I spend a lot of time thinking about the information that I consume. Do you?
We all consume exabytes of information. Have you ever noticed that people spend way more time thinking about the food they consume than the information they consume?
I have family members who are health nuts — watching every bite they eat and augmenting it with supplements — but think nothing of spending 10 minutes cruising around The Drudge Report, which will make you feel like the world is coming to an end pretty much any time you load the page. Some people have read Drudge for 20years. Imagine how that would make you feel.
I gave up Drudge about six or seven years ago. I keep track of politics on Twitter — but I don’t follow people who are toxic waste. I don’t watch cable news. Before I started the radio show, I watched NBC Nightly News, but I’m glad to be rid of that. I’ve Marie Kondo-ed my information intake, getting rid of anything that doesn’t bring me joy.
Monitoring your information intake is crucial to your mental health. It is also crucial to your investment decision-making.
The Bulls and the Bears
If you want to read bearish information, there are places to do that. If you want to read bullish information, there are places to do that.
Funny — most people spend all their time either reading just the bearish or bullish information. They don’t get both sides of the story.
People like to point out that if you consumed nothing but bearish information since 2009, you would have missed out on a historic stock market rally and you would have drastically underperformed. This is true.
But if you’re consuming nothing but bullish information, about how index funds are king and stocks for the long run and dollar cost averaging, you’ll probably get fricasseed when the bear market begins. We will get one eventually.
Political polarization has happened for a lot of reasons, but chief among them is the advent of social media. Go look at charts of polarization — it didn’t really start happening until Facebook and Twitter came on the scene.
It is not particularly difficult to see why. Ever spend 5-10 minutes on Facebook and feel… unsettled?
People spend a lot of time on Facebook. I spend some time on Facebook. It’s pretty rare that Facebook makes me feel good.
There is a lot of crap, memes, and such. But there are also people’s terrible political opinions. Funny thing about political opinions on Facebook. I don’t really care to read any of them, even the ones that I agree with. Facebook is full of user-generated content, and the problem with the user-generated content is that it is uninformed, hysterical garbage.
I hide opinionated people on Facebook, but not because the opinions bother me. It is really for my emotional health. I don’t want to log on and feel worse. I have been curating my feed for years, and I finally have it where I want it. As for me, I basically post pictures of my cats, which always make people feel good.
You may find this hard to believe, but there are lots of people out there whose purpose in life seems to be arguing on the internet. I blundered into communist Twitter the other day — not fun.
There are armies of trolls out there. The internet facilitates polarization because we are not dealing with each other face to face. It’s easy to dehumanize “the other side” online. If we were all sitting in the same room, we’d probably just have a normal conversation.
I hope that someday we get bored of arguing on the internet. But it seems to be getting worse, not better.
Politics < Ethics < Philosophy
It is easy to drown in the noise. Politics is noise. Above politics is ethics, and above ethics is philosophy.
If you’ve been following all the tit-for-tat and the drama of the impeachment hearings, if the names McGahn and Strzok mean anything to you, if you can actually recite the timeline of all the China trade negotiations, then you are spending time in politics, in the noise.
Imagine what you could have done with your time instead of learning about this nonsense. If you think this helps you have an opinion on the direction of the stock market, all I have to say to that is LMAO.
If you eat Big Macs and fries and fast food and other junk, you will get fat and feel terrible. I know this from experience. If you read toxic, opinionated trash, you will go crazy, and feel terrible.
And you will think all kinds of things, like, the stock market will crash, or the stock market will go up forever.
As it is with everything in life, the truth is somewhere in between.
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Jared Dillian writes The 10th Man, a free weekly newsletter for contrarian investors. Every Thursday, he delivers a torpedo of incisive commentary that crushes consensus thinking and exposes the true workings of “Mr. Market.” Subscribe now!
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