Whether we are aware of it or not, who we choose to spend time with and the content that we consume has a large impact on our thoughts and creates an echo chamber of ideas.
What is an echo chamber?
An echo chamber is an environment where you are only exposed to ideas and information that reflect and reinforce your own opinion. If you were to break down the phrase, it makes sense. You are stuck in a chamber of some sort and whatever information enters the chamber just bounces around and creates an echo.
Our echo chambers are created by what we decide to surround ourselves with and whose voices we listen to. Someone who is trying to save money will be more motivated to do so by listening to and interacting with other people who are savers. In this sense, entering an echo chamber can feel like you found your community.
Finding a community of like-minded people makes your ideas and actions feel “normal.” Personally, hubby and I are very open with our finances; this is our little bubble. Talking about money is so normalized that when we meet people who are not open about their money it seems so foreign and borderline weird.
But a word of caution on echo chambers, they can lead to complacency and a herd thinking mentality. Growth does not come from complacency. It comes from feeling discomfort. Discomfort is not inherent in echo chambers.
The amplification of the echo can be compounded by many things in our current environment. Social media plays a big role in this. You choose who you follow, like, and interact with. With the sheer number of voices on the internet, it is easier than ever to find your people or messages that resonate with your own.
But it’s also easier than ever to block out diverse opinions. On social media, you are in control of your feed. So, for example, if you choose to only follow people who buy a brand new car every year, then you will start to think that’s the only option; especially if you want a new car this year.
This creates a false reality. You don’t have to buy a new car every year, in fact, you never have to buy a brand new car.
With the amount of content, we now have access to on a daily basis it can be extremely overwhelming to be mindful of what we are consuming. Our lives have become too busy to think about our thoughts, something called metacognition. There are days when we are just trying to survive and get through another day. On these days, metacognition is a luxury.
It’s comfortable to be where we currently are and to not think about growth or change. Our echo chambers reinforce what we are thinking and make it even more comfortable. But getting stuck in our own bubble and falling victim to a groupthink mentality will only hurt us in the long run.
Moment of Opportunity
The current pandemic has created a unique opportunity for us to assess our own personal echo chambers. With so many of us sheltering in place or working from home our face to face interactions with people is limited. Our lives have slowed down and we can release ourselves from being too busy to do something.
Now is the time to be mindful of the echo chambers we are currently in. Are they serving us? Or have we been in them for so long that we are stuck in a cycle of complacency? Have our current thoughts and ideas been solely shaped by our daily personal interactions that are now limited?
If you’re ready to take control of your money, does your sphere of influence reflect this? You are here reading this so that’s a great action step. But it’s time to dig deeper on a personal level, to begin to look for opportunities for growth. To step outside of your echo chamber.
And if you’re worried about what other people will think, or will judge you for wanting to change and grow – here’s the bonus part of the pandemic – you may not be seeing people every day.
Now is the time to experiment with your ideas, to push yourself. You can be at home working on your own personal growth and getting away from a sphere of influence that doesn’t serve you without anyone realizing it. Keep reading to find out how.
My Personal Echo Chambers
Growing up, there were very few non-white families in my town. The majority of my friends were very affluent and the kids in school often drove nicer cars than the teachers. This was the echo chamber that I grew up in. At the time it was easy for me to think that this was normal.
But then I moved into the city and I started to learn more about people and more about my money. I saw that behind all those brand new cars were hours of work away from the family and tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
And although I enjoyed my first vehicle, (I still own it, it’s a bit of a family heirloom), I soon realized that the bubble that I had grown up in was no longer serving me. To grow I needed to learn new ideas and teachers. If I wanted to attain financial freedom, then it would be essential for me to shift my mindset and seek out people who achieved what I sought.
Trying to achieve financial independence at a (relatively) young age is different from the norm. When we were working to pay off our mortgage we were often confronted by people who told us that “nobody paid off their mortgage” and that “everyone had a mortgage, it was good debt.”
But I knew there was another way. I sought to find a community online, and I began to curate information around financial independence. Although these ideas are similar to mine they are also a bit out of my current reach and understanding.
By being aware of my echo chamber and stepping out of it, my preconceived notions about money, saving, budgeting, and investing are being challenged by people much smarter than me. At times this makes me uncomfortable but is helping me grow.
Learning new information fosters new conversations about money in our household. Right now we are having discussions about our investments and home country bias.
For years we were happy with what we were invested in, but as we learn more and get out of our investing echo chamber we are starting to question our choices.
This is a very practical example of how my echo chamber may limit my growth – in this case, it’s the growth of my portfolio due to the potential lag of home country bias.
Social Justice Discoveries
But like everyone else, my echo chambers don’t only have to do with money. Currently, there are massive social justice issues that are front and center in the media and in a lot of the content that I’m consuming. Having so much extra time due to the pandemic lockdown and working from home, I am taking time to pause and be mindful.
I am reflecting within and am really trying to pay attention to what my echo chamber is in relation to race and social justice issues. Once again, it’s time to get out of my comfort zone.
Social media, the internet, and podcasts are exposing me to voices different than my own. I don’t have much to say, but I’m listening and learning. I’m learning that in the United States, white households have net worths that are almost 10 times higher than black households.
And in Canada, according to Statistics Canada, Indigenous adults make up only 3% of the population yet account for 26% of admissions to correctional facilities.
When I was originally writing this article I wrote about finding my tribe but have also since realized that that phrase can be offensive to some and have since removed it.
Just like on my journey to financial independence, I’m learning from people much smarter than me and looking beyond my echo chamber. And to be honest, at times it makes me really uncomfortable too, but that discomfort will lead to growth.
How to Avoid Echo Chambers?
So, if upon reflection you find yourself stuck, here are three things you can do to avoid echo chambers and foster growth.
#1 – Look at and analyze the voices in your current echo chamber. Who are you listening to? What are they saying? Are you only hearing or reading ideas that are amplifying your own?
#2 – Seek out opinions that are different from your own. You do not have to agree with everything everyone is saying, but it’s important to listen to differing views. This may lead you to question your own current views. That’s totally okay.
#3 – Focus on listening and learning. When you are listening and learning then you are not mindlessly soaking in the repetition of your own opinion. Listening to all sides of something and learning from other people can often be uncomfortable – but remember this will also lead to growth.
There have been times in my life when I have thought I was happy with complacency. This was due to a lack of mindfulness when it came to my sphere of influence.
I was just going through the paces and doing what everyone else around me was doing. My ideas and thoughts were normalized by my echo chamber, and it was stunting both my financial and personal growth.
This pandemic has changed many things in my day to day, but one thing it has given me is more time. I’m choosing this time to look outside of my echo chamber and to grow as a person.
The choices I am making now and the lesson I am learning, I am confident, will serve me in the future. Not falling victim to a groupthink mentality will help to accelerate the achievement of my goals.
So, if you are ready to make a change, to grow financially and personally then I challenge you to think about your echo chamber and how it may be limiting your growth. And to seek out sources that will help nurture your financial and personal growth.