Warren Buffett Explains Why He Doesn't Use Twitter and Emails

Buffett's advice on delayed reaction

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Apr 23, 2017
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I was re-watching the interview

Warren Buffett (Trades, Portfolio) did with CNBC earlier this year and at the very end of the interview, I bumped into a few wonderful pieces of life advice from him that explained why he doesn’t use email and twitter.

“There's two things I was told in life many, many years ago that turned out to be terrific advice. One is to praise by name and criticize by category. Somebody told me that 40 years ago and Tom Murphy 40 years ago said, ‘Warren, you can always tell somebody to go to hell tomorrow. You haven't lost the option.’ Both of those pieces of advice have been very good. And I would say that both email and Twitter really can cause you to stray from that very easily 'cause if you can just whack out something-- it's very easy to tell somebody to go to hell in ten seconds if you get mad at 'em, or. And-- the very act of having that available instead of writing a letter or doing something of the sort, I think has made a lot more things come outta the-- that people shouldn't have said. I think they'd do better following my philosophy, but I think it's harder to do that-- if you can tweet something out in five seconds, or go to email and - do the same thing.”

Sometimes you really do feel differently the next day. And you haven't lost the option. People have done things where you feel like exploding over it.

(I have used that advice) a fair number of times. For one thing, it's reinforcing in that you see that it works. A lot of people have said things in emails or whatever I wish they hadn't said. And they didn't to say it. And they don't lose the option. You can't tell them to go to hell tomorrow.

It's very important in both places (business and life). You learn about that. I think it was Kierkegaard that said life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards. And you do learn about a lot of dumb things, including writing letters in the past, but now including tweeting and emails. Your first impulse is not necessarily your best course of action.

I would say that if you had a delay system on every email or tweet and it couldn't go out for two hours, I don't think they all would go out that people send.

It really is a mistake to give an instant reaction, you know, to everything that comes along. I guess you're gonna have some things that are irritating for one reason or another. But people will tweet and they'll send emails. And I sent, you know, the one email I sent in my life, you know, ended up in Federal Court. Well, what happened is that Jeff Raikes, a friend of mine from Nebraska was in a top position at Microsoft in the 1990s. On my one email, he emailed and said, ‘Doesn't Microsoft meet all your tests for a wonderful business,’ and laid out some reasons. And I emailed him back as to why I didn't buy Microsoft. And I also threw in some comments on Nebraska football. Well, I guess the U.S. government decided this email that he'd sent me or I'd sent him had some meaning in terms of Microsoft's position in the economy. One day in The Wall Street Journal I see my email is posted for the world. And I thought I didn't worry about what I said about Microsoft, I was worried I'd said something negative about Nebraska football and would have to leave the state forever. Fortunately, I didn't.

Also in a talk (link) that Alice Schroeder gave, she explained why she thinks Buffett and Munger rarely use computer. I thought that was extremely interesting. Here is what she said:

“They (

Charlie Munger (Trades, Portfolio) and Warren Buffett (Trades, Portfolio)) tried to explain why it was that they don’t use computers. The truth is, they are people who are very dependent on information and knowledge. They just are lucky because they have great memories and they have the habit of lifetime learning. And a lot of what the snowball is about, is the concept of learning, and creating, and the advantage of having the information and knowing it. Retrieving information is different from having it already in your head and the internet is great at retrieving and get information. And in effect, Warren Buffett (Trades, Portfolio) and Charlie Munger (Trades, Portfolio) have the mental files in their head. So that’s why they are not out there googling all the time trying to look stuff up because they already know it. But there are applications that for somebody who doesn’t have their prodigious memory and their computational power would need in order to be as successful as them. So sometimes when they say well we don’t really need computers, but ordinary people can’t be them. The lessons that they had which is learning yourself, making yourself as smart as you can, is extremely valid, and not just relying on a library where you can look something up all the time. Because a lot of the times when you need to make a decision and need 50 pieces of information, you need to know it then and that’s been Warren Buffett (Trades, Portfolio) greatest secret of success.”

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