“The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”
– Muhammad Ali
The one who thinks the same at 25 as she did at 20 has not made anything like the most of the intervening years. The one who daily wades through comfort craving confirmation bias is protecting ideas that either do not need protection, or which need reform or replacement. If those you follow on social media are only those with whom you agree and by whom you are unoffended, then you are locking yourself into an echo chamber.
The Ideological Echo Chamber – powered, reinforced, expanded by social media – may be a pleasant place to wake within and retreat back to, powering down the pathways of soul searching sceptical scrutiny and unremitting reason to rest and revel in established opinions, peer -backed and -rewarded statements, and chiefly homogeneous thought. But to spend the day there, to spend every day there, finding no intellectual challenge because the people and pages you follow and share are the people and pages you already agree and align with, to merely be repeated and to merely repeat, is to acquire scant gain from and realise very little of the potential community in the space between these screens.
If your collective thought, your position, on a certain issue is good and valid, you will not learn how to defend it nor how to persuade and convert others unless you leave it wholly unprotected by anything outside of itself, abandoned to the mercy of contrary argument and strident criticism: if it is good, it can then only be strengthened and spread. Cracks are not caused by criticism, they are found by it – already existent, now they may be sealed up instead of glossed over. And if what is found is irreparable, cracked through and through and in ruin all but for the surface, then let it fall. Let it fall and it will not take you with it.
When a dialogue of sorts is actually underway, and an argument from any side penetrates through to the no-man’s land between the combating noise and proceeds to draw you out to meet it, to negotiate freely, the echo chamber transforms: a support network and band of reinforcements becomes a wary crowd whose storm now looks to you as you dare to consider something contrary. The social blackmail begins, sprouting ostracism the longer you consider changing some or all of your mind. If you are (understandably) afraid you will retreat back into their hands, eyes lingering locked with the argument the chamber will re-shield you from and push away toward the neglectable part of your mind; if you are brave you will stay in the surprising relative calm of no-man’s land, the Arena of Criticism, free to not only shape and re-shape oneself, ceaselessly if necessary, but free to stand steadfast, knowing you need no crowd nor chamber in order to confidently do so.
“In an arena of thought honest and clear, truly bad ideas can only die… That arena, however, unfortunately, tends to not be entered by those whose ideas could really do with dying. In fact, were many of those ideas to enter that arena, instantly they would be dust…”
Keep the Ideological Echo Chamber on hand for rare moments of easy peace; spend the rest of the restless moments immersed in ideological battle, beset and surrounded by free speech and free thought, uncomfortable, unsafe, and triggered out of intellectual stupor and into cerebral action in the Arena of Criticism.
After all, if you are as right as you think you are, then there is nothing you can do but win…