cultural absurdity, el's rabbit trails, Humility is important, real living in a virtual world

In defense of echo chambers.

Got your attention, huh?

This really isn’t a defense of echo chambers. Perhaps it is, but not the way echo chambers are commonly referenced. After only a week of serious winnowing, I almost immediately recognized a more consistent and prolonged state of peace in my mind and heart.

This is off the cuff, and I’m not going to spend time editing it, so bear with me and use your stellar intellects to fill the things that should go without saying. I know that’s sometimes hard in 2017 America, but just try. Really hard.

It is commonly accepted as a virtue in American life to be willing to have our assumptions challenged and hear other points of view. To the extent that we are willing to do that, no matter how destructive the form in which these challenge and viewpoints are offered, we are considered “reasonable”, “tolerant”, and “open” to other points of view.

In general, I am a big fan of hearing other points of view. I think it’s good to evaluate ourselves, our actions, and our ways of thinking rather than assume that we’re all good all the time or that nothing about us needs to change. This morning, however, I had a light bulb moment and realized that it’s one thing to be open to examining other points of view. That is a good thing.

It’s an altogether different thing to engage in repeated dialogue with people who have starkly different points of view from you, who disdain your perspective and whose perspective you equally disrespect.

So for example, if I want to read a thoughtful critique of another sister’s view point on marriage and family order or birth control, it is best for me to do that with the intent to read it, walk away from it and examine it without engaging in a dialog with her about it. In other words, I can read Christian feminist Rachel Held Evans’ book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, consider her perspective (with which I still vehemently disagree even after reading the book) and walk away with my soul unscathed by a knock down drag out debate on some Internet forum.

Perhaps I am more cognizant as I am getting older. The husband said last night, “I still can’t believe we have three kids out of college. Where did the time go?” Things like that certainly give one pause about the importance of how she spends her time. I don’t even mind acknowledging that I am getting older because I have not -for the most part anyway- wasted my life.

It is simply healthier to have the lion’s share of our discussions on love, life, and even politics, with those who will encourage us in the values we truly believe are right. Echo chambers -particularly of the Christian variety- serve a distinct purpose.

If and when I engage in dialog with someone whom I disagree for any reason other than to truly understand or offer something to think about for the purpose of trying to help that person from a place of love rather than snobby, smug superiority, I am better off not bothering. To just keep my thoughts- and my fingers- to myself.

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14 thoughts on “In defense of echo chambers.”

  1. Amen. I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, to disengage when it becomes clear someone simply has their model of the world, and no amount of contrary evidence is going to shake them.

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  2. It’s an altogether different thing to engage in repeated dialogue with people who have starkly different points of view from you, who disdain your perspective and whose perspective you equally disrespect.

    That’s why I don’t bother with a lot of manospherian blogs, because it’s clear people are firmly entrenched in their positions without offering much in the respect department. It’s too frustrating. I think over at TPC’s blog, there’s a good variety of people with vastly different views without getting disrespectful (or disdainful).

    I think disagreement can be a good thing. It hones our personal positions, so when we explain them we can do it with more clarity and brevity. We think critically and anticipate overused arguments, or find the underlying principles of agreement.

    Bike’s comment goes to the core of the issues in The Righteous Mind, too.

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  3. In the process of debating someone who has a position different from yours on an issue, you make your points and offer supporting evidence for why you think that way. Those little “pieces of logic” that you leave behind may not persuade the one you were debating with. But others are coming behind and reading what you wrote. The “pieces of logic” that you leave behind when defining and defending your position might be just what those readers needed in order to make the issue become more clear in their heads.

    You won’t ever know this side of heaven how many folks you have helped clarify their thinking while you were debating with someone online. It has not been an excercise in futility, even though you may think so. God has given you wisdom. It has not been a waste of your time to share that wisdom.

    Some fall on light soil, some fall on rocks, some fall on fertile soil, and all that (Matt. 13:4-8). Sow where you feel led, and trust God that he will help the seed sprout where it is needed.

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  4. @ Maea:

    I think disagreement can be good, up to a point. Yes, it can help you hone your views and arguments. I am convinced however, that:

    !) There are severe limits to its benefits in certain situations

    2) The Interent is one of those situations where you have to use extreme discretion with regard to how much of that you engage in and it’s certainly NOT limited to manosphere blogs, although some of them are certainly places where this discretion needs to be ruthlessly exercised.

    I am winnowing, not disappearing , so there will be times when I will no doubt still have the occasional disagreement, but I do have my specific worldview and others have theirs and in most cases the twain will never meet. No need in beating dead horses.

