Why You Should Stop Checking Facebook — And Your Brokerage Account — Every Minute

by Alyssa Oursler | August 16, 2013 1:12 pm

There’s lots of chatter about the value of Facebook (FB[1]) these days — and I don’t mean in terms of the stock price.

Instead, a few recent studies seem to suggest that Facebook actually has a negative impact when it comes to the value of our lives.¬†Earlier this week, a study showing that there’s a negative correlation between sharing selfies on social media[2] and having meaningful real-life social interactions began grabbing headlines.

Now, in a similar vein, a University of Michigan study suggesting Facebook can harm users’ well-being is making the rounds. As Mashable summed it up[3]:

“A new academic study states that using the world’s largest social network can ‘undermine’ one’s sense of happiness and well-being. The study also found Facebook use negatively impacts how users feel ‘moment to moment’ as well as how satisfied they feel with their lives overall.”

Should investors care? Well, Facebook investors in particular shouldn’t be worried by these findings — something tells me most selfie-takers and Facebook addicts don’t spend much time reading academic studies and thus will not realize, much less react to, the correlations.

But investors as a whole can take a valuable lesson from them.

Moment-to-moment updates — whether of your friends’ lives or of the stock market — don’t just add little value, but can actually snatch some away.

For Facebook, it’s both the compulsive nature of our logins[4] and the nature of the information we’re viewing that are problematic — whether you tie it back to the “fear of missing out,”[5] the constant comparisons to other people, or just the bigger-picture trend of constantly staring at a screen.

The exact same thing is true for the stock market.¬†The “fear of missing out” in social media runs parallel to the many fears circling our brokerage accounts, while the constant comparison shifts from friends’ social lives to could-have-been investment results or a benchmark index.

And while our financial check-ins might seem more important and thus more justified that social media stalkage, the frequency of those check-ins is likely to just add stress these days — and maybe even cause some poor decisions.

InvestorPlace Editor Jeff Reeves[6] has nodded to this before, noting that we often trade too much, usually because we are overly tied to the market’s day-to-day headlines. He wrote:

“Blame it on our lack of access to high-priced tools and analysis, blame it on investor psychology, blame it on media outlets like this one that overload you with commentary. But whatever the cause, most retail investors are their own worst enemy.”

The bottom line: While Facebook interactions often rob us of the real-life interactions we actually want, attempting to stay up-to-date with the market to improve your investments might similarly be a backward strategy.

Besides, while your financial future is important, plenty of things are far more meaningful than picking and tracking the perfect investment. This was best summed up by Josh Brown, who posted these musings on his blog recently[7]:

“If you had twenty five years left to live, how much time would you spend worrying about the daily ups and downs of the stock market?

If you had one year left to live, how upset would you be about investments you had made that didn’t pan out? Or investments that you’d passed on that worked out without you?

If you had 24 hours to live, what would you want the people who knew you to remember most?”

Hopefully, you wouldn’t want them to remember you merely for a savvy stock pick or clever Facebook status.

Happy philosophical Friday, everyone.

As of this writing, Alyssa Oursler did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities and had recently deleted her Facebook account. She’s still on Twitter, though! @alyssaoursler[8].

Endnotes:
  1. FB: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=FB
  2. sharing selfies on social media: http://investorplace.com/2013/08/study-shows-people-hate-selfies/
  3. As Mashable summed it up: http://mashable.com/2013/08/15/facebook-happiness-study/?utm_cid=mash-com-fb-main-link
  4. compulsive nature of our logins: http://investorplace.com/2013/07/5-things-you-should-hate-about-facebook/
  5. “fear of missing out,”: http://investorplace.com/2013/07/audio-facebook-is-here-to-stay/
  6. InvestorPlace Editor Jeff Reeves: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/kicking-the-trading-habit-2012-01-02
  7. posted these musings on his blog recently: http://www.thereformedbroker.com/2013/07/28/how-much-time-do-you-have/
  8. @alyssaoursler: https://twitter.com/alyssaoursler

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