Build Knowledge Like Warren Buffett. Stay Away From Social Media

Thursday, January 11, 2018
Catherine Morin

Notorious business leader Warren Buffett does not spend much time on social media. He dedicates a significant part of his time to reading, which he considers being the key to success.

In today's fast-paced life, most of us are so starved for time that reading often seems like a luxury.  However, going through books to acquire knowledge can be extremely easy if you manage time effectively and modify your habits.

Internationally recognized for his leadership and management skills, Warren Buffett is one of the most successful investors of all time. He runs the multinational holding company Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which owns over 60 businesses, including restaurant chain Dairy Queen, insurer Geico, and battery maker Duracell.

Berkshire Hathaway is famous for having the most expensive share price in history. With a net worth of $81.5 billion, Buffett is currently the second wealthiest person in the United States.

Considering that he joined Twitter in 2013 and now has 1.5+ million followers, you might think he would be active on the platform. However, he has only tweeted nine times as of January 2018, and he does not follow anyone.

Reading Is the key to Success

Students from an investing class at Columbia University once asked Buffett about his secret to success. He reached toward a pile of manuals and said,  "Read 500 pages like this every day. That's how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it." The CEO reportedly spends five to six hours a day poring over different newspapers. He also reads at least 500 pages of financial documents daily.

Buffett credits most of his great business decisions to his reading habit. "I read and think" he once said. He takes the time to get the facts, then he sits and thinks critically. By analyzing new information thoroughly, he makes fewer impulse decisions than most people in the business. He is highly selective about what he reads, choosing to be educated over being entertained. He considers that similar reading habits can improve anyone's intelligence and success.

Several other top business leaders make reading a significant part of their daily life:

- Mark Cuban reads more than three hours every day

- Bill Gates reads at least a book per week

- Elon Musk credits his success to his voracious reading habit

- Mark Zuckerberg reads at least a book every two weeks

With its numerous benefits, reading can be a pathway to success. Here are 7 main advantages of reading on a regular basis.

Increased Knowledge

Every book you read is a chance to expand your knowledge further. You can take something away from any written work. By reading, you can learn information and lessons that will be useful for the rest of your life. The more knowledge you have, the better equipped you are to face challenges and unforeseen events.

Source of Inspiration

Some written works are highly inspiring. For example, biographies of successful people can motivate you. Reading about the struggles and successes of others can help you plan goals and drive you forward to meet targets. Even fictional literature can give you role models and heroes.

Better Vocabulary

Reading new material expands your vocabulary, and improves your writing and speaking skills. Dedicating time to reading can help you become a great orator and writer.

Improved Analytical Thinking

Reading a variety of literature from diverse perspectives makes you more creative and innovative. It also enables you to see all angles of an issue. By going through a lot of written works, you can also engage in literal analysis, which can significantly develop your critical thinking.

Improved Memory

The more you read and learn, the easier it becomes to remember information. Reading on a regular basis is an effective way to exercise your mind and to keep it sharp.

Increased Focus

Reading takes patience and concentration. To be able to read you must focus and avoid distractions. The ability to focus on one task for an elongated period of time makes you more productive and successful.

Reduced Stress

Successful people are productive because they are able to manage stress. Studies have shown that reading can reduce tension and give you peace of mind.

Entering a fascinating literary world can take you away from reality and help you escape the worries of everyday life. Reading is, therefore, an easy, accessible way to deal with stress.

Read 200 Books in a Year

Writer Charles Chu took Warren Buffett's advice to engage in reading every day, and it changed his life for the better. While he did not quite make 500 pages a day, he read over 200 books in a year. In an article published on Quartz, he asserts he managed to go through that huge amount of books by reducing his social media usage. " All it takes to start reading a lot more is to take 'empty time' spent Twitter-stalking celebrities or watching Desperate Housewives and convert some it to reading time ", he explains.

Following this logic, the average American, who spends around 608 hours on social media each year, could easily read hundreds of books by changing their habits. Any ordinary person can notably expand their knowledge within a short time and thus become more productive and successful.

Social Media and Work

In the digital era, it is perfectly normal, even necessary, to use social media for professional purposes. They are powerful marketing tools that can highly benefit businessmen. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram give immense visibility to enterprises and allow business leaders to interact with their customers on a personal level. However, it is easy to start using social media for business motives with a clear plan in mind, and then to become addicted to the social aspects of the platform. Within a few weeks, you can find yourself watching videos, chatting with friends, or commenting on photos while neglecting your real work.

