A year ago, Bitcoin was practically a foreign language to me.
Then I watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy in which the hospital featured in the show was attacked by a group of hackers, who demanded 4932 Bitcoins in ransom (worth $20 million in the setting of the program). After doing some research and consulting with friends who had bought Bitcoin, I thought, well, maybe I should put some money on it, too. That was my first investment, made before I really understood anything about finance.
At the time, Bitcoin’s price was surging, courtesy of crypto enthusiasts who believed—as many still do—that a digital-currency revolution would overtake fiat currency, defying both governments and institutions. Millennials—like me—defended Bitcoin as a better investment for young people than stocks.
About a month after my initial investment, in December 2017, Bitcoin’s price hit $20,000. A bitcoin exchange founder predicted it would reach $50,000 this year. Yet, $20,000 proved the peak. Last week, the fabled crypto coin was priced just below $4,000.
Upon reflection, I am surprised that I took the leap and invested in something so controversial. Now I work as Engagement Editor at Barron’s and understand a lot more about money, markets, and the nature of financial speculation. For skeptical investors, Bitcoin’s descent must seem like an “I told you so” moment.
Yet, plenty of Bitcoin supporters—particularly young people—remain convinced that the future belongs to crypto, and that the price decline is a huge buying opportunity. As conversations around the topic spike on social media, I’ve been scanning Twitter, Facebook , Instagram, LinkedIn, and Reddit to understand people’s views.
An existential question pops up frequently on crypto threads: “Is Bitcoin dead?”
Few Reddit writers seem to be planning for a funeral. “Nothing has changed for Bitcoin—its proposition gets more and more persuasive with each day that passes,” one commenter wrote.
“If you want to sell now after Bitcoin being 75% down from the top, you are out of your mind. Either hodl or buy more if you have extra fiat to get rid of,” advised another.
Hodl, in case you’re wondering, is Bitcoin slang for hanging on.
It is evident from social-media posts that Bitcoin’s ups and downs have been an emotional ride for many people. On Reddit, posts sharing suicide hotline numbers, and writers offering each other emotional support, are common.
Facebook groups have become another meetup for people seeking advice about cryptocurrencies and sharing their own experiences.
Sheldon Dearr, 28, a security engineer in Texas, wrote “I’ve lost much of my investment and I’m still very happy to be here,” in response to my query about people’s feelings regarding Bitcoin. He explained in a phone call that “it is very hard to shut down something like Bitcoin given that it is open-source,” meaning that it is “mined” through the use of open-source software.
Dearr shares a common vision among Bitcoin believers that it is “a safe haven from politics” and can be immune to the volatility affecting gold and currency values, not to mention corruption. “Bitcoin has this slow-model adoption that is very common in the tech industry, but eventually people will pick it up,” he says. “It is the future.”
He blame’s Bitcoin’s steep slide on short sellers.
Crypto skeptics also have been taking to social media to press their case. On Barron’s Instagram page one user advised: “There’s still an opportunity to sell before a buying setup happens.”
On Twitter, I found comments comparing Bitcoin to the dot-com bubble.
I sold my Bitcoin in April, when it was trading around $7,000. I made the decision because, as I’ve learned at Barron’s, you should know what you own. I didn’t know much about Bitcoin, other than what some people think it stands for. And many people don’t know much about it, like how it is mined and how it might be used in the future—if it is used at all.
Another thing I’ve learned is that the price of Bitcoin doesn’t seem to matter much to its most ardent fans. People bet on a future they believe in. Cryptocurrency is an ideology as much as it is an investment, and ideologies are priceless.