Where do you keep your ketchup?

             Jeff Hyson

            Jeff Hyson

 

I recently moved into a new office, complete with tiled floor, bare windows, bare walls, and hard furnishings.  Until I get a chance to "soften it up" with window shades and maybe an area rug, along with all of the equipment to do my job, the room is pretty stark.  The most annoying feature of the room is the crisp echo of any sounds, especially the sound of my fingers typing away on my keyboard.  It is very much an echo chamber.  Sounds stay inside and bounce around, while outside noises stay dull and muffled.  For my sanity, sometimes I need to get out of the echo chamber.

In our lives, we are often stuck in the echo chamber.  We have an opinion, a viewpoint, a way of doing things that we hold tightly to, and the people around us, the content we follow on Facebook, the information we surround ourselves with, echoes what we already think.  This constant reinforcement, or echo, of our already held opinions serves to strengthen them, while diminishing opposing voices.  While it might keep us comfortable, there are some major concerns with staying within our own echo chamber.

First, your echo chamber reinforces the belief that everyone feels the same way about an issue that you do.  I happen to not like a certain politician/billionaire/businessman/reality TV star very much, and everyone I tend to surround myself with, both on social media and in real life, feels the same.  The news articles that show up on my Twitter and Facebook feeds are decidedly anti-this-guy.  But as his popularity skyrockets, I've been left wondering how he can be so popular if nobody likes him?!?  Obviously, my echo chamber had reinforced my own opinions, with little ability to see beyond its barriers.  I'm not saying alternative voices would change my opinion, but they might help be see the political landscape more accurately.

Here's another example.  Where do you keep your ketchup?  If you are like most Americans, you keep it in the refrigerator.  That's the "correct" place to keep it.  However, if you are from the South, or most of Europe, you keep it in the cupboard or pantry.  Restaurants don't keep it in the refrigerator either.  Why does it matter?  Our placement of ketchup actually determines how we think about ketchup.  For fridge people, when you run out of ketchup, what do think of as a substitute?  Mayo or mustard might come to mind.  For pantry people, malt vinegar or spices might be the go-to.  Being stuck in one constantly-reinforced mindset limits our ability to see other points of view.  When we believe our opinions are the only valid opinions, we fail to see value in other perspectives.

I have been making an effort to escape my echo chamber, and I don't mean my new office.  If I want to be able to see and think about things from different angles, I cannot simply live in a world where every opinion I encounter reinforces my own.  Jesus wasn't a middle-class white American living in New Jersey.  He was a Jewish carpenter's son living in the Middle-East.  I would be willing to bet that he didn't keep his ketchup in the fridge. 

 

Jeff Hyson