Managing Your Echo Chamber

Is it a good idea to suffer fools?

Perhaps you think of it as tolerance, mercy, or compassion. But is it really?

When you hold a low opinion of someone, is it better to keep them in your life and do your best to be tolerant and forgiving? Or should you simply dismiss such people from your life and move on?

Perhaps you’re concerned that you’re life will become too much like an echo chamber, filled only with people who share similar opinions and lacking in diversity.

Over the years I’ve tested different approaches to this, and presently I find that it’s best not to suffer fools. Once my opinion of someone drops below a certain threshold (which can be admittedly arbitrary, although Trump supporters qualify en masse), I find it most productive to disengage when possible.

I note that such a relationship will virtually never recover once it passes a certain point of no return. While I can think of the person compassionately from a distance, up close I’m most likely to feel some disgust or annoyance. So it doesn’t seem rational to cling to such a relationship, which can be unnecessarily distracting.

Letting go frees up trapped energy, which can be put to better use elsewhere. When I surrender a misaligned connection back the the simulation, and I let it dissolve, I usually feel a sense of relief and peace – and optimism about what new energies can flow in to replace the old.

Does this create an echo chamber effect? Absolutely, and I submit that this is a good outcome. When you dismiss the irritating and irrational from your life, your echo chamber can become richer in rational, sensible, and intelligent people.

Would you rather experience rational echos or irrational ones? Would you rather fill your life with thoughtful echos or ignorant ones? Would you rather be influenced by purposeful echos or distracting ones?

Consider that you’re always inside some kind of echo chamber. Your social world is just a tiny fragment of the larger world of possibility. Some echo chambers are more harmonious and interesting while others can be frustrating or distracting.

Have you ever thought about consciously creating a more desirable echo chamber than the one you’re experiencing now?

I don’t want my echo chamber to constrict me, but I do want it to stretch, challenge, and support me. I want it to be rational and purposeful. I want it to be well-aligned with my core values. I want it to be rich in honest and honorable people who care and who seek to contribute. I want it to be full of curious, growth-oriented learners who trust life.

I don’t want my echo chamber to be invaded by angry, irrational, suspicious, or violent people. I don’t want it to be occupied by the clueless and confused. I don’t want religious zealots or conspiracy theorists moving in. And Trump supporters? I’d rather give myself a paper cut and pour lemon juice on it.

A good echo chamber creates harmonious yet growth-inducing echos. It reflects back your desires and aspirations. It challenges you to stretch and grow. And it allows sufficient room for diversity and options.

A good echo chamber helps you advance.

A bad echo chamber keeps you stuck, wallowing in misalignments that don’t help you progress.

You’re always in an echo chamber, so take charge of it. Purge it of obvious misalignments first. Then deliberately invite what you want. Close some doors. Open others.

Market and promote the open doors. Post guards at the closed ones.

A poorly managed echo chamber will continue to be infiltrated by further misalignments. Chaos will invite more chaos. But a well-managed echo chamber can continue to attract aligned people while repelling the misaligned.

There are many creative types inside my echo chamber, including writers, artists, musicians, designers, programmers, course creators, filmmakers, performers, entrepreneurs, etc. There are many fellow vegans within, although it’s not exclusive to vegans. My echo chamber is also LGBTQ-friendly and open relationship friendly, so such people are welcome inside.

I love my echo chamber because it’s empowering and encouraging. It does a good job of echoing growth challenges, inspired ideas, and stimulating invitations. I feel happy and fulfilled within it. It’s a chamber rich in action and activity. And it’s far from static, always shifting and changing.

Now and then something grody sneaks in through the doors of social media (which can be more porous than I’d like), but that’s manageable as long as I promptly disinfect.

As long as I keep the echo chamber relatively clean, it works wonderful. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just harmonious enough to play beautiful music.

Yesterday I did an interview for a friend’s podcast, and we talked for more than four hours, which has to be the longest interview I’ve ever done. We covered many fascinating subjects from character sculpting to polyphasic sleep to open relationships. I also love and appreciate that he was supportive of my intention to write a novel this year – he’s written three – and he shared some insights into what it was like to create fiction. My life is rich in this kind of mutual support, and I think it’s largely because the echo chamber is aligned with this flow of support.

Raise the standards for your echo chamber. Drop the disharmonious and misaligned, so you can invite more of the aligned. Then instead of fussing over the misaligned, you get to deal with the benefits – and the challenges – of aligned support.

I think one reason people wallow in grody echo chambers is that it’s easier in a way. Harmonious echo chambers aren’t just peace and oneness. They’ll challenge you to grow in ways that a misaligned echo chamber never will. Life doesn’t really get easier when you have abundant support. It gets harder. It’s like training with heavier weights. Sometimes it feels easier though because you’ve grown stronger and can handle more responsibility.

Is it mean or harsh to dismiss those who irritate or annoy you? I can understand that mindset and used to feel that way myself. But I actually see this as doing a service to others.

If someone wants to explore conspiracy theories or some outdated religion or engage in behaviors I consider foolish, why stop them? They’re welcome to explore that. They’ll be better served by engaging in such explorations with an aligned echo chamber that fully supports them. I don’t belong in such echo chambers, so it makes sense to excuse myself.

If you’re dismissing someone from your reality, you’re really purifying their echo chamber of the impurity that is you. If you stick with them, you’re being obnoxiously clingy, even if they purportedly want you to stay. Give them a clean break to explore what they need to explore without your serving as social drag for them.

When I went down certain paths, others walled off their own echo chambers from me, so I wouldn’t be a “bad influence.” Good for them I say. I think it’s good for them to have a purer experience if that’s what they want. If and when they’re ready to move on to something different, they can open up again and start inviting fresh influences. But there’s a lot of value in pure experiences without social drag slowing you down.

What happens when you broadcast your goals within your echo chamber? Do you get echos or support or some other kinds of echos? If you’re not getting echos of support, I’d say you’re mismanaging your echo chamber, and you need to disinfect it.

When I shared recently that I wanted to write a novel, I received only support for the idea. No one suggested that I shouldn’t do it. Some people shared ideas for themes or topics. Some said they looked forward to reading it. This goal feels aligned to me, and my echo chamber reflects that. This helps me go faster. It makes it easier to actually write the book.

But if I shared a goal that was really misaligned for me, my echo chamber would catch and reflect that misalignment. People would indeed try to talk me out of it. That’s good too. You don’t want an echo chamber filled with unconditional yeses.

Managing your echo chamber is a lifelong endeavor. You can be sloppy with it, but you’ll pay a price for doing so. Rational management of your echo chamber provides many benefits, including faster progress towards your goals and desired experiences in life.

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Read Managing Your Echo Chamber by Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina is an American self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He is the author of the web site and the book Personal Development for Smart People.

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