Column: The (not so) true path to happiness

If sound advice isn’t coming from a verified source, how much value can it really have?

For anyone seeking a morale boost in these somewhat troubling times, the virtual cesspool we call Twitter isn’t the first place I’d usually recommend.

It’s a famously snarky platform, where a well intentioned comment or observation can quickly escalate into an ugly exchange of insults.

But, it turns out, it’s also the place to find words of wisdom from none other than Warren Buffett (well, not really, but I’ll get to that).

An American billionaire’s account is not one I would have thought to seek out, but someone retweeted something recently that struck a chord, so I gave it a follow. The account regularly churns out snippets that, as truisms go, are often worth a moment’s consideration.

Among them: “Talk to yourself kindly,” and “Don’t be consumed by what went wrong or what didn’t work out. You’re still learning.”

Often, the tweet will open with a category — a mini thesis statement, if you will — “Signs of maturity; 6 important life lessons; Things that change your life in one year.”

My original thought was that I’d share a bit of it here because, as I said, we’ve been inundated with negativity from nearly every direction lately and it seemed like a good time for a mental palate cleanse.

Imagine my surprise to discover I was following a fake account.

The real Mr. Buffett — now 88 and worth $85 billion US — does have a Twitter account, but he tweets, at most, once or twice a year. Despite the dearth of valuable life advice handed out there, it’s noteworthy that his account still has 1.4 million followers.

Looking back, I probably should have been tipped off by the absence of the blue checkmark and the notion that Warren Buffett would dedicate so much time and energy to a Twitter account .

That wasn’t what finally clued me in, though, I’m embarrassed to admit. Rather, a bit of Googling as I sat down to write this column led me to a BBC story about a fake Warren Buffett account, which after only a few days in existence had already racked up a couple of million likes.

On it, sage bits of life advice were being lapped up by a growing army of tweeps.

The BBC story posited whether the success of the account might “be attributed to our desperation for positive content in these dark times?”

Great question.

Reading a little further, I realized the account they had unmasked was WarrenBuffet99. It has since been suspended.

I, on the other hand, have been following WarrenBuffettHQ. Yes, the account is also a fake, but it’s been around since 2013 and openly acknowledges being a parody (another overlooked clue).

It also contains the same helpful lists for living well that the suspended account reportedly posted. So it appears that one fake account was ripping off another — Twitter’s version of Inception.

All the fakery aside — and there are many parody accounts out there, so it’s nothing new — “not actually Warren Buffett” has offered some pretty solid advice for staying positive and making progress in your life.

And unlike another famous rich guy’s verified account, it involves no malice. Nobody is being threatened or badmouthed. It’s not filled with complaints about perceived slights or self-aggrandizing claims.

The fact the posts aren’t actually being made by Buffett shouldn’t devalue the advice, but of course it makes it all seem just that little bit less authoritative.

You might ask yourself, if it’s not necessarily the path to unlimited wealth, why should I bother to “read and learn continuously,” or be “grateful, empathetic and respectful?”

Do I really need “six rules to lead a healthy life” if they’re not coming straight from the obscenely rich horse’s mouth?

These are questions we can only answer for ourselves.

But if I might share a few words of wisdom I saw on an unverified Twitter account the other day, “You don’t need anyone’s permission to be: grateful, honest, forgiving, generous, kind, mindful (or) happy.”

Least of all, a phony billionaire’s.

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