Why Twitter (X) Puts Me in a Pessimistic Mood

Several times each week I peruse X (formerly known as Twitter). When I open the app, the default page is “For You”, there is a page dedicated to those I am following, and then there is a page I have customized that I titled “Best Content Tweeters.” One thing I recently realized is that when I am done using X, I am often in a more pessimistic mood. And this comes mostly from the “For You” page. Yes I could avoid it completely, but that it difficult to do since it is the default and easy to get sucked into things. No matter how good the day has gone, after perusing X, there seems to be a negative shadow over my perceptions. And perceptions influence choices and overall behavior.

Why is this? I have been thinking about this for weeks and have some thoughts. It goes a lot further than just X. It is just a function of how the media functions today, and how that can unconsciously (and somewhat diabolically) influence our behavior.

Getting Noticed Online

Media these days, social media and traditional media outlets, are all about getting noticed. Likes, clicks, and engagement with the audience are paramount. And because of the sheer amount of content, how do you make yourself stick out? You need to be bold, shocking, and create some sort of emotional response with the audience. This happens in social media posts, it happens with headlines, and it happens with prognosticators predicting future outcomes.

Unfortunately, negativity tends to “sell” more than positivity. Making a positive or neutral comment that people don’t have a problem with doesn’t move the needle. But saying something bold and divisive is sure to get people fired up and engaged. It creates an emotional reaction (good or bad) that gets our attention.

Taking Stock of Your Mood

I used X just as an example, but the reality is that this happens everywhere. Our moods are constantly pulled by the content we consume. And the Wall Street Journal recently wrote, “People consume media that confirms their biases, and media – especially social media, with its finely tuned algorithms— tend to give consumers what they want.” In other words, we seek the headlines we want to read, which can result in a myopic perception of the realities of the day coupled with strong feelings.

It is essential we realize what the media does to us. By taking a moment to think about how we are feeling, we can make these unconscious influences, conscious. And that puts us in greater control to manage our emotions and perceptions – ultimately leading to better decision-making.

For advisors, it is essential that you take the pulse of your clients before making any material financial changes. For members of The Behavioral Finance Network, I created a simple checklist called “The Mindful Decision Checklist” that helps advisors take their clients through some basic thoughts and reflective practices to ensure decisions are truly mindful – not just based on how they feel at the moment. I created it about 18 months ago and all I can say is that it has been a big help to both advisors and investors who want to make more rational, less emotional decisions. We may not be in control of media content, but we can be in control of how we process it and what we do before we make any material decisions.


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