    Perhaps it is age or hormonal shifts or just a spirit more sensitive to things as I focus in more on having a heart for the things that should matter to a Christian over the things are more a part of American “Christian” culture than true Christian faith. I just find the debating and picking on senseless nits increasingly stressful for me.

    I’ll entertain it in limited amounts here in my own back yard, but…

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  5. @ RichardP:

    I comforted myself with that belief -that I am helping someone- for a long time. There is certainly some merit to the notion of having others come along and hopefully gain some insight or encouragement from something they find online. I believe it happens. In fact, I know it does.

    There are it seems, however, increasing numbers of people who enter forums wwith no interest at all in anything more than insults, gossip, and a general desire to be various forms of nasty. Nice-nasty, smart-nasty, nasty-nasty. Then they claim it’s “just disagreement”. And it is everywhere it seems.

    It has begun to tax my spirit, which is disconcerting for someone who has overcome a lot of hard things in life with her constitution in tact.

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  6. People hardly ever go back and read old posts, much less old comments sections. That rationalization has been trotted out too many times to count. One would do better to talk to actual people face to face, and plant seeds with brief statements.

    Let’s also acknowledge that men and women are different. The debating of philosophy is more the domain of men anyway. Remember you are commenting on a woman’s blog here. Frankly, I’ve come to the opinion that for the most part, these intersex discussions don’t work well precisely because we are all anonymous and easily treated as though we were all the same.

    Also, no one has said it was a waste, but that there comes a time to move on. That is the essence of life and gaining maturity; knowing when it’s time to wipe the dust from one’s feet and go do something more productive and less stressful.

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  7. Winnowing is always a part of the changing of seasons, a well-lived life involves learning any number of skills, not all of which can be practiced simultaneously. That doesn’t mean that the tasks weren’t worthy, that someone else shouldn’t do them, or that you were mistaken to do the work while you were doing it.

    While I enjoy a bit of light debate, and find that it keeps me from excessive cowardice, I was the first voice in the chorus of, “if they’re being jerks, don’t visit the clubhouse”. I’ll give an example from my first foray in online debate – I found out that the women I was debating would prefer that their children convert to another religion rather than become fundamentalists in their own religions. I was debating religion with them… and at that point I realized they didn’t actually believe what they said they believed, they believed in being liberal. Waste of my time to continue to debate *religion* with them, so I stopped. I learned from that experience, and it helped me learn to debate in a safe space. It was worth doing – but not worth continuing.

    Els and I are in similar seasons, and I’m winnowing too (but not my online presence)… there are other things upon which I want to spend my time and energy, and those are limited resources.

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  8. One would do better to talk to actual people face to face, and plant seeds with brief statements.

    This is my general position, although (this is for the sake of my own integrity more than a statement of intention), I could make the occasional foray here or there if the mood strikes me. I suspect it won’t.

    But your comment brought something else to mind. Yesterday I was with a group of moms and one of them said something with which I disagreed. It was nothing major, but it was something I disagreed with pretty strongly as a general principle.

    However, I didn’t voice my disagreement. In another setting or even with a friend with whom I was more intimate, I would have and am known to do so. But in this case, my instinctive reaction was to not bother. It wasn’t a life or death or eternal consequence issue.

    If I were online debating, how likely would I have been to make sure to register my disagreement? A few months ago? I can say with 99% certainty that I would have registered my position. Which would serve no purpose other than to assert the fact that I *think* I know better.

    Everyone thinks they know better. So that and 2 cents will get you…hell, I don’t even know what.

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  9. In my experience, people don’t learn much from words anyway and you’re better off keeping your mouth shut. I’ve also given up thinking I have all the answers, lol. That’s another thing I’ve become increasingly bored with – the “authoritative voice”. I got pretty good at that and it’s not that I think I was totally wrong, but that it does so little good for the amount of time and effort it takes. Telling yourself you’ll know what good you did once you’re dead (not to mention the assumption that it is doing good) isn’t enough motivation for me to continue on that path!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The one thing I can say in favor of arguing with the unreasonable is that if you do it well, you encourage the reasonable to be, well, reasonable. There are so many times I’ve simply noted “your whole argument is a simple personal attack”, and very occasionally, people get why that is wrong.

    Is the time worth it? Debateable for sure. But that is one positive side of things, and winnowing voluminous statements down to “that’s just a set of personal attacks without basis in fact” sure saves time typing.

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  11. I think the stress of unnecessary conflict is best avoided. There’s enough drama in life without adding to it.

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  12. Also Kate, I think there are some people who thrive on the conflict, who draw energy from it. That’s not a judgment either way. Just an observation.

    I am finding that for me, it is less and less a useful tool for honing my positions and more of a drain and mental energy suck.

    Life is too short to be so bothered.

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