On Echo Chambers and Personal Space

There’s a regular argument that tends to pop up fairly regularly in regards to the entertaining of ideas and people. The idea is that blocking, unfriending, etc, is the same as being unwilling to hear opposing views.

This is incredibly wrong-headed.

It confuses being willing to hear ideas from people with whom you disagree with being willing to invite them into your home, letting them eat your food, and use your toothbrush, and no matter how much they disrespect your home, you shouldn’t ever ask them to leave, because that would mean you’re closed-minded.

Entertaining ideas opposed to your own is very important on an intellectual level. The problem is that people conflate that with the interpersonal.

On an intellectual or academic level, most people are exposed to opposing views all the time. We see them in the news, read them in books, and hear them even from those we respect and admire.

This is how it’s always been, and in generations past, no one thought any different of you if you chose not to go to a movie with, or have dinner with, someone with fundamentally opposing morality.

Then came social media, and everything changed.

Suddenly, everyone’s space is supposed to be the grand forum, a public arena where all ideas MUST be considered, no matter how poorly thought-out or how horribly repetitious those ideas may be. If the 50th person that day comes to us to declare that the earth is flat, to not entertain that idea is blasphemy to the very idea of free speech.

Not only have our lives been opened so glaringly to public criticism and critique, we’re told that we should not be allowed to maintain any form of control or moderation in our own online spaces for fear of being accused of not being open to views that differ from our own.

The reality is that, while internet echo chambers exist, there’s nothing wrong with that because people are still exposed to opposing views every single day in the real world. While in the past, our sanctuary was simply our home, today we create sanctuaries of a similar nature in our online space as well, and that is how it should be.

No one can be expected to live in constant battle while the public watches on waiting for their slightest misstep to pounce.

Philosopher, science communicator, and social justice bard.