There comes a moment in any digital revolution when its most ardent mansplaining soldiers become so insufferably, unapologetically obnoxious, a resistance is born.
Currently, there is a growing opposition to cryptocurrency in all its forms. Many, many people are getting very weary of all the Bitcoin Boys, Ethereumytes, and some litecoin hanger-ons.
This movement is different. Unlike past insurgencies, much of the opposition isn’t centered on the technology itself; it’s hard to get emotional about blockchain technology. Instead people have a problem with the breathtaking arrogance of its most loyal defenders, who love to brag that bitcoin is a “democratic movement,” all while using the most inaccessible, erudite language they can.
(Full disclosure: I have made several small investments in both bitcoin and litecoin, worth approximately one appetizer plus an entrée at the Cheesecake Factory.)
There is nothing that grates me, and thousands of other smart, educated people who’ve sat through your crypto explainers, more than listening to a certain breed of investors. They tend to fall into one of three categories.
1. The Prescient Professor
This is someone who bought bitcoin in 2009 for pennies, and starts every sentence with “When I bought bitcoin in 2011, it was worth [something that makes you feel bad]. It’s now valued at [something that makes you feel even worse].” The Prescient Professor will repeat this history every time they see you, regardless of your reaction, with no consideration for their volume level and as if they’re suffering from some kind of arrogance-induced amnesia.
2. The Bitcoin Bear
Bitcoin Bears love belittling people who are fearful that bitcoin may be a bubble. They love talking down to people who are suspicious that something called Dogecoin may actually hold any value. Any skittishness on your part can only be contributed to your digital currency illiteracy. Selling now? They’ll tell you you’ll be crying tomorrow when WhateverCoin doubles its value, based on data they gathered from RandoUnverifiedBlog.com and @SelfNominatedCurrencyExpert.
Think libertarians are bad? Try cyberlibertarians like the Bitcoin Utopian.
The Utopian, an eight-pound skeleton of a human who nonetheless calls himself a “miner,” is convinced that blockchain technology is the key to freedom, and that cryptocurrencies — free from the influence of the centralized banking system — is the most radical, decentralized kind of democracy there is. Beware speaking to this person after they’ve had more than one IPA.
If that’s democracy, I’m… bored by it. I guarantee you that 90 percent of the population doesn’t understand how it operates, which makes it — you’ve got it — not democratic. And if it’s still going to call itself democracy, I’d like it to come with better healthcare, thanks.
The cultural backlash to cryptocurrency is taking multiple forms. On the one side, there are journalists and wannabe markets experts who dominate the “bitcoin is a bubble” content industry, and revel in every dip in price. There’s solid evidence to support their thesis, but their absolutism is its own monetary policy utopianism. We should be skeptical of their schadenfreude, and try to not retweet the worst of its genre on Twitter.
Other, more grounded, backlash against cryptocurrency comes in the form of traditional investigative journalism. It’s been known for years that bitcoin is often the currency of choice for drug and sex traffickers. Only recently did journalists discover just how heavily white nationalists like Richard Spencer, banned from PayPal and ApplePay, depend on bitcoin for their organizations’ survival. Twitter account @NeonaziWallets estimates how many bitcoin transactions suspected Neo-Nazis do daily, and the numbers are depressing.
There are plenty of reasonable, humanitarian reasons to divest from Bitcoin — and some charitable ones as well.
Still, the best critique comes from us regular folks on Twitter, using every joke setup in our toolbox to subvert the cryptoromantics. If you look closely at the tweets, it’s not the technology itself that annoys people, it’s the cultural attitudes that come alongside it. It’s the holier-than-thou sentiments as well as the compulsive bragging. I can’t make it through a meal in Brooklyn without hearing someone scream about their Bitcoin investment. Congratulations! You have more money than me. And, lol, it’s still not enough to buy an apartment in New York.
Here’s the plan: we tank the value of Bitcoins by all agreeing to start calling them Nerd Dollars
— pixelated boat (@pixelatedboat) December 8, 2017
Haha, I feel sorry for all you losers who missed out on the Bitcoin train. You should’ve bought in years ago, like me: A perfectly normal man who coincidentally hoarded a virtual currency during a time when it’s only use was for sex trafficking and purchasing organs.
— Shane (@Shanehasabeard) December 8, 2017
— Johan Elmquist (@Johan_Elmquist) December 23, 2017
Try making it rain down at the club with your stupid bitcoins nerds
— Bucky “ask me about updog” Isotope (@BuckyIsotope) December 8, 2017
There’s one line that runs through all of these jokes — that this supposedly pure democratic currency has it own kind of elitism. It might be cheap to “invest” in Ethereum or Litecoin, but to do so with a degree of financial literacy requires education, formal or otherwise. Understanding these currencies and the risks they pose can be formidable for anyone unfamiliar with the nuances and fluctuations of cryptocurrency.
So if you’re choosing to invest, or convincing others to invest, do so responsibly. Don’t brag, humblebrag, or mansplain. Give answers only when asked questions. Speak using your indoor voice, and spare us the inscrutable GIFs. There won’t be a cultural backlash against all this nonsense if there’s nothing annoying enough for us to rebel against.