Parenting can be somewhat isolating when we become consumed by the bubble of baby days and school runs. Breaking free from the mirror - which often seems to be the only person we get to chat to on some of the odder parenting days - and engaging with like-minded people who understand and support us is somewhat essential no matter what stage of parenting we are at.
Forming networks, whether in real life or online, helps in so many ways. We get the peer advice and support we need to manage life as a parent. There is no manual and we often rely on our friends, family, and even strangers online who have all been there to help us through some of the crazy stages, long days, and to answer the million questions we no doubt have.
There can be a hidden problem, however, when we attach ourselves to certain cliques. An echo chamber can form. Instead of feeling supported and listened to, we become trapped and blend into a life which does not necessarily reflect ours. A negativity spiral is let loose.
What is an Echo Chamber?
When we share the same experiences and expectations as others who become a refuge for us, we build a core bubble which does not allow for new voices to break in. We hear the same stories, the same problems, the same blend of worries, voices, and solutions.
When we have a concern, we go to our group first before seeking further advice or even professional help. Our level of trust in our group is amplified with every issue each of the members have. And so it builds until the only voices heard and acted on are those within our particular bubble.
While this bubble doesn’t bring any fresh ideas, it also builds a level of distrust around any new outsider voices which may deliver better viewpoints or solutions. An echo chamber is built.
Why an Echo Chamber is Damaging
The problem with an echo chamber is how that level of distrust manifests and blends itself into giving an unchecked trust to the voices within the echo chamber. For example, if we are desperately working through an issue with a toddler who won’t sleep and we ask for help within our group, the advice we are given which may not be helpful is taken at face value. If the voices within the group suggest our issue or problem is normal, a phase, or something we have to live with, we believe it and become consumed by the impractical and unhelpful advice.
An even greater issue with an echo chamber is how we see ourselves. Our self-worth becomes attached to an unhelpful atmosphere with the potential of damaging our confidence. If everyone within the group places an emphasise on the fear of returning to work after maternity leave, or highlights how much they hate their job, or being at home, or the daily grind, we often agree as the echo chamber stimulates a mass agreement among the members be they family, friends or an online group. We agree and believe it to be true because it is being placed into our heads to agree, even if we don’t.
How to Break Free
As humans we need to expose ourselves to different and new people. New voices and opinions help us to build a more rational understanding of any situation. They also help us to break away from focusing and listening to a core group of voices which can keep us trapped.
When we become consumed by a bubble which is not good for us, it is not always easy to break away and pull free. An echo chamber is fully effective when we have a genuine and real trust in the people we are listening to. They may be some of our best friends or people who have truly been there for us at a difficult period in our lives. We may feel as though we owe it to them to listen to them and believe them. The attachment is likely to be strong, making breaking free difficult.
While these support networks are crucial for us as parents, mothers, women, and basically human beings, being conscious of the negative effect they can have on us is also just as crucial. They can make us believe our situation is normal and that we should essentially “put up and shut up” when this is not the case. How can we break free?
Cut Through the Noise
The voices in an echo chamber are naturally louder than any others as we have spent a significant amount of time listening and trusting only them. Turn the volume up on other voices and mute the voices you are starting to question. It is all about cutting through the noise until you hear the facts or balanced opinions.
Challenge the Voices
We naturally connect ourselves with people who are likeminded and have the same beliefs as us. We become indifferent to other opinions and voices as those we trust are louder. Learning to trust and listen to other voices, outside of your bubble, is necessary when breaking out of the echo chamber. Challenge the voices you hear by questioning their motives, their understanding, and their personal character.
Our Echo Chamber can easily be our online feed. Our curated online lives bring us the same voices, the opinions the algorithm believes we need, and hides the colour and flavour necessary in our lives. Take control of your online echo chamber by broadening your horizons. Mute, unfollow, and open yourself up to new voices.