12 Most Powerful Ways to Vanquish the Echo Chamber
If you’ve spent any measurable time consuming content online, you’ve no doubt experienced the echo chamber effect. Traditional and new media scholars and practitioners have long been interested in understanding and tracking how information, ideas and experiences are reinforced within the framework of a community of readers and participants. The echo chamber effect is amplified on social networks where people engage unobstructed by geographic barriers. Shared experiences and interests provide opportunities for the exchange of perspectives and opinions.
The echo chamber gives many of us the context and framework in which we operate both personally and professionally. As a communications professional and copywriter, my Twitter stream is naturally populated by other digital marketing/PR folks. I’ve built my lists around those whose work I admire and hold in high personal regard. I’ve noticed that certain themes tend to be repeated and content circulates through a core ‘tribe’ of users. And while the echo chamber can provide a reference point for our online activity and behavior, it can also lead to entrenched opinions and a homogenized content stream when a community is stubbornly fixed in its assumptions:
1. Curate the content!
Take stock of who’s in your stream and prune away sources that are no longer useful. If certain themes dominate your stream with little to no dissenting opinions, either trim away the fat or deliberately seek out people with viewpoints that challenge your perceptions and thinking. A diverse content stream adds value.
2. Comment thoughtfully
As a blogger myself, I geek out when new commenters come surfing in and leave a comment. My enthusiasm quickly fades when it’s something superficial like “Great post!”. When commenting on a blog, do so thoughtfully. If the article made you think, let the author know. If you share the post to your social graph, let your followers know why. Give context and don’t be afraid to present a provocative opinion. It opens up the discussion and combats the “me too” syndrome.
3. Avoid the knee-jerk RT
There’s a lot that can be said about what a RT really means, though sentiment itself is so difficult to measure. While I appreciate people RT-ing that new blog post I’ve just published, reactions are more valuable.
4. Look beyond your industry for insights
Stretch your boundaries. If your stream is populated only with people from within your industry, differentiating content can be a challenge. Explore other corners of the social web.
5. Peel back the layers
Remember that social networks amplify human behaviors and discourse. Explore other corners of the social web. Dig past the superficial industry-specific content and remember to actually have a personal conversation from time to time.
Share a silly video. I promise you that the world won’t crumble around you if you say something “off-topic.” In fact, I give you permission to do it right now. Don’t finish reading this post. Find an uproariously funny video and just laugh.
7. Observe objectively
Evaluate and rate the content (news sources, blogs, journals) that you read. Do you still consider them relevant and insightful to your objectives? Do you share that content as a outward expression of cultural capital?
8. Keep your wits about you
Don’t get so close to your own content that you can’t see its flaws. While it’s comfortable surrounding yourself with like-minded people, it is also a potentially dangerous maneuver in any organization. Solicit feedback from those not intimately tied to your work and are willing and able to offer counter perspectives.
9. Identify your own biases
Deeply held convictions and beliefs can cloud your ability to entertain alternate viewpoints and counter perspectives. Objectively viewing your biases with a bit of raw honesty makes for a more competent, critical writer and thinker.
10. Challenge assumptions
Flawed logic leads to flawed conclusions.
11. Walk away
When a community becomes too deeply entrenched in its own presumptions and viewpoints, dissenting opinions are drowned out. If the signal:noise ratio exceeds your tolerances, non-participation is always an option.
When producing digital content, differentiation is key. Give your content a voice as unique as you are. Identify unexplored niches in your content areas and do some trailblazing. While it can be said that nothing new exists under the sun, the competent writer can make the mundane anything but.
So, there it is: my personal strategies for keeping the echo chamber effect under control. What have I missed? Drop your thoughts in the comments below.
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