This week The Guardian had an article entitled Is Twitter anything more than an online echo chamber? Now basically an echo-chamber is a metaphor for digital spaces where opinions are enhanced and reinforced, where opposing opinion is removed from sight. This is supposed to be a form of criticism against the media implying that the users are removing the people they don’t want to hear, leaving only a group of people who think the same.
But did you really believe that people would use the web to seek out opposing views? Is this what we do in real life? Do you chose newspapers based on the fact that you like the topics, language and opinions you read or do you actively seek out the people who annoy you? Of course twitter is an echo chamber.
For those who feel that this is a problem I would recommend trying to enter into a discussion forum with people you dislike and attempt to have a discussion with them. All you will face is exhaustion, annoyance and probably a fair amount of abuse. You will not have enlightened either yourself or the people you are discussing with.
The point of twitter is to surround yourself (as in life) with interesting, amusing, useful, friendly people. So making twitter into your personal echo chamber is the whole point of twitter. This is the strength of the net – you can always find people who share your most bizarre interests whether it’s 18th century dutch polka music or copyright licenses.
Recently I began working with my echo chamber to actively make it more of an echo chamber. Instead of attempting to include more people I actively began removing people who were “doing twitter wrong”. Of course this is subjective. It has to be. And I fully expect to be treated in the same way.
Some of my simpler criteria for removal are:
- People who say tweeps regularly
- People who say good morning/night every day
- People who say thank you for every reTweet
- People who insist on telling me where they are (Yes I’m a Foursquare hater) or how far they have run (& a Runkeeper hater)
I’m sure they are all nice people but I don’t want that kind of information there. Once I began doing this my flow of information has become more focused and more interesting. It’s developing into a nice useful and pleasant echo chamber. What are your criteria for exclusion from your echo chamber?