Social Media is a Social Disease

Dear Reader,

In the bad old days, social disease referred to something nasty that was sexually transmitted.

Ah, how times change.

The new-age social disease is transmitted electronically…via social media.

Here at Rum Rebellion we take a holistic view to investing.

And as mentioned in yesterday’s edition, the very best investment you can make is in the ongoing personal development of yourself and your loved ones.

A happy, healthy, well-adjusted family is the greatest legacy any parent can leave.

The modern-day social disease poses a real threat to our personal well-being.

Did you know that:

Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between 15 and 44 years of age.’

Black Dog Institute

I never knew this fact. What a truly disturbing piece of information.

This is our next generation — the future custodians of our nation — who are being placed at most risk.

The good news is the potential for self-harm can be minimised.

According to Black Dog Institute ‘there are protective factors that make us more resilient and can reduce suicidal behaviour, such as:

  • supportive social relationships
  • a sense of control
  • a sense of purpose
  • family harmony
  • effective help-seeking
  • positive connections to good health services available

Unconditional love. Open lines of communication. Unwavering support. Knowledge on how best to manage the issues. Family harmony.

These protective factors should be practiced in every family…not just those with emotionally vulnerable offspring.

Self-esteem and self-confidence (not to be confused with overconfidence) are integral to personal and family well-being.

The link between social media and suicide

In 2012, the US National Library of Medicine — National Institutes of Health published a paper on the new and evolving phenomenon between social media and suicide (emphasis is mine):

There is increasing evidence that the Internet and social media can influence suicide-related behavior. 

The role of social media and its potential influence on suicide-related behavior is a relatively new and evolving phenomenon that society is only beginning to assess and understand. The emerging data regarding the influence of the Internet and social media on suicide behavior have suggested that these forms of technology may introduce new threats to the public as well as new opportunities for assistance and prevention

With the passage of time, that link appears to be getting stronger.

According to Time magazine in March 2019 (emphasis is mine):

Since the late 2000s, the mental health of teens and young adults in the US has declined dramatically. That’s the broad conclusion of a new study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

Between 2009 and 2017, rates of depression among kids ages 14 to 17 increased by more than 60%, the study found. 

While not all the evidence is consistent, a substantial amount of research has found associations between heavy technology use and poor mental health outcomes among adolescents and young adults. Research aside, many parents, teachers, guidance counsellors and others who work with young people say social media and heavy technology use are a problem.

Given the association between the growing trend in social media usage and an increase in the suicide rate, it makes sense for us to err on the side of caution…

Is the Australian economy in danger of a Japanese-like economic winter? Find out here.

An ounce of prevention

Those who invent and profit from device addiction are the ones who make sure their children DO NOT get their hands on the addictive devices…smartphone or tablet or PC.

Port Phillip Publishing

Source: Thrive

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As reported in the October 2018 article (emphasis added):

Journalist Nellie Bowles, who writes on tech and internet culture… with words reminiscent of something Dr. Frankenstein might have said about his destructive spawn: “The people who are closest to a thing are often the most wary of it,”…

On the scale between candy and crack cocaine, it’s closer to crack cocaine,” Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired and founder of, told Bowles.

Similarly, Athena Chavarria, who was Mark Zuckerberg’s executive assistant at Facebook and now works for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, told Bowles: “I am convinced the devil lives in our phones and is wreaking havoc on our children.’’’

Crack cocaine. The Devil. Wreaking havoc.

Is that what we want our loved ones exposed to?

The only way to responsibly use social networks is…to seriously minimise the exposure.

Fight the addiction. The vast majority of it is banal noise.

Who really cares what you’re eating for breakfast? The coffee you’re having? The plane you’re boarding? Or the tousled hair and pouted lips?

It appears to me that most of the world suffers from ‘Kimmy look at moi’ syndrome. Bah.

What mind numbing rubbish we entertain ourselves with.

In an interview with Advisor Perspective, to promote his new book The Square and the Tower, historian and Stanford University lecturer, Niall Ferguson made these comments (emphasis added):

The challenge is to be offline enough of the time to think and select what is worth reading,” he said. “It is probably not on Twitter.”

Read an old book, such as an autobiography. ‘They will help you to think,” he said.

Social networks and the amount of time we spend on devices ruins relationships, according to Ferguson.

