I asked him why he Facebooked and he suggested that he did it to keep in touch with people and to network a bit. I told him that I had read an article recently that had stated that research is beginning to show that Facebook makes people depressed. To my surprise, he totally agreed.
"The researchers who conducted the analysis noted that “for a significant number of users, the negative effects of Facebook outweigh the benefits of staying in touch with friends and family."
"Things like rejected friend requests caused 32 percent of the people who participated in the study to feel guilty -- and 12 percent of the people said that Facebook just made them generally anxious."
When I read these items about Facebook, there is certainly part of me that is relieved that I don't participate!
As we closed our conversation I also considered something else that might add to poster's stress, that Facebook lives are not real. Let me give you an example.
During the holiday season, my wife received a wonderful Christmas card from a person we know. The lovely card pictured a charming couple holding their 1 year-old baby. The family hugged and seemed happy to be together to celebrate a beautiful Christmas season. While everything in the photo and card seemed perfect, the truth is that this couple is separated and living in separate homes. The father never sees the child and has begun a relationship with another woman. The appearance of the father in the picture is quite odd, since it isn't an accurate depiction of reality at all. But there you have it, the woman and the man set up a time to create this photo-op and staged a classic Christmas tradition for all of their "friends and family".
In some ways, I suspect that just like this holiday card, Facebook is represented by this distortion of reality as well. Sure, you can un-friend your spouse, but my guess is that members of Facebook (in general) don't highlight that they just had a fight with their husband, got fired for being a terrible employee, or have a kid that is abusing drugs in school. In other words, Facebook probably is a depository of the version of life that we wish we had where all the good things get posted and none of the bad things get attention.
As I continue to think on this topic, I realized that our economy and the investing markets are very much like a Facebook post. We are told all the good things like employment is getting better, rail shipping is at highs, consumer spending is rebounding, companies are starting to hire, but all of that seems hollow as we really measure it against reality. Think about it, our DJIA is nearing levels we haven't seen since May of 2008 so the logic must be that if the market is really improving, then all of the credit issues and insolvency problems we've faced are well in the rear-view mirror.
Unfortunately, we too know there is an another, real reality in our economy. In this version, we know that job seekers cannot find a great job, that employees work long hours because they feel threatened that they may be replaced if they don't work more, we know that money is very tight, and our government continues to take more and spend without constraint while promising more benefits. In addition to that list, Europe is even worse!
Simply look at the last 26 trading days and you'd be hard pressed to discern that there was any problem in the global economy by looking at the stock market. Its upward march has been a thing of beauty! Yet, underlying the wonderful performance, we know that there is a lingering, even gnawing sense that there are other issues that must be tackled for real price action to propel markets higher. Even with my beginning of the year call for higher markets through April, I do believe that markets do need to pause here and even pull back. Take a look at almost any chart and they are ramming headlong right into previous highs. Without some sort of new and positive news, there is no chance that they ramp higher. If you've been in great dividend payers that have made lots of ground, sell them and reload later! No one ever did poorly by locking in profits. If you find yourself questioning this notion, at least set stops in case the reversal really gets going.
The best case scenario for bulls is that we consolidate here and then push higher on great news, however I actually believe we'll pull back 3% to 5% and then hold for another push higher with a few more words from our benevolent leader in the Federal Reserve.
Perhaps we started talking about Facebook as a result of the news leak that Facebook is preparing to unleash its IPO on the world in the coming months. While I have no doubt that the IPO of Facebook will bring billions of dollars of wealth upon Mark Zuckerberg and many others that somehow joined the firm over the years of its infancy, I have to question if the general investing public will be so lucky. Certainly, recent tech IPOs leave us with feelings of the dot.com era rather than a sense that these firms are long for the investing world. Friends on Slope suggest that Facebook is different, that the very name Facebook is part of our daily lexicon and therefore it will be a winner like Google. Perhaps. We will certainly see, but isn't it interesting that Facebook's timing could be almost perfect as the estimated IPO date may be in mid-May, right where I have indicated that I see the top in the market for the year.
Before I go, I wanted to check back in on GRPN since I have publicly stated that I think this is the worst of all the new and hot IPOs that hit the market last year. The business is one that is easy to replicate and unfortunately for many of the clients the results have been very negative. Have a glance at GRPN's chart. If we were trying to spin this for a Facebook post, what would we say?