One the Money
Beware those clicks do not damage your health
“Whoa.. you like to think you’re immune to the stuff…oh yeah
It’s closer to the truth to say you can’t get enough
You know you’re gonna have to face it
You’re addicted to clicks…” (with apologies to Robert Palmer)
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, or relearn”…(Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock, 1970)
When I started writing articles for the mainstream newspapers back in 1989 it was quite a different world from today. No 24-hour “World or Business” news channels on telly and no “Breaking News” strips constantly vying for our attention. You could go on holidays to the Med and be oblivious of anything happening, good or bad while you quietly relaxed with your vinos collapsos.
No emails , no iPhones, no iPads , just idyllic peace. Aaah…
Sadly, not anymore. Recent news “reports” about the growing number of teenagers suffering from stress-related illnesses including clinical depression, added to my own observations of the vast majority of folks on holiday, on trains, in airports and in restaurants suggest that widespread addiction to “anti” social-media isn’t good for our health , manners nor encourage deep learning.
And now it’s official. Too much news is bad news. And that’s not good news for our health. Recent research published by Rolf Dobelli, the author of that great little thought-provoking book “The Art Of Thinking Clearly”, proves that increasing addiction to headlines and constant persusal of smartphones damages your wealth, and your health into the bargain.
In his “Avoid News..Towards a Healthy News Diet” he explains in chilling terms about we should embrace antidotes to news. He points out that nowadays “we are so well-informed, and yet know so little”. And goes on to explain why, reminding us that “news is to our minds what sugar is to our bodies, dangerously toxic” . My granny McKay would have agreed… “everything in moderation” she used to say..”too much is always bad for you”.
We are as Dobelli says “just cavemen in suits and dresses”, with brains formed over thousands of years to suit the environment of hunter-gatherers where we lived in small intimate bands of 100 or less, with limited food and information. Today we are in a completely opposite world with brains struggling to keep up.
And just as folks get addicted to junk food which is bad for our bodies, today an addiction to junk news is equally bad for our health. So in the same way that cutting out sugar is good for us because it’s toxic, we ought to try to cut down the toxicity of our iWorld addictions.
In case you think I’m exaggerating, here’s what research has uncovered. Bad news triggers your limbic system. So ever-panicky and shock-horror stories, or personal slurs on social media spur “the release of glucocordicoid.” Or in simpler terms “Cortisol”. This weakens our immune sysyems and inhibits the release of growth hormones. Eventually that leads to chronic stress, and impaired digestion. I concur with that… whenever a news reader said that the stock market was down that day, it put my mother off her dinner”. Stress got to her, she died far too early with cancer.
So news addicts and those clicking relentlessly at their inappropriately named “smartphones” are impairing their physical health. And simultaneously their wealth. The annual Dalbar surveys in the US show that poor behavioural decisions driven by reactions to news headlines are the number one reason why their average investment returns are continually poor. And getting increasingly worse over the last 10 years, nine of which have been in a Bull Market.
Good thinking requires concentration. That needs uninterrupted time. Smartphone addicts are drawn to bubblegum titbits catching their attention every few seconds. This behaviour disrupts your concentration. It weakens your understanding. And any news that catches your wandering attention you can be assured will be put out by Apps rather than any good news.
Ask yourself what the top ten news worries from a month ago that may have led you to sell stock market funds…. News that isn’t even mentioned anymore, and were in any case false alarms. If you believe all the bad news pumped out these days, I guarantee when you hit retirement you will have far less in savings than you would have had by ignoring Bad News at Ten.
Be like wee 100 year old lady Grace, orphaned early in life, a mere secretary who hardly paid attention to the news and who died in 2010 not long after the financial Crisis with a $7 million portfolio. Rather than Richard with his wealthy family background, Harvard MBA, and leading light in Wall Street , a headline junkie who the day after Grace’s death, filed for bankruptcy, thanks to bad behavioural investment decisions. It’s your life. Throw away your smartphones, and turn off the Telly.
Alan Steel is chairman of Alan Steel Asset Management
Alan Steel Asset Management is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. This article contains the personal views of Alan Steel and should not be construed as advice. Do check your individual circumstances with your advisers.