We know using our phones are bad for us but we do it anyway. – Sherry Turkle on FT Alphachat
Benedict Evans of Andreessen Horowitz has been writing a lot lately about how the Internet has inverted. What was once the ‘mobile Internet,’ i.e. the smartphone, has become the mainstream and desktop access to the Internet has become secondary. He writes:
(M)obile becomes the platform, and it’s a much richer and more powerful one. What happens when almost everyone on earth has a pocket supercomputer connected to the internet? It’s not a subset of the internet – it IS the internet.
There is little doubt that the smartphone has changed the Internet and society in a myriad of ways. However this development, like all developments, comes with some downsides. For example, Sherry Turkle, author of Reclaiming Conversation: Reclaiming the Power of Talk in a Digital Age, talks about how technology can make us “connected” but not truly present. To build a true relationship Turkle believes we need conversation:
That’s why dinner table conversations are so important, and office hours are so important: You’re coming back, again and again. … What’s communicated there is not just acceptance of imperfection. It’s the idea that you are building a relationship. You need a conversation for that.
Having a conversation with our money is challenging in a smartphone age as well. We all are familiar with the statistic that smartphone users largely use just three apps on their phone. The question is whether one of those apps should be money-related? Shlomo Benartzi, author of The Smarter Screen: Surprising Ways to Influence and Improve Online Behavior, says no.
One of the reasons why investors, in general, do poorly is that when confronted by losses in their portfolio they sell despite having made a long term investment plan prior. This “myopic loss aversion” is difficult to overcome. All the more so in our increasingly connected age. Benartzi writes at WSJ:
The main trigger of myopic loss aversion is frequent feedback. When people are frequently told how their investments are doing—say, if they are given a daily update on their long-term investments, by smartphone or any other digital device—they are more likely to make poor financial decisions and possibly sell at the wrong time.
The question is what can investors do about it? In part they need to frame their thinking such that it aligns with their prior plans. Also Benartzi writes:
While there is no cure for myopic loss aversion, there are some sensible steps we can take to reduce its impact. The first is to curate our digital world, ensuring that we aren’t inundated with feedback we don’t need. We should hide the stock app on our smartphones and avoid market updates on our smartwatches.
This is the equivalent of going on a ‘media diet.’ This may be difficult for many investors. However those that choose to curate their smartphone usage more consciously may find themselves with more time on their hands and experience less stress. They may also find that they are less likely to make knee-jerk reactions in their portfolio that work against their long term goals.