Exciting things are starting to happen now that I have relinquished nearly all social media, (I do still keep an online diary).

The first was that on my birthday, only people that I wanted to hear from called me. Thank GOODNESS! No more plastic calendar chicanery and hundreds of wilted greetings from the blue fake-emotion-book abyss.

The second is that I have regained two hours a day, which I can use in quite productive ways, seeing as the phone isn't incessantly winking and beeping and BEGGING me to touch and fondle it.

I have put these minutes to good use by doing something called READING. Reading, (fast becoming foreign policy these days) uninterrupted by the internet and its time-wasting apps on the glowing rectangle, is one of life's great pleasures. It is also, still, after being invented in Mesopotamia around 5000 years ago, the primary method of education and learning worldwide.


But are we messing it up? I focus so much on financial literacy that I feel I might have missed something far more important, like actual literacy. Without one, it is unlikely that we are going to make a giant amount of progress on the other.

Way back in the 1990s, summer holidays were spent at the beach lying in the sun, soaking up Stephen King, or Dean Koontz, for hours. Someone's Dad had a boat, if you were lucky, from which you would fish. I once caught a 7kg grouper.

We teased the boys in the evenings, sure, but by day, it was books. You can argue content quality all you want, but our attention spans were pretty strong.

Now, if you are 7, or 10, or 14, or however old you are when you procure a cellphone, your day is divided into 10-second flash bites from the device in your pocket.

This teaches you not to pay attention to anything other than yourself and to text whilst driving, biking, walking, eating, using the bathroom, in bed, at work, at school, in the middle of your tennis lessons and so on.

You do not care about any of this, however, because everyone else is doing it too, and so what? Well, good point, if we all just stuck to a lower denominator of something, then no problem! We will simply "satisfice" our way on to the growing mediocrity scrapheap.

Then there is something else. This happens a lot in investing. It's called "I'm sure someone else will have read it" and "What do I need to read this for?"

And, why not, if you are dead cert that all this vicarious-ness is truly happening, and also occurring in your best interests.

The point is we seem to to be relegating reading the details to second class status. We sit in front of the people we care about, (or the bank manager) half-ignoring them to flip and text and chat and post and swipe. We are creating second-hand lives.

The more excited things in sharemarkets get, like this week, when the heat is on and big names are sliding, the worse we are. As if we can frenetically push-button away the issues.

I like to think about what Jack Bogle - indexing hero - has to say: "Markets fluctuate wildly - I've been through three 50 per cent declines and I haven't liked a single one of them. People ask me 'What do you do?' I get out one of my old books and read it."

• Caroline Ritchie is a former AFA, sharebroker and portfolio manager. She runs Investment Stuff, a sharemarket based investment coaching service. Visit her at www.investmentstuff.co.nz. This column is not personalised financial advice.