The advent of social media and social networking has brought about some fundamental changes in the way we connect with people and with whom we connect. In addition to the speed with which we are able to connect, we are now making connections with people in remote villages in far away places such as India and China. We now have numerous channels by which to make these connections and at lightening speed. By way of the internet and applications such as What’s App, Snap Chat or Instagram we are able to find like minded people in all different realms of life to connect with. Before our eyes we are seeing the development of tens of thousands of tribes.
Seth Godin has written and spoken about “Tribes” and how there are many tribes out there just waiting for someone to lead them.
“It’s simple: there are tribes everywhere now, inside and outside of organizations, in public and in private, in nonprofits, in classrooms, across the planet. Every one of these tribes is yearning for leadership and connection. This is an opportunity for you—an opportunity to find or assemble a tribe and lead it.”
What is a tribe? “A tribe is viewed, developmentally or historically, as a social group existing outside of or before the development of states,” as one definition puts it, however, it can simply be described as a group of people joined together by a common goal or interest.
Tribes have always existed in history. Some tribes remain small and remote while others have flourished and grown to millions of members. Some tribes define themselves as wine connoissieurs, Rolling Stone fans, Harley Davidson riders, or stamp collectors. Tribes have been a great way of exchanging information or experiences with other people who share similar passions and interests.
But in today’s world something has changed. As stated above, tribes are typically created with a common interest and therefore typically a common mindset is fostered within the tribe. This is still true today. However, there is a difference today that amplifies the dangers of a singular mindset. Individuals seek out those in the world whose mindset represents theirs and look no further effectively creating a closed loop. Different viewpoints are not exposed. The singular mindset and set of beliefs of a tribe can be reinforced to the point they think theirs is the “right” and “only” world view. The tools of social media and social networking allow them to create this closed loop much more efficiently than they ever have. They congregate on similar platforms. They all follow each other. They create defense systems for their beliefs and attack others that don’t agree which is unfortunate as our society now seems to have forgotten that it is ok to disagree respectively. To concentrate only on those sites whose editorial point of view coincides with one’s own view leads to living in an echo chamber. So, in spite of all the advantages our new connected world provides us, it has brought along with it many disadvantages. Tribal echo chambers are one.
If you are locked in a tribal echo chamber you are not being exposed to the opposite side of the argument. You are part of a tribe of like minded people who choose to live within a comfort zone. You are only interested in protecting or supporting your side. You only have an interest in following people that agree with you. Ideas that are opposed to your own are like a virus that need protection from. You are a victim of confirmation bias!
Those who step out of this chamber do so with a mission to discredit others with differing beliefs. They set out to harass and insult without any interest in understanding the opposing viewpoints. This became very apparent during the last Presidential election. The opposing sides were split, not wishing to engage in any kind of intelligent discussion. It became a contest of who could shout the loudest and longest. Who could come up with the most clever insult.
The smartest people in our society are able to engage in healthy debate. They can disagree with each other without having to resort to character defamation. They are active listeners and respect the right of the other side to present their views. Studies of the most successful lawyers show that they are those that know the arguments of the other side better than the other side. It is not necessarily the lawyer who has studied the most and knows the most about law. However, in today’s society it has become dangerous to openly criticize popular vision.
These tribal echo chambers are not limited to the actions of the participants of the tribe. The tools of social media are also responsible. Companies like Soundcloud, Pandora, Spotify or YouTube use algorithms to analyze what we are listening to and propose something similar. This locks you into an echo chamber of a cycle of similarities that is difficult to get out of.
You may think you are discovering something new when you search in Google but Google’s search algorithm appears to have been systematically promoting information that is either false or slanted on various subjects based on what you search for. Facebook has also been accused and found guilty of similar actions. So are you discovering something new or are you discovering what someone else wants you to discover?
The internet and social media is a very addictive place, and as we pointed out in our article “The Social Media Casino,” the biggest and richest technology companies are investing a lot of money to learn how you think and act in order to keep you locked in. Therefore, there are no easy answers on how to break out of these tribal echo chambers. The onus is on the individual and as we are largely responsible for the applications we use or tribes we join, we do have the power to make a change. Here are a few things to consider;
- Become an active listener – Respect the others right to speak and give them time to state their viewpoint.
- Read books – You will learn and discover much more by reading a book than reading a hundred articles that are being produced in your tribal echo chamber.
- Use a human algorithm for music discovery – It may sound old fashioned but you would be amazed at how much new music you can discover just by speaking with friends.
- Learn the art of clarification – Seek to understand the point that the opposing view is trying to make. Just hearing what they have said is not enough.
- Embrace the other side – Become active in groups that have a different viewpoint from your own and be an observer, not a troll. It may help broaden your horizons.
- Re-evaluate your values – Is it more important for you to be right, or is it more important for you to grow and learn?
- Take a break from the internet – Get out and experience nature once in while. You may surprised at how rewarding the experience can be.