‘“We will look back and view smartphones the way we view cigarettes and the way we make them available to children,’ he said. ‘The damage is much greater than you realize, because it distracts you from the people near you.’ Real relationships are threatened by the phony relationships through phones.

‘“A revolution in manners is needed with respect to our personal phones,” Ferguson said.

‘“A day with a great book is worth 365 days with social media.”’

The need for a revolution in manners is long, long overdue…and not just in the use of personal phones. Oh how I would relish hearing someone at the cash register say ‘please’ and/or ‘thank you’.

Secondly, device addiction is destructive to real relationships…the kind of relationships that are critical in protecting against the new-age social disease.

Thirdly, it’s unhealthy…just like any addictive substance.

Did you know (emphasis added):

Hyung Suk Seo, M.D., professor of neuroradiology at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea, and colleagues used magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to gain unique insight into the brains of smartphone- and internet-addicted teenagers. MRS is a type of MRI that measures the brain’s chemical composition.

Dr. Seo reported that the addicted teenagers had significantly higher scores in depression, anxiety, insomnia severity and impulsivity.

Radiological Society of North America

Are these the symptoms we want for the next generation? That was a rhetorical question.

The evidence is clear…we have developed an unhealthy and potentially fatal obsession with these mind-numbing devices.

Richer or poorer?

A question I’ve occasionally asked myself, is my life any poorer for not being connected to social media?


It is far richer.

We only have so many waking hours each day.

How we fill those hours depends upon our personal situation…employment, activities, single, married, children etc.

Some lives are busier than others.

However, on average, we (as in society) somehow find time to spend over two hours (136 minutes to be precise) every day on ‘social networking’.

Shoot me!!!

Port Phillip Publishing

Source: Statista

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The disturbing thing about this chart — besides the fact the world is wasting more than two hours every day — is the trend is still on the rise rather than the decline.

What else could we be doing with this time?

Working on family harmony. Talking (really talking and listening) with those near and dear to us. Reading quality books/articles/research on subjects that at least have the potential to add value to our lives. Going for a walk. Cooking healthy meals (instead of ordering takeaway). Community engagement. Building a business. Personal development.

These are all activities that, on balance, should lead to a richer, more rewarding life.

Our lives are the sum total of the decisions we make.

In my opinion, life is about doing the ‘one percenters’…those incremental improvements that make you a better version of you.

That philosophy should be passed on to the next generation.

We have a responsibility to provide them with guidance on the ‘one percenters’…the productive (as opposed to destructive) routines that become habit forming. Equipping them with the skills to create rich and rewarding lives.

Consciously deciding to ‘switch off’ from the shallowness of social media and ‘switch on’ to deeper and more meaningful lives, can reward us and our families in both health and wealth.

We may not be able to completely eradicate this insidious social disease from society…but, on an individual level, we can take steps to immunise our families against this soul destroying syndrome.


Vern Gowdie,
Editor, The Rum Rebellion

PS: The truth behind Australia’s ‘miracle’ economy – download your free report now.

Vern has been involved in financial planning since 1986.

In 1999, Personal Investor magazine ranked Vern as one of Australia’s Top 50 financial planners.

His previous firm, Gowdie Financial Planning, was recognised in 2004, 2005, 2006 & 2007, by Independent Financial Adviser magazine as one of the top five financial planning firms in Australia.

In 2005, Vern commenced his writing career with the ‘Big Picture’ column for regional newspapers and was a commentator on financial matters for Prime Radio talkback.

In 2008, he sold his financial planning firm due to concerns about an impending economic downturn and the impact this would have on the investment industry.

In 2013, he joined Fat Tail Investment Research as editor of Gowdie Family Wealth. In 2015, his book The End of Australia sold over 20,000 copies and launched his second premium newsletter, The Gowdie Letter.

Vern has since published two other books, A Parents Gift of Knowledge, all about the passing of investing intelligence from father to daughter, and How Much Bull can Investors Bear, an expose on the investment industry’s smoke and mirrors.

His contrarian views often place him at odds with the financial planning profession today, but Vern’s sole motivation is to help investors like you to protect their own and their family’s wealth.

Vern is Founder and Chairman of The Gowdie Advisory and The Gowdie Letter advisory service.

The Rum Rebellion