Episode 16

Reinforcing Myself

We go deeper with customers to explore the dangers of echo chambers

Reinforcing myself

Connections are what make us human. We are made up of the many cross-sections of our many cultures, subcultures, and identities. To be a part of a whole is to learn more about yourself and reinforce what makes you, you.

While the pandemic has stripped away our connection to much of the physical world, we are increasingly reliant on technology as a source of connection. Our Instagram and Facebook friends, our Twitter feeds, and our streaming suggestions are getting disproportionate amounts of our time and energy that we once gave to real, live people.

As a result, it’s becoming easier to tune out who and what doesn’t align with our beliefs. Technology makes us comfortable by creating virtual worlds that are a reflection of our inner selves. The result: our own customized “echo chambers.”

Echo chambers are risky spaces to occupy. They limit our exposure to ideas, voices, and others’ truths. We’re a world removed from people with different beliefs than our own. Groups are formed and evolve in opposition to one another. Extremes are amplified.

With these dangers in mind, we wanted to explore what happens to us when we’re forced to look outward from our in-groups and echo chambers. We didn’t have to look far to find perfect testing conditions.

We asked people to sit down and tune into news networks they would normally actively avoid watching—a news network with different political leanings than their own— in the days leading up to the US presidential election. They watched for 20 minutes a day, for four days and reported back to us each day on how the experience made them feel.

The results of this exercise weren’t exactly uplifting. They verified that we’re wired to be defensive against threats to how we see ourselves. Threats against our values and identities. We massage what we hear to preserve and reinforce who we are and what we believe. Because if who we are isn’t true, then who are we? Instead of listening to the other side, we’ll happily run back into our echo chamber, lock the door, and throw away the key.

Exposure

It pretty much just makes my stomach hurt thinking of watching. I don’t think any intelligent person can watch this and take it all serious, but then I think of those I know that watch it and are sucked in because of the election and how they feel about the president.”
I feel sullied. I felt like I had just watched something that tried to twist my viewpoint and encourage me to look at things in a way I didn’t agree with.”
I felt like a traitor.”

Reinforcement

The whole segment made me feel angry. I believe there is tremendous fear mongering used as a political tool. CNN is just trying to make people upset and fearful.”
In some cases, I just kind of laugh because I wonder if the reporters truly buy in to what they are saying or is it more about keeping a job and a paycheck.”
I felt bad for those that only listen to CNN. They aren’t informed. CNN is all lies and coverup.”

Retreat

After watching the news from CNN, I could not wait to go back to Fox News.”
While the news outlet did surprise me today, watching Fox will not change my perceptions about politics. I think the same as I did before watching Fox– I am seeking middle of the road, fact based news presented in a non-biased way.”
My perceptions about politics and the upcoming election have not changed since watching CNN. It made me feel more positive about my candidate of choice.”

Now, let’s make it personal

Unfortunately, forced exposure to another echo chamber is not a solution to seeing beyond our own. We’re quick to call out the bias, leanings and loyalties of others, but not those in ourselves and to whom we listen. There’s little space between bias and beliefs. Few can own, or even identify, their own personal biases and the biases of where they get their information. And even if we know better, it’s hard to break ties to our own identities.

We want to invite you into the conversation and learn from you.

In the box below, please share with us, anonymously…

What’s one bias you’ve developed that’s keeping you from hearing others?

Customer Now 2020

Nothing is changing faster than ourselves.What’s happening with customers right now and what should business do next?

Suddenly, these two questions became a lot more complicated; the answers require us to get beyond the numbers, headlines and hyperbole in search of simple, scalable human truths.

That’s why we’ve launched Customer, Now., a project to document, explore and understand lock-down, and what follows it, from the customers’ perspective.

Through our global communities, we are tapping into the human truths behind customers’ experiences in real-time; exploring their inner worlds more deeply, and creating fresh, generative insights and implications to share with our community.

There’s one guiding insight that’s immediately become clear: in this fast-changing situation, nothing is changing faster than ourselves. This is what we’re exploring through Customer, Now.

It’s not uniform change, nor is it constant. It’s an evolution of our inner lives, our relationships, family, friends, home, health, work and, inevitably, our customer behaviour. And it’s more rapid than we’ve ever seen before.

Through Customer, Now. we'll deliver to our community an insight, and its implications, every week. With this work, we have one simple aim: to drive a brighter, more progressive, customer-inspired version of tomorrow.