THERE has never been a hangover quite like it. The physical exhaustion, the muscular fatigue and the dark shards of depression shooting through you as you lie in bed, incapable of rational thought.

Thankfully I have never suffered from significant mental health problems, but for three days after the first independence referendum I was given a fleeting insight into the incapacities that can visit those less lucky than me.

What I was suffering from was not depression, it was a debilitating and life-sapping disappointment, worse than any football score, any job rejection or any knockbacks in the dating game.

My friends and neighbours all offered an instant analysis – we had been victims of the echo-chamber, listening to people with similar views and not acknowledging the depth or legitimacy of opposing views.

I was briefly in agreement, but the more I interrogate the concept of the social media bubble the less convincing it has become.

The term “echo-chamber” was coined by Cass Sunstein, the American legal scholar who was once an executive administrator in Obama’s White House. He is the author of several books on social behaviour, including his 2008 best-seller Nudge Theory, which argued that change could come about by positive reinforcement. Organ donation and drunk driving are two obvious areas where we have seen widespread positive changes in public attitudes due to nudging people to think differently.

When he coined the “echo-chamber” phrase, Sunstein saw web-forums as an environment “in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own” and that these social media “bubbles are responsible for communities that espouse “contrarian and counterfactual perspectives and ideologies”.

I cannot deny that I followed websites that supported the Yes movement. Dutifully, like thousands of others, I donated micro-payments to causes that were out there supporting a Yes vote. Superficially, the theory held water. Had I been too close to those who shared my core beliefs?

It’s a tempting explanation, but running counter to the social media echo chamber were whole chunks of my life that had very different forums.

I had been working at Channel 4 for decades and attracted left-leaning and liberal thinking staff, but the vast majority of my colleagues were not only baffled by the independence referendum, some were romantically upset that Scotland wanted to “leave them”.

I tried vainly to put forward arguments about democracy and self-determination, but apart from a small coterie of Scots exiled in London, no one was echoing those views back to me.

At the time, I was working on the Paralympics project basking in the success of the London games and shaping our bid for Rio. I remember an edgy conversation with the Lagos-born wheelchair athlete turned presenter Ade Adepitan, who argued unconvincingly that his own nation, Nigeria, needed independence but Scotland didn’t.

My work in Scotland was largely with independent producers pitching to the networks and as a consequence they were susceptible to the economic doom of Project Fear. So in my work environment, I was certainly not in a “filter bubble”.

It is no secret that I am a St Johnstone supporter and a bruised fan of Scottish football. Nor has that ever been an echo-chamber. I remember arguing with a very likeable man who had family ties with Leeds and a charming interest in English cricket. We will never agree about the constitution but there is no doubting his passion for St Johnstone.

I also had disputes with another high profile St Johnstone fan, and to this day I am baffled by his cap-doffing deference to the old ways. He is younger than me but a living embodiment of those distant days when the people of Perthshire voted as the laird instructed them.

Even online the great divide that supposedly separates Celtic and Rangers did not behave according to type. There was a very vocal group of Celtic fans enduring a love affair with the old myths of Glasgow Labour who argued for the Union, and a survey among fans that showed that sizable numbers of Rangers fans backed independence.

Football is rarely, if ever, an echo-chamber. The transfer of Kieran Tierney to Arsenal last week bares that out, Celtic fans have been engaged in a minor civil war between those that respect Tierney’s immense contribution to the club and wish him well and those that accuse him of abandoning the love of his life as the pursuit of “Ten In A Row” gets closer. To say opinions have been divided is an understatement.

The same is true in my friendships within northern soul, where there is a vociferous body of northern working-class opinion in favour of Brexit.

Another area of my life where I found counter-intuitive division was at the BBC, where I work as a freelancer, mostly on a Saturday. In fact, I was inside the besieged Pacific Quay as the protest against Nick Robinson’s infamous report on BBC news took place.

Even the much-maligned BBC was nowhere close to an echo-chamber. There are many hundreds of Yes supporters working within BBC Scotland and to categorise the organisation as a stooge of London is to misrepresent a much more complicated reality.

The BBC is an institution of the British state and its culture inevitably leans towards the status quo, but there are many dissenting voices within the organisation who challenge internal orthodoxies on a daily basis.

Although it has been a convenient prop since 2014, I am increasingly sceptical of the “echo-chamber” theory. A leading Australian academic, Axel Bruns of the Digital Media Research Centre at Queensland University of Technology, has lacerated the idea that we live in social media echo-chambers.

His recent paper, It’s Not The Technology, Stupid: How The ‘Echo-Chamber’ And ‘Filter Bubble’ Metaphors Have Failed Us, goes some distance to proving that is not even true online.

Bruns argues that our contacts, drawn “from the many facets of the user’s personal life – family, friends, acquaintances, workmates and others – connect and communicate with each other in an unruly and often uncontrollable melee”.

One of Brun’s most compelling experiments shows that no matter what your views, and no matter how entrenched you are in social media group-think, Google news – for all its supposed algorithmic sophistication – will recommend the same five news sources whatever your views. What it will not do is link you back to a tiny self-satisfying silo.

Nor are the war-zones of Twitter a happy hunting ground if you are seeking the comforts of an echo-chamber. Twitter is by its nature contrarian, a forum where people go in order to argue and where many seek out opposition views if only to undermine them.

Yes there are hyper-partisan people on Twitter, but they can usually be found locking horns with their opponents.

Twitter is awash with parody accounts which mock and satirise entrenched views. By its nature, the parody account tests the very limits of the echo-chamber theory. It assumes you are sufficiently au fait with opposing views to get the joke.

One of my personal favourites is Natalie Hunter, a fake BBC Scotland news reporter (Nat Hunter – geddit?) whose brave reporting always cleaves to London. It is satire but in order to get the joke you have to be sufficiently attuned to the vagaries of Scottish politics and the subtle vocabulary of news reporting.

So today I am abandoning the “echo-chamber” theory and all its crude simplicities in the hope that something fundamental has changed out there in real-world time, something so beautifully seismic that I won’t be reduced to another three days under a duvet.