Echo Chamber of Stereotypes


April 30 , 2022
By Kidist Yidnekachew ( Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at kidyyidnekachew@gmail.com. )


We become like those we spend time around. I used to think for a long time our behaviour was influenced by our genes, which inform our personality traits. I never rejected the notion that our environment was also instrumental in shaping our behaviour. But it only seemed that this was the case only until we reached a certain age, when our mind is still a sponge ready to absorb most of what is thrown at it. In adulthood, our personalities harden, making it unlikely that we are affected by the environment in which we find ourselves.

But behaviours can be transmittable, especially the bad ones – it is probably why most social media is a cesspool of hate and anger. The more time we spend with someone who approaches others in a poor way, the more comfortable we become with people being treated that way. Eventually, we will start acting in a similar manner, echoing the harmful behaviour. The same is true on the other end. If we are surrounded by people who are open-minded, the chances are that those behaviours will rub on us. Sometimes we are defined not by ourselves but by those around us.

Have you ever been in a situation repeating someone else’s rhetoric and finding oneself surprised?

We are confused at the same time because our beliefs have aligned with that of the person we copied the thoughts from and it did not even happen on a conscious level. Whenever presented with circumstances, we find ourselves reflecting the other person's thoughts. At times we get lost because we do not know who we are anymore. We do not know if we copied the other person’s ideas as our own because we too believe in them or because we are agreeable and confirm to things by nature. It is a mysterious phenomenon that takes place at the subconscious level.

I found myself reacting to stereotypes the same way a very close friend of mine would respond. My friend and I share a lot of things in common, one of them being not giving into stereotypes. We tend to believe that there is always an exception to the rule. I have been engaged in discussions with various friends and using the same lines as that of my friend to defend the group stereotyped. I have also been doing a lot of research on my own, but using her points somehow came naturally to me, making me doubt whether it was her talking instead of me.

Of course, this is a good disposition to echo, not a bad one. The misconceptions we have are based on blind hate, which is also a behavioural phenomenon that is transmittable like a pandemic. I understand hating something we know, but how can we hate something we do not? Of all the stereotypes, perhaps the worst one is still perceiving a group in a bad light even when we know and like an individual from the same group, but we hate the group all the same.

I was shocked to learn that someone I thought would least hate a group because his friends are from the same group, turns out that he has very negative attitudes toward them. Although he stereotypes left, right and centre, his understanding about them is limited. This is what happens when we copy and paste others' world views and behaviours without nuance. We begin to turn on others without having a clue why we are doing it. Only being open-minded can help us constantly question the beliefs we hold and adjust accordingly.



PUBLISHED ON Apr 30,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1148]



Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at kidyyidnekachew@gmail.com.





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