I woke this morning in shock. How had Trump won? Who in the world were these people that were voting for him? I didn’t know any of them. Among my Facebook feed and friends, I could count the number of his fans on a single hand.

Every morning, I, like so many people, wake up and check the news. All of the news publications I respected were supporting Hillary, and I thought it was a foregone conclusion that she would win.

Based on the information with which I was surrounding myself, I was completely confident of how the election would turn out. But I was wrong. Me, and my echo chamber — we were all wrong.

It struck me as a vivid example of how we tend to surround ourselves with people and points of view that reflect our own opinions– it’s a kind of narcissism, and once you notice it, you’ll see it across a broad spectrum of your life.

Research has shown that we’re more likely to choose professions with names similar to our own (for example, “Dennis” and “Denise” are overrepresented among dentists). Scientists have also found that people can be drawn to others with names that sound similar to their own (like Jack and Jackie Kennedy), as well as those who appear similar to each other. Is it any surprise that we tend to surround ourselves with friends, colleagues, news publications and other daily influences that reinforce our own beliefs and worldviews?

Allowing ourselves to only be exposed to views like our own can be comforting, but it can also lead to incorrect assumptions — such as my unshakable belief that the country was so supportive of Hillary. I also relied on polling data to support my assumptions, but even scientifically rigorous data collection can be flawed–even more so when you don’t allow yourself a healthy degree of skepticism that comes with having your core assumptions challenged.

My college education taught me to think critically and to appreciate alternate points of view. The value seemed less in vogue when I joined the business world, one company I worked for was filled almost entirely with a single Myers Briggs personality type. In another position, all of the employees were male, while the customers were female, and, unsurprisingly, our product had a masculine element that didn’t fully resonate with our core audience.

Being surrounded by similar perspectives can lead to disastrous assumptions and result in costly initiatives that fail based on those faulty beliefs. Having more spanish speaking employees, for example, could have prevented the Chevy “Nova” debacle.

As a marketer, I’ve learned the value of surrounding myself with varied voices, ensuring that I’m open to the constructive criticism I need to make the informed decisions necessary for successful campaigns. I applied to join Netcito, and found within it the chorus of alternative perspectives that I seek and rely upon for professional growth. Even though it is occasionally a challenge to engage with alternative belief systems, my involvement with the group has accelerated my professional growth and, happily, my personal growth.

Most mornings, without fail, I still choose to read the publications that support my beliefs, and choose to socialize with friends whose worldviews are similar to my own. My Facebook feed is still my narcissistic safe space. Following yesterday’s results, however, I know that I am just one voice out of many. Because of that, for professional development, as well as ensuring a generally accurate interpretation of the world around me, yesterday’s results once again demonstrated the importance of developing awareness of one’s echo chambers, and taking active efforts to break past it.

Comments 1

  1. Lovely thoughtful reflection. I used to travel all around the country during the political season to talk to people about the issues that matter to them, who they’re voting for and why. My personal views were definitely challenged and I had to communicate others’ beliefs. I felt closer to understanding why someone would vote for McCain or Romney than I do today, seven years removed from covering politics. I wish I had traveled and done more reporting during this year’s election cycle. I would likely be less surprised by the result.

    I recently started reading Breibart and watching Fox to better understand “the other side”. It’s a start but more needs to be done. What are some ways we can bridge the gap?

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