The Real Facebook Shocker

I can watch the same movie 100 times. But I don’t sit down and enjoy the show from start to finish. I’ll typically stumble across an old favorite when flipping channels, watch 30 to 45 minutes, then turnrn off the TV.

It drives my wife crazy. Watch it, or don’t. But don’t watch just part of it!

I don’t think of them as movies, or even TV shows. I think of them as old friends.

And there’s none more endearing than “Casablanca.” The film has little action and just a few simple sets, but the storyline and dialogue draw you in.

Visitors to the real Casablanca can visit Rick’s Café, but there was no such establishment in the 1940s. It’s a knockoff meant to play on people’s sentimentality for the movie.

I don’t have to travel to Morocco to get my fix. All I have to do is listen to people talk about companies, and then watch how they invest.

One of my favorite lines in “Casablanca”comes when Captain Louis Renault, who is allowed to win at the roulette table in the café, shuts the place down.

He tells Rick, “I’m shocked – shocked! – to find that gambling is going on here!”

Captain Renault was feigning outrage to appease the Germans, even after he’d profited at the very tables he closed down.

The scene reminds me of Facebook (Nasdaq: FB).

In the past several weeks we learnrned that Facebook shared user data, including access to friends, birthdays, hometowns, etc., with app developers long after the company claimed to have quit the practice in 2015.

These app developers help Facebook attract and maintain users, which drives ad revenue, the essence of Facebook profits.

I’m shocked – shocked! – to find that Facebook continues collaborating with companies that help it drive revenue!

Give me a break.

What really shocks me is that this story deserves front page status at The Wall Street Journrnal.

We all know that Facebook, and every other company that makes money on digital advertising, sells everything we give them. And no matter how loudly we protest, we’re willing participants in the transaction.

As I wrote in March and then followed up in April, we want everything for the lowest possible price, and we’re willing to trade our private information to get it.

After revelations in March that Facebook shared our data with the world, the stock swooned. Analysts expected users to revolt and head for the exits because no one wants to share their data. But I didn’t think so.

After a brief dip, I expected Facebook to bounce back because users like the price they pay (zero) for sharing cat videos and pictures of their dinner. We might yell and scream with indignation, but we can’t help ourselves when it comes to sharing online.

Facebook shares fell roughly 20% during the dust up, but are now up 24% since I noted it was time to buy on April 12. The S&P 500 is up 3.8% over the same time, and the Nasdaq is up 8.1%. Go figure.

This isn’t about stock picking. I didn’t personally buy Facebook in early April.

Instead, this is about our national psychology and changing social fabric. It extends well beyond the share price of an online social media company.

As a nation, we’re reinforcing our differences while marginalizing our common interests. The outcome is predictable. We move further apart from those with different views.

Instead of meeting in the halls of social clubs, churches, or at company picnics where we might exchange ideas, we meet in the marketplace, with little more in common than commerce.

Our shared interests are narrowing to what we buy and sell.

On that basis, our standing can be summed up by computing how much money we make, spend, and save. If we can shave a few bucks off the expense category by giving up personal data, so what? We’ll be outraged for a few minutes, then look past it as we check out our Facebook page.

The series of events might not make for a feel-good story, but they were predictable.


Follow me on Twitter @RJHSDent

Rodney Johnson

Rodney’s investment focus tends to be geared towards trends that have great disruptive potential but are only beginning to catch on to main-stream adapters. Trends that are likely to experience tipping points in the next 5 years. His work with Harry Dent – studying how people spend their money as they go through predictable stages of life and how that spending drives our economy – helps he and his subscribers to invest successfully in any market.