Are You in an Echo Chamber?

Wizard of Oz screenshot (Warner Bros)

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”  —The Wizard in The Wizard of Oz

“Cold-hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the colors from our sight.
Red is grey and yellow white.
But we decide which is right,
And which is an illusion.”

—”Late Lament,” Graeme Edge of the Moody Blues

In George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, he imagined numerous linguistic manipulations. The fictitious government wanted everyone to use Newspeak. As Orwell imagined it, the government imposed a way of speaking in order to control people’s ability to think critically.

In May, a Harris poll conducted for The Guardian about the economy found that 56 percent of Americans think we’re in a recession. I have to stop right there and point out that, no, we are not in recession. Since 56 percent of Americans think we are, then the odds are that you, dear reader, think we are in a recession.

There is an organization called the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), which officially has the job of dating when recessions start and end. According to NBER, the last recession ended in April 2020—FOUR YEARS AGO! Sorry, I hate all caps in text. It’s shouting. But I really feel like I need to shout this.

The Harris poll further found that 49 percent of Americans think the S&P 500 is down this year. Wow, now we’re really talking about a house of mirrors. As I write this, the S&P 500 is at all-time record highs. According to Morningstar, the largest independent analyst in the world, as of June 14 the S&P 500 was up more than 14 percent this year. But half of Americans think it’s down.

The poll also found that 49 percent of respondents think that unemployment is at a 50-year high. I’m shaking my head. Unemployment is actually at a 50-year LOW! Really. We are now in the longest period of unemployment below 4 percent in the last 50 years. And according to recent reports by the Labor Department, for every unemployed person there are one and one-quarter job openings.

In other words, there’s a job available for every person that wants one. Now maybe they aren’t qualified or don’t want the jobs that are available, but the fact is that the economy is producing more jobs than we have people to fill them.

Sounds like pretty good times, right? And they are. Unemployment at 50-year lows, the economy and the stock market at record highs. Everyone should be singing “Happy Days Are Here Again,” right?

And, really, in at least one important way, they are. According to a Federal Reserve Household Survey in 2016, 70 percent of survey respondents said they are okay financially. And in 2023 that figure had moved up slightly to 72 percent.

So if 72 percent of people think they are doing at least okay financially, why do 56 percent of Americans think we’re in a recession? How is that possible?

Here’s what I think—it’s algorithms.

Google, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, TikTok, YouTube, and Netflix—each one of these businesses can slice and dice market data like never before in history. Their whole purpose is to put products in front of you that you might buy, based on your likes and dislikes.

How do they know what you like? They have over 2,000 data points on you. Every time you click on a story, video, movie, or TV series—or better yet, actually research or buy something online—that information gets recorded. And then their algorithms feed you what you want to see, according to the data.

What this means is that you and I live in our own echo chambers created by big tech. My wife, Joan, clicked on a story about Meghan Markle, and for months after that her news feed kept showing her stories about Meghan and Prince Harry.

When I open Google news, I see stories about golf, photography, and investments, with a sprinkling of stories about my favorite sports teams. Maybe every fifth or tenth article is about actual important news events. And most of those stories agree with my particular political outlook.

Joan was recently talking with someone who thought the economy was bad and that Democrats stood for open borders. Most Democrats do not stand for open borders and the economy is pretty strong, so she later said to me that he was a typical uninformed voter.

But here’s the thing—we are all uninformed voters. Based on what many Democrats read online, Republicans seem crazy and uninformed—a perception resulting from the selected stories being fed to Democrats by algorithms. And vice versa. We all live in echo chambers, and we all think the other side of the political spectrum has lost touch with reality. But the truth is that we have all lost touch with reality, and it’s not your fault. You’re being kept in the dark and fed BS.

Here’s what you can do about it.

  • Stop clicking on the same kind of stories—the ones the algorithms keep feeding you because it’s what you want to hear. Try asking yourself why you are seeing this story in your feed before you click on it.
  • Try searching for primary sources. Want to know how the economy is doing? Read about it on the website of the Federal Reserve—the Atlanta Fed keeps a running estimate of our economic growth called GDP Now. You can let other people tell you what you should think, or you can make up your own mind. I encourage you to go to the source and make up your own mind.
  • Forget politics. Really. A study some years ago looked at communities that were experiencing better than average quality of life, and the number one thing they found was that national politics were not important in those places. I have some really good friends whose politics are the complete opposite of mine. The trick of how we stay friends is that we don’t talk politics. We mostly talk about our common interests.

In today’s world, it takes discipline to live with the algorithms. You have to sometimes get your head out of the echo chamber.

What’s all this got to do with investing? Not only does democracy depend on informed citizens, but also successful investing depends on being informed. The economy is fine. Inflation is slowly declining. Unemployment is low. Make your investments based on that, not on what the right or left want you to believe.


Hal Masover is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor and a registered representative. His firm, Investment Insights, LLC is at 508 N 2nd Street, Suite 203, Fairfield, IA 52556. Securities offered through, Cambridge Investment Research, Inc, a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/ SIPC. Investment Advisor Representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Investment Insights, Inc & Cambridge are not affiliated. Comments and questions can be sent to These are the opinions of Hal Masover and not necessarily those of Cambridge, are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed or acted upon as individualized investment advice. Investing involves risk. Depending on the types of investments, there may be varying degrees of risk. Investors should be prepared to bear loss, including total loss of principal. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Indices mentioned are unmanaged and cannot be invested in directly.