The miracle of technology allows you to conveniently manage your personal finances from your laptop or smartphones. However, with increasing concerns about the impact of online dependency, does an increased focus on your finances bring an increased risk of internet addiction?
This was the question that hit me like a ton of bricks on the first evening of my vacation.
Although I confirmed international roaming with my phone carrier, my cellular service didn’t work. Without access to my texting, Twitter, and FaceTime, I experienced immediate anxiety and some very visceral discomfort. It was alleviated a bit when I was able to set-up my laptop on the hotel Wifi. But then my friends critiqued me for “working too much.” (Their phones were working and they could check them as frequently as they desired.)
After about a day into the vacation, I became pretty damn clear about two things. One, I’m pretty hooked on social media. Two, because my social media is intertwined with my personal finances, I’m pretty hooked on my personal finances.
Almost everything I do with personal finances in accessed through my laptop or my phone. My bills are automated through my online banking system. My savings accounts are with an online bank. My budget and tracking spreadsheets are in MS Excel. My personal finance blogging community (which doubles as a social network and my primary personal finance education source right now) is on Twitter and Facebook.
As soon as the detox jitters settled, I began to speculate on how healthy it is, as a newbie financial blogger, to invest so much time on both social media and finances.
Here are some interesting findings.
Social Media Usage
In an article titled “40 Essential Social Media Marketing Statistics for 2017“, there are some shockingly high statistics about social media usage.
- Facebook continues to be the most widely used social media platform, with 79% of American internet users. Based on total population, (not just internet users) 68% of U.S. adults use it.
- Instagram receives the silver medal with 32% of users, Pinterest coming in a close third with 31%, and LinkedIn and Twitter at 29% and 24% respectively.
- 76% of Facebook users visited the site daily during 2016, with over 1.6 billion daily visitors, compared to 70% of daily usage in 2015.
- 51% of Instagram users access the platform daily, and 35% say they look at the platform several times per day.
But that’s overall usage. How about daily usage? How much time are people really using social media.
Per the Statistica portal, “as of 2016, daily social media usage of global internet users amounted to 118 minutes per day, up from 109 daily minutes in the previous year.” By the chart above, you can see the usage trend is only increasing year-over-year. Scrunch a few number and you see that daily social media usage has increased 23% since 2012. At this rate, social media will claim over 2 hours of people’s day. That’s 13% of our waking hours!
What happens when that 2 hours of social media time becomes habituated. Well, for some, it may transition into an addiction.
Social Media Addiction
According to a Lifewire article, “addiction usually refers to compulsive behavior that leads to negative effects. In most addictions, people feel compelled to do certain activities so often that they become a harmful habit, which then interferes with other important activities such as work or school. In that context, a social networking addict could be considered someone with a compulsion to use social media to excess.”
The article also cited at Researchers at Chicago University that concluded that social media addiction can be stronger than addiction to cigarettes and booze and a Harvard University where researchers found that self-disclosure communication stimulates the brain’s pleasure centers much like sex and food do.
While psychologists have yet to add media addiction to any official lists, internet addiction is a growing concern.
Author and psychologist, Dr. Jeremy Bean, states that there is a huge debate about internet addiction in his book Making Habits, Breaking Habits. “Some psychologists have suggested that we should think about deficient self-regulation.” With deficient self-regulation, people don’t notice how much time and energy they are putting into online activities and they don’t seem to have control. He does admit that despite what it is called, in the most extreme cases:
“The habit starts to eat away at other activities, close relationships, work, and anything approaching a normal life.”
For the folks over at the Center of Internet Addiction, they’ve been tracking the trend since 1995. They even developed their Internet Addiction Test (IAT) to measure Internet use in terms of mild, moderate, to several levels of addiction. FYI–I recommend trying the test for yourself and, as a point of reference, I scored “Moderate” addiction.
Time Investment in Personal Finances
While I was freaking out about my newly self-diagnosed internet addiction problem, I started to wonder how much time people the average person spends tending to their personal finances.
I’m sure there are as many opinions on this matter than there are personal finance bloggers (and damn, there are a lot of us.) While I admit I didn’t conduct extensive research, the results were a bit surprising–and mixed.
- One blog suggests “We should all carve out time each week for money management…carve out an hour per week to manage your finances. That hour can make all the difference.”
- A thread on HackerNews got some pretty vehement replies to a post that stated “Accounting for personal finances is a waste of time. Businesses need accounting. Humans need nurturing and growth.”
- A blogger named Ask Mr. Credit card has an article dedicated to evaluating if he was “spending too much of our time on personal finance? (At the detriment of other things).” He concluded that “I don’t think we should spend too much time on it” and included a list of things to reduce the time spent on personal finances, including a financial plan/advisor and automated investing.
- David Ning of MoneyNing blog admits he “spends more than 2 hours a day on my personal finances.”
As an individual, I’d estimate spending about 30 minutes a day on actively managing my money. (Note: this is a current estimate now that I’ve automated my bill payment and savings deposits.)
As a personal finance blogger, I’d estimate spending about 4-6 hours a day on reading, researching, writing, networking, posting, scheduling, commenting, and maintaining my site. I consider many of these activities as passive management of my money because I’m learning so much about personal finances in the process.
However, blog or no, it wasn’t until I invested serious chunks of time in my personal finances did anything truly improve.
The Blurry Line
I’m moderately addicted to the internet. I’m also moderately addicted to being a personal finance blogger.
If you prescribe to the belief that increased focus bring increased success, then I should spend more time on my personal finances. But by doing that, won’t I be also increasing my online time, furthering my already questionable “self-regulation deficiency”?
Conversely, if I dial back my online usage, will my personal finances suffer? In fact, are they already suffering because I’m investing more time on blogging and networking?
Those are the questions that have been distracting me during my vacation. As I write this, I am quite literally staring out of the Pacific Ocean from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, the sound of crashing waves not 100 feet away. I have a Pacifico cerveza in one hand and a computer mouse in the other. The Saturday night “jump up, jump up and get down” anthem throbbing from the disco mere steps down the beach.
My friends are all out at dinner. I stayed behind to write this blog. Problem? Maybe, maybe not.
Maybe because it may indicate that I’m a bit too attached to writing and my “online activities.”
Maybe not because, between you and me, I spent enough money today. I paid for breakfast for four, bought a bottle of rum and Fireball, and some silver earrings from the wiling-to-negotiate beach vendor. It’s only my second day here and I need to be cautious of my spending.
Does this financial frugality sound fucking ridiculous from a girl on a week-long trip to paradise? Perhaps. But this vacation is being hosted by my more well-do-to best friend. She and her husband have graciously opened their celebrity-style timeshare to her friends. My other BFF is a high-paid doctor. My third BFF is enjoying the generosity of her doting boyfriend; an established, well-paid general contractor.
I’m the “poor one” here despite my decent income. I’m the lady who is struggling to get out of debt. I’m the lady who needs to prioritize her own financial future.
Am I addicted to personal finance blogging and the associated online activities? Yes, yes I am.
But it’s only because I want to host my very best friends on our next trip of a lifetime.