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A Social Media Echo Chamber Is Not A Thing

By Riley Silverman | Think Pieces | July 8, 2016 |

By Riley Silverman | Think Pieces | July 8, 2016 |

Whenever something bad happens, someone will post something on Facebook or Twitter about needing to start blocking people. Then someone, who probably deserves to be blocked, will pop up talking about how lame it is to insulate yourselves from different ideas that make you uncomfortable or disagree with you. Often times the term “Echo Chamber” will get thrown around.

There are a few reasons that this sentiment drives me crazy. First off, consider that those of us who are any sort of public figure, no matter how successful, have often ten times the amount of “friends” and followers on Facebook or Twitter than you do if you’re the average civilian. When I check the pages of my non-entertainment or arts-oriented friends, usually there’s something in the range of 100-700 friends at most, and that includes some fashion bloggers who get reposted by bigger sites fairly often. Last year I separated my personal page from my public one and made my personal one more anonymous (although a lot of the Pajiba readers found me anyway). Before I did that, I had ~5,000 friends, and I’m not even famous. Today I have 2,343 “friends” and I’m still trying to cull that down. Forgive me if I want to quiet down some of the louder voices so that I can see the posts from people I actually know and love and care about. Before that, I was never able to use Facebook in the way it was originally intended or the way most of you get to.

But the bigger problem I have with this mindset is that I cackle at the very idea that blocking a few assholes on social media is going to shield me from the ugliness of the world. If you live such an idyllic charmed existence that you only get exposed to new ideas via social media, then you might not be the best expert on what an echo chamber is. Because I can’t make it through a single day of my life without some degree of hatred or disgust at my very existence and that’s speaking as a middle class white person who is just very visibly queer. I don’t have to worry about Facebook being the source of my discomfort, because people go out of their way to make sure I know how uncomfortable they are with me. That’s not even including lawmakers who collect tax dollars while working

And even if I *do* block assholes, there is never a shortage of them. A few weeks ago I tweeted a joke about how important bobby pins had become since my transition and a literal Nazi (not hyperbole, self-identified!) tweeted at me telling me to say in my lane. (“the one marked man! #teamrealwomen!”) Again, this was about motherfucking bobby pins. Internet shitheads are like whack-a-moles.

I can’t read an article on any website that deals with anything related to concerns over trans or queer issues or women’s equality that directly pertain to me without find a box full of shit masquerading itself as the comments section. And again, that’s just me being lily white and relatively financially stable. As much as I deal with as a queer white woman, it grows exponentially worse when you add in racial issues. And if you would ever try to tell a trans woman of color how much she needs to not block out her echo chamber I hope you don’t go deaf from how loud the universe laughs at you.

Human beings existed on this planet for thousands of years before social media existed and we interact with each other every single day. We will continue to interact with people and experience the world outside it, too. I don’t need rampant disagreement to come to the box in my pocket that lets me hunt for Pokemon. In fact if you’re getting so much of your information from Facebook and Twitter that blocking out some of it makes you concerned about your intake, you probably shouldn’t tell anyone else to be worried about echo chambers because you’re already in one.