A few days ago, "fake Warren Buffett" took the world by storm.
I'm speaking about a Twitter account that purported to be that of the famous Berkshire Hathaway CEO, widely recognized as one of the wisest investors ever. Although the account had been established in 2016, it only had about 50 tweets (the first posted a few days ago). The tweets, which shared lessons in life and emotional intelligence (as opposed to investing advice) quickly went viral.
"Stop being impressed by money, fame & status," said one tweet. "Instead, be impressed by those who treat other human beings well, in both good times & bad."
Or how about this for profound:
"We hear everyone say 'work hard.' Working hard isn't always the solution to your problems. Do what's needed to be done, make the right choices and be around good people. What you choose to work on, and who you choose to work with, are much more important than how hard you work."
It was fairly certain the account wasn't the real Warren Buffett. For one, there already is an official Warren Buffett Twitter account, complete with a "verified" blue check mark next to the owner's name, and over 1.4 million followers (although that account's been quite for a couple of years). Second, the newly viral account spelled the name of the famous CEO with a single "t," as in, Warren Buffet.
By yesterday, the fake Buffett account had amassed over 242,000 followers, thousands upon thousands of likes and retweets, and a share from Kanye West.
And then, Twitter suspended the account.
I was fascinated by this whole scenario. I loved the message the account was spreading, and was amazed at how quickly it grew.
So, I set out to discover who was behind it all.
I knew there was a big chance Twitter would suspend the account, so I started collecting evidence early. For example, I copied and pasted all the tweets from the fake Buffett account. (At the time, it was just over 50 tweets, so it only took me a few minutes.)
Then, I did a Google search for exact phrases of many of the tweets. Often, I was directed to recent shares of the fake account...but one account kept coming up in my search results.
It was a separate Twitter account named "Life Advice."
That's right. The Life Advice account had tweeted a number of the exact same viral quotes over the past few years. And even more interesting, it had been steadily retweeting the "Warren Buffet" account as well.
The Life Advice account claimed to be ran by a certain Jo Oz, who described himself (or herself?) as a leadership consultant (among other things), and seems to have written a book entitled, wait for it..."Life Advice."
I reached out to Oz via the email found on the Twitter account, but never received an answer. (I'll update this column if I get a response.) Interestingly, though, after I discovered that the fake Buffett account had been suspended, I immediately checked the Life Advice account...
Only to find it had been suspended, too.
But here's the thing: The real reason these tweets went viral is because people are craving this type of message.
We live in a world of strife and division, where sarcasm and insults rule the day. In fact, Twitter as a platform has struggled immensely with the problems of trolling, bullying, and ad-hominem attacks.
That's what made "Fake Warren Buffett" such a breath of fresh air. We wanted to believe that someone as financially successful as Buffett, someone who had shared other nuggets of wisdom over the years, was now, suddenly, unexpectedly, providing a new (and free) source of motivation and encouragement.
But you know what? Who cares that Warren Buffett wasn't behind that account? It was never about the messenger.
It was about the message.
So, if you're out there, Jo Oz, I've only got one thing to say:
Thank you for spreading your message, in a world that is absolutely craving it.
Hope to see you back on Twitter soon.