Everyone has that one friend who’s obsessed with Bitcoin. That friend knows all about blockchain, distributed ledgers, and cryptography. They know the difference between Ethereum, Monero and Ripple, and they even know the intricacies of a cryptocurrency mine. Most cryptoheads, as I now call those friends, can’t wait to tell you all about the revolutionary optimism of cryptocurrencies, how our lives will be simpler once everything is transacted with unfathomably long codes, and how it’s about time that the traditional banking system had a run for its money.
In the minds of cryptoheads, great ideas need good conversation to catch on and it’s their duty to help communicate the idea of a world run on cryptocurrency. It’s only right that we should be debating issues and phenomena, such as cryptocurrency, if we are to find a responsible way to yield its potential. But in practice, not all of what is said is received with the utopian spirit well-meaning cryptoheads hope to inspire. Some conversations leave people confused, amused and unconvinced.
At the present moment, the world is ablaze with some of these conversations, and I myself have experienced them. On first hearing, some of the things that are said are indeed exciting and make investing worth thinking about. But since I’ve had more or less the same conversation several times now, I’ve had a chance to really think about some of the things that get said about cryptocurrency. While some are exciting, others are jagged and contradictory. Here are some that stick out...
“It’s not dodgy.”
Cryptoheads are often quick to defend Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies against the media narrative that they are pretty shady. But public opinion is not easily swayed by simply negating assertions.
“I know someone who invested back in 2009. They now spend their time surfing in the south of France.”
Most cryptoheads I’ve met know someone who has made their riches from Bitcoin. And maybe it hurts them a little bit to know that this could have been them with a few clicks.
“This is history unfolding. It’s as revolutionary as the internet.”
A key selling point of cryptocurrencies for many people is the revolutionary prospect that you are buying into some inevitable future. This is often the type of sentence that either makes a new cryptohead or creates a staunch critic. You can take being told that 'you’ve had your head in the sand and are missing out on the future' in one of two ways. Feel free to not know whether to be inspired or offended.
“I don’t fully understand it. But that’s ok- no one does.”
If you look at a graph of the value of Bitcoin over time, this is the sentence that will explain why you are seeing what you are seeing. In traditional currency trading, a 2% rise or fall in one day can usually be traced to a significant event. Since you started reading this article Bitcoin has probably either lost or gained 2%. Somehow, cryptoheads don’t recognise that advocating for something that can lose a quarter of its value in a day can leave people a little confused.
“Now’s a good time to get in, before the crowd and regulations.”
Here, the cryptohead feels that he/she is giving you some genuinely golden investment advice, but doesn’t realise the unease people may have over the idea of taking part in unregulated activity.
“Well, I haven’t tried to withdraw it yet.”
Very few cryptoheads will tell you how much money they’ve made because many of them haven’t actually made any. And given its volatility, you can’t get attached to any value of Bitcoin you may think you have.
“Blockchain’s the important innovation, not Bitcoin.”
From transport and voting, to charity, insurance and cyber security, there’s a long list of facets of society that could be revolutionised by blockchain technology. Its ability to systematise trust by recording everything in decentralised public leger, is often at first an easy way of inspiring anyone in conversation. Yet at the same time, this sentence is amusing. Bitcoin is completely dependent on Blockchain technology. Mention of the technology doesn’t necessarily add weight to the appeal of Bitcoin. Why bet on a horse if the racetrack itself is one of the contenders?