Social Media and Knowledge

Many people use social media to get information quickly and to keep themselves up to date with current affairs. The opportunity to access data whenever needed may seem like an ideal way to rapidly build knowledge. Online platforms, however, are not optimized to provide factual news and information. Since there are no filters on the Internet, anyone can share content, and there is no verification of what is being posted. An average user who reports an event online might not be able to provide all the details or to present the information in its proper context. There are some people who only focus on what they want to report. They purposely omit details that may shed a different light on the event. Numerous users do not share information with as much integrity as professional authors or reporters would. They sometimes post biased content, which can distort reality.

Companies like Facebook and Twitter have established personalization algorithms that cater to specific information to individuals' online newsfeeds. Therefore, users access a high proportion of articles and posts that reinforce their existing views and opinions when they log in to their account. This can lead to an echo chamber effect. The term is analogous to an acoustic echo chamber where sounds reverberate in a hollow enclosure. It is a metaphorical description of a situation in which information and ideas are reinforced by communication and repetition, and where different views are underrepresented. This effect often occurs on social media when like-minded people group together and make claims in one specific direction. Participants in these online exchanges may find their opinions constantly echoed back to them, which reinforces their individual beliefs and makes their present worldview seem more universally accepted than it really is. On certain platforms, like Twitter, echo chambers are more likely to occur with political topics. This effect can create significant barriers to critical thinking and knowledge building.

Information found in books and newspapers has been collected following a thorough process and is presented in an objective manner. This data is therefore much more reliable than what is posted on social platforms. Written works help readers understand the information better by providing detailed explanations and analyses. Poring over manuals and official news reports is a much more effective way to obtain in-depth knowledge than consulting social media.

How to Reduce Social Media Usage

Even if you are informed of the benefits of reading and aware of the downsides of using social media, it is extremely hard to change habits overnight. Interacting online is now so ingrained in our daily lives that social platforms seem indispensable. These sites are designed to be addictive. Background colors, fonts, and audio tones are carefully selected to maximize engagement and minimize frustration. The "like" button, introduced by Facebook in 2009 and adopted by other platforms shortly after, provides instant social approval. Today, most of us reach for social apps hoping that someone liked our stuff. This craving for validation leads billions of people around the world to engage on platforms on a daily basis. "The Like button, simple as it was, tapped into a bottomless font of social feedback," explains Adam Alter, author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked.

Social media give users the opportunity to share content about themselves with an audience. Instant disclosure of favorable information or pictures can be quite gratifying, and become addictive. A study conducted at Harvard University revealed that the act of disclosing information about oneself activates the same part of the brain that is associated with the sensation of pleasure that we get from eating, receiving money, or even having sex.

Sharing a status update on Facebook or on Twitter is considered to be a rewarding experience by the human brain. It is therefore extremely tempting to engage on these platforms on a regular basis.

While quitting social media cold turkey may not be conceivable, several tips can help you reduce your usage.

1. Delete all apps from your phone

With features like autoplay, endless scroll, push notifications and reverse chronological timelines, mobile social media apps can be even more addictive than desktop versions. Social media are now accessible anywhere, anytime with smartphones, and people have developed a habit of looking at their accounts whenever they are bored. Not being able to see the apps on your phone anymore may help you reduce your social media presence.

2. Focus

Limiting the number of social platforms you use can be a good way to spend less time interacting online. Focus on the apps that are the most relevant to your work and personal life. For example, you can promote your business on Twitter and use Facebook to contact loved ones. Use one single platform to create a network of friends and family, and only add people from work and customers to another site. By using one social platform exclusively for professional purposes, you will avoid finding yourself chatting with friends or liking pictures instead of focusing on work.

3. Use a schedule

Limit your usage of social media by logging in at specific times only. Schedule online interaction when you know you have a break, or when all your day's work is usually done. When using the computer, do not leave social media sites open in a web browser tab.

4. Set a timer

You may have difficulty keeping track of time when you use social platforms. To avoid catching yourself browsing Twitter or Instagram for hours, try setting a timer with an alarm. Forcing yourself to log off and move on to a new task when it rings will help you be more productive throughout the day.

5. Communicate with people in different ways

Some people develop social media addiction because they regularly use a site to communicate with someone instead of calling them. Try to have conversations with loved ones via phone or in person. For example, when it is your friend's birthday, call them instead of posting on their Facebook wall. Having genuine exchanges will reinforce your friendship.

Simple Advice

Many people have reported feeling more present and more productive after limiting their social media utilization. Some even experienced a significant reduction of their stress level. Reduced online interaction gives you time to read, which, among other significant benefits, allows in-depth knowledge building. Following Warren Buffett's advice to read on a daily basis can be pretty simple if you know how to manage time and are able to stay away from social media.