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LETTER: Echo chambers

From reader Ryan Lengsfeld

Echo chambers are defined as environments in which one encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own. Existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered. They amplify the bias of their creators. Self-identifying as rational thinkers, rights groups or patriots, they pass along questionable ideas and misinformation. And they exist in the Kootenays.

In deconstructing four social media groups, from small to large and local as well as out of province, some interesting parallels appear. On average the groups were driven by fewer than five per cent of the membership. Less than 50 per cent of the posts related to the group’s stated purpose. Eight per cent of posts were pulled or flagged for misinformation. Members are active in other groups. Dissenters are blocked.

Sprinkled with half truths connected by thin threads, fantasy worlds of intrigue and deceit are created. Declarations of special information are forwarded. From warnings about the imminent danger of 5G radiation to pointing out microchip insertion during COVID testing, ideas are spun and spiral out to become a truth for the membership. Each “truth’ is protected by circular logic and based on “facts” that are never fact checked.

Echo chambers give context and meaning to frightening situations. Their subtext screams, “I’m special. I know the truth!”

Common phrases perpetuate the subtext: “Do some research! Don’t be a sheeple! Your sources are part of the cover-up. Don’t give in to fear! Stay informed! The mainstream media won’t report this!”

People read echo chamber posts and often pass them along without thought. I suggest that if one doesn’t have the time or patience to fact check, not sharing would be a better course of action. Quick posting simply adds to the tsunami of misinformation that has already created true harm. Be aware of echo chambers and help limit the garbage they spew.

Ryan Lengsfeld

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