This is an opinion editorial by Holly Young, Ph.D., an active builder in the Portuguese Bitcoin community.
The number of people buying and using Bitcoin is on the rise. Jason Deane calculated that in the first six months of 2021, the number of Bitcoin users grew by about 165 people per minute. It sounds like a lot — right?
But we need to get to a point where Bitcoin takes its place in common parlance and we all have a role to play.
If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’ve been through the personal epiphany which is the “discovery” of Bitcoin. Most of us can recognize the stages in others too. We tend to move from skepticism to a tentative trying out of Bitcoin and a small investment, a (usually brief) phase in which we think this or that altcoin is also a viable investment (be honest, you probably did too at some point and no, it wasn’t just the state of the market at the time – doing your own research also includes at least considering the other options before concluding that maximalism is the way forward). And then comes the fall — for most of us precipitous and irreversible — down the rabbit hole. In that phase, we can’t get enough. We’re hungry for real information about money. Most of us have been that person who sits for 30 minutes in a stationary car at their destination to listen to the last bit of the podcast as the penny drops. Not just one penny, but a shining cascade of them. I know I have.
Then comes the time when your life starts changing too. You start questioning everything — because if what you knew before about money was untrue, what does that mean for health care? For diet? For family or dating? Even your relationship with God?
There’s no denying it — “finding” Bitcoin is absolutely life changing, and once you have seen it, there’s just no going back.
For many of us, this can bring some difficult life changes. We can find ourselves alienated from previous social circles, even from relationships and family. And then comes the sudden, wonderful realization that the Bitcoin community is already out there. For many of us, spending time with other Bitcoiners represents the first time that we have not been considered an outsider.
Then we want to tell everyone we know about it. We are just desperate to inform friends, family, colleagues — hell, even that random stranger who happened to be standing next to us in the supermarket queue. For many of those people, that contact and learning process will be as life changing as it has been for you and I. But it does still happen on a regular basis that we fail to bring the message we intended to bring and that the learning opportunity which that supermarket queue provided is missed. Adoption is, frankly, nowhere near where we would expect it to be, considering the circumstances. So, where are we going wrong?
Bitcoin At The Kitchen Table
Let’s face it, it’s hard to talk about money. According to this article, money is in the top three subjects which couples argue about, along with sex and children. (Incidentally, the Bitcoin community clears up those topics too.)
Being able to discuss money within your family is a really crucial skill. We should be able to hold fluid, relaxed conversations about money and the basis of these conversations must be about the real nature of money — where it comes from, how it works and what we need it to do. In order to get to this point we need to educate friends and family about algebra (money) and trigonometry (banking and the financial system) before explaining calculus (bitcoin). Talking in extremely practical terms can be very helpful for this. What problem does bitcoin solve for you? What problem does bitcoin solve for friends and family? What problem does bitcoin solve for those who live in the global South or under repressive regimes?
We are also suffering from a dearth of good, accessible learning resources for this purpose. The Bitcoin Standard is a fantastic resource for those really willing to learn about money but still requires a significant time investment and may be a bit much to ask of anyone only just starting out. We need more resources for people to look at in the first half hour of their interest — resources which will give a nutshell overview and pique interest in learning more. We need some good Bitcoin books for children — because children are always the future, and our children in particular as those who will have learned at the earliest age about Bitcoin — who will never have known a world before Bitcoin, in many cases. Quick shoutout here to the Bitcoin Rabbi, Michael Caras for writing one excellent one: “Bitcoin Money: A Tale of Bitville Discovering Good Money.”
Put Your Twitter Handle Down And Step Away With Your Hands In The Air
Guys. We need to talk about Twitter.
Just as much as we all go through a phase of thinking this or that altcoin is the next great investment before we see sense and denounce altcoins for the scams they are, we also all go through a phase of telling ourselves and others that we are on Twitter “to learn.” