our region.) This has become the Sunday evening service. The reasons people give include: “Young people find it hard to get up in the morning,” and “Older people have commitments in the evening, like getting children ready for school.” Both of these seem reasonable, don't they?
Yet when I was a Youth Leader in South Africa, in an equally affluent area, in the coastal city of Durban, the young people attended the early 8 am service. Because they wanted to spend the day on the beach. Families met in the evening for a relaxed meal and worship. With their kids.
In fact we changed the format and time of the evening service to 5:30 pm eight years, and a pastor ago to cater for couples and families with young kids. It's since become the norm. The way things are done around here.
Online Echo Chambers
These communities extend to our digital life as well. For example on Twitter and Facebook you don't see one community of many diverse people as we like to believe. But rather there are a number of different communities all containing very like-minded people.
So we like something and our likes are reinforced by our communities. Similarly, we dislike something and the friends in our community all rally around to complain equally vociferously about those very things.
What Is Your Norm?
So who is in your echo chamber? Who are the people who reinforce your very values and thoughts? Where are you being challenged to extend beyond your comfort zone to take a different perspective, to think about things in a different way?
The truth is life isn't one norm. In fact quite the contrary. Just look at those living in the Himalayas. People living in Africa. Look at those in the very suburb next to yours.
You Cannot Grow In Your Echo Chamber
The only way to truly grow; the only way to truly succeed; indeed the only way to change this world to become a better place is to view things from other people's perspective. To get out of your echo chamber. To have your thoughts and views, ideals and beliefs challenged.
Then rather than to respond defensively, rather than to react violently, to take a step back and see things from another's perspective.
Challenge Your Story
Do you live in the Microsoft echo chamber? Do you live in the Christian echo chamber? Do you live in the Labour echo chamber? Or the Liberal one? Do you live in the white, Anglo Saxon, protestant, Australian, middle-class, heterosexual echo chamber?
I challenge you, I dare you, to get out of your echo chamber and follow people whom you disagree with vehemently. Get out of the echo chamber, and see what you can learn, who you can learn from, how you can grow and challenge your ideals, your beliefs. Expand your horizons, and walk in another's shoes.
Everything is a mental construct. A collaboratively reinforced mental construct to be sure. Sometimes a centuries old, legislatively reinforced mental construct.
But the way things are, are not the only way things need to be. We saw this with Apartheid. With Communism.
And the only way you can understand that is to see things differently. See how things are done in other places, by different people. Sometimes better, not always.
Then ask yourself, is this the way things ought to be?