The echo chamber


We all have a vice that distracts us from a meaningful life with those around us. For some people it’s video games and social media, for others it’s an endless stream of three minute videos on YouTube. In moderation these activities are fine, but self-control is difficult when products are designed to leave you wanting more.

Some vices are subtle to spot, yet just as destructive. I recently caught myself in a habit that, in hindsight, cost me months of my life. My weakness was endlessly reading how to live a better life.

In discovering this vice, I’ve learnt how my brain works. When I have a new idea to improve my life, I validate that approach by reading up on the subject. I feel better when I read blogs and books that support my viewpoint, so I consume them by the dozen.

For instance, some months ago I was interested in improving my sleep using a consistent sleeping pattern. A brief Google later and I found several blogs glorifying the approach of waking up at the same time every day. I think I even bought a book on the subject. I read them all, voraciously, over several days.

In retrospect, this was a pointless endeavour. Thanks to the Internet, you can find entire hordes who believe in any viewpoint and many will have written blog posts and books extolling the virtues. I was seeking reassurance that my ideas were valid; permission to try something new. But just as social media content echoes your own viewpoints, my efforts to validate ideas through research were doomed to succeed.

Real growth comes from challenging your views; seeking contrary opinions rather than sycophantic material. Perhaps it’s better to have convictions in your ideas and experiment for yourself. That’s what I intend to do from now on.