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The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

Trapped in the Echo Chamber

Why you should engage with content that you disagree with (yeah, I’m talking to people on the left too)

I’m so sick of agreeing with everyone and liking everything. 

I go around all day listening to music that I like, songs that make me feel happy when I want to feel happy and sad when I want to feel sad. I get bored and immediately distract myself by scrolling through my TikTok “for you page,” agreeing with every viewpoint I see and then going down to the comments just to go agree some more and confirm that the people I expect to agree with are also agreeing. 

If, God forbid, there is a stray commenter with a dissenting opinion, a quick rebuttal is readily available beneath it. Infrequently I see videos of someone expressing an opinion I fervently oppose and am on the brink of disapproval when I am saved by the end of the video cutting to someone I agree with correcting the opinion of my former adversary.

I move over to Instagram and click through a few stories reposting posts I agree with. I then scroll down through my feed, seeing the people I follow doing the sorts of things I do and expressing opinions that I share.

Perhaps my day includes some old fashioned face-to-face interaction, in which I will chat to my friends about things that we feel the exact same way about. We both disapprove of our mutual friend’s toxic boyfriend, we both love the new episode of the show we both watch and we both hate the assignment due at the end of the week in our shared class. We update each other on what new knowledge we’ve accumulated about recent happenings in news and politics, reaching the same conclusions and defending our joint position.

I’m sick of it. I’m so deeply entrenched in my digital and social echo chamber that I’ve forgotten what it even feels like to staunchly disagree with something without having someone else there to do it first. 

Worst of all is the realization that I’ve had to come to—that I’m no better than the people I disagree with. Good god, that was embarrassing to find out. When someone voices an opinion I disagree with, I immediately jump to conclusions about what kind of person they are and, subconsciously, how open I should be to listening to them. 

But no, I think to myself, they do it worse! My way of disregarding opposing viewpoints is justified, theirs is just needlessly divisive and ridiculous. My way of dismissing their experiences is valid because my views are just…more right?

I became the meme of the two Spider-Mans pointing at each other with a betrayed look. Great.

A few weeks ago a friend and I went to the library to find a nonfiction book to read together and we were directed by the librarian to J.D Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy.” I just got around to reading the first chapter, and was immediately compelled. I texted my friend excitedly that we’d made a good choice in reading it.

Then I remembered that the author was a senator, and visited his online page to find the issues tab where his stance would be easily digestible to me. As I read on, I let out an increasingly loud series of “oh!”s to my empty bedroom as I found that the author of the book I was enjoying was on the complete opposite side of the political spectrum on almost every issue I knew anything about. Vance, a conservative Republican Ohio senator, is a venture capitalist, “100 percent pro-life,” backed by Trump, in opposition to amnesty for illegal immigrants and gun control regulations, calls critical race theory “indoctrination” and introduced a bill to prohibit gender-affirming care for minors in Sept. 2023.

I don’t hesitate to say that I resoundingly disagree with Vance on these issues. But where my first impulse would be to not read a book written by someone so resoundingly different from me, there was the book on my nightstand. And it wasn’t spewing hateful, divisive rhetoric. It was narrating a complicated upbringing in rural Kentucky and Ohio and how growing up with a family history of poverty and substance abuse affected his outlook once he left. 

The thought I had upon putting my research on Vance down was that if I believed that he was respectable and had a life story worthy of being heard before I whipped out my phone and googled him, then I should finish the damn book.

I am capable of gray space, I assured myself. I am capable of the middle ground! I can agree with some things and not with others, even if they come from the same person! I can recognize that people aren’t all black or white!

I reveled in my decision. Yes, I assured myself, I’m gonna read about Vance’s life and legitimize his experiences and viewpoints while resoundingly opposing major areas of his political beliefs. I will disagree with the man until the cows come home, and I’ll still view him as a human being.

Why was that so strange? Why was it so difficult? Why am I so out of practice listening to people I disagree with?

Quite simply, it’s because I don’t have to. I choose which news articles to click on and read. My social media algorithms know what I want to see and which side of things I’m on, and they continuously feed them to me. I’m so lost in the echo chamber that I sometimes seek out things to disagree with and still fail. 

Some of my increasing polarity comes from witnessing cancel culture online. A public figure steps a toe out of line, and their entire career is cast in a dark shadow. In conversations where these pariahs are mentioned, I catch myself saying things like, “oh, her? Wasn’t she canceled for something?” Then someone in the group will Google her and find that she was reportedly rude to a fan back in 2016 and that’s that. 

Spelling it out like that makes it sound so obviously juvenile and ridiculous, but this kind of brainless, “this is what I’m supposed to think” mentality bleeds into almost all areas of my life as I fall deeper into this hall of mirrors.

Slowly, through years of learning my own opinions and political leanings, I’ve become dangerously close to the closed-minded, divisive, us-or-them type of person that I can’t stand. I make the same snap judgements and uninformed assumptions about people that I point fingers at “the other side” for doing. 

Simply put, I’m part of the problem. Do you think you’re any better?

Now, I should state here that respectfully listening to other opinions only applies in cases where the person you’re talking to isn’t trying to illigetimize your very existence. I am a gay, Jewish woman. I am well aware that not all opinions are worth listening to. But for the other cases, which really constitute the vast majority, the people you disagree with are willing to view you as a human being and we should all be doing a better job of reciprocating that bare minimum in our interactions.

The first step is exposing ourselves to more media that doesn’t align with our typical views and being more mindful about the content that we regularly consume—that is, keeping it in mind that nearly everything we see is excessively catered just for us. 

Remember that the people that hold different political stances on contentious issues aren’t all malicious and evil, just with different backgrounds and justifications for their views… like me. Like you.

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About the Contributor
Jesse Radzik
Jesse Radzik, Features Editor

Features Editor Jesse Radzik is just like your average grandmother, if said grandmother managed to avoid bone degeneration enough to play varsity tennis. She greatly enjoys reading in little nooks, doddering around on slow river walks, has a great affinity for finding second hand knick knacks, and gains genuine joy from the simple act of birdwatching. Jesse also likes to write. She always writes too much, but people seem to find the end products half decent. See if you agree.

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