Cyrus Stoller home about consulting

The echo chamber trap

In the wake of Trump’s victory, many have written about the problems caused by political echo chambers and challenged us to form connections with those who hold different views. But, few have ventured beyond making this observation. To be able to work together, we’re going to need to have uncomfortable conversations with people with whom we disagree, potentially about fundamental values.

I am a moderate Democrat, who voted for Clinton. Since the election, I’ve been criticized by my more liberal friends for even being willing to entertain the possibility that some policies proposed by the Trump campaign / administration may be beneficial (e.g. changing the tax treatment of carried interest). And my more conservative friends have had a hard time understanding how I could have voted for Clinton.

We need to be able to talk with people who hold different points of view and who potentially voted for a candidate we opposed without worrying about social stigmas. It’s important to remember that in the same way that many people who voted for Clinton don’t agree with each other about key issues, many people who voted for Trump don’t either.

To facilitate people talking to people outside their communities about controversial issues, I made EchoRemix.

EchoRemix is an open source website that randomly pairs people into anonymous one-on-one text chat conversations with a controversial political prompt. With the protection of anonymity, I hope that people will feel comfortable speaking freely and openly about their beliefs.

The aim isn’t necessarily for people to convince one another that their point of view is correct. The goal is for others to better understand how you have come to a different point of view and vice versa. For example, a religious person should not strive to convince an atheist that God exists. Rather, after chatting, both parties should see how it could be reasonable for someone else to hold an opposing view.

My sincere hope is that people will come to EchoRemix with an open mind and a willingness to listen. By getting to know people from different life circumstances, geographies, and political persuasions, we’ll be able to see that there’s more that we have in common than what makes us different, despite what our politicians would have us believe.

Democracy only works if we’re willing and able to find compromise. Our current trajectory towards increased political division and lack of trust in one another leaves the freedoms that we all cherish vulnerable. If you’re willing, please join me on a journey to find common ground, so we can heal our country and move forward. The first step is for us to get (re)acquainted with one another. Let’s go.

Category Opinion