The power of social media is much stronger than many of us realize. We are constantly comparing and sharing our lifestyles, ideas, political views, fashion sense, and even our money beliefs.
These forms of sharing information can have tremendous benefits, but they can also be detrimental to our process of decision making.
For example, we are in the middle of making a decision to leave Shenzhen early in order to avoid potential travel restrictions due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. Unfortunately, every time we think we’ve made a decision, we notice a post on social media that makes us reconsider our choice.
Logically, the only variables that should matter in our decision making process should be the number of cases of the virus. The number of cases in our area would tell us our exposure to the virus, and then we can decide from there what steps we need to take.
Unfortunately, life is never this black and white, and solving real-life problems is more of a colorful mosaic. Social media adds to this mosaic by bringing other people’s actions and opinions into the equation.
Don’t get me wrong, leveraging an online community to make decisions can be a powerful tool. We all do it on any app that uses ‘self reported ratings’ systems like yelp (does that still exist), Uber, AirBnB, or Amazon.
But in times of fear and panic it is usually a good idea to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing.
Constantly gazing into other peoples lives with Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, or WeChat , makes it difficult to make smart decisions at times when everyone else is making dumb ones.
If you follow index investing at all, then you know that the best thing that can happen to you as a long term investor is a recession [Given you stay employed through it all]. The problem with social media is that everyone around you is going to be doing the exact opposite and their poor decision is constantly in your face, depending on how much you use the platforms. Therefore investing in a down market almost becomes impossible, and when you do get in it, it’s often too late.
How to Fight Social Media
1. Limit our time on social media
We are all guilty of getting caught in a rabbit hole on Reddit or YouTube. The next time this happens try to just log off of social media. Take some time to reflect without the added pressure of hundreds of other voices.
2. Find the source you value and stick with it (when making big decisions)
In the example of leaving Shenzhen, we’ve been monitoring the spread of the virus using live broadcast reports (in Chinese and English). Instead of focusing on subjective social media, we’ve decided to go by these broadcasts (since we can only hope that the information is the most up-to-date)
The only thing that ‘really matters to us’ in making our decision is the number of diagnosed cases of the virus in our city. Everything else is just noise. The hysteria surrounding other cities and provinces, the opinions and exit strategies of others, and even the occasional advice to just sit tight and let it take its course.
3. Take social media with a grain of salt
Always remember one of the dangers of the internet, at least in America, is that it gives everyone a platform to speak (this is also a HUGE strength). Even those who shouldn’t.
“Opinions are like A**h***s ,everybody has one”. It’s up to us to decide which ones we value and which ones we don’t.
This short post isn’t a demand to eliminate all social media. It is more of a reminder of how powerful it is and how it can affect you, because of how it has affected me over the past few days.
If you have anything you would like to add please feel free to comment below. Thank you for reading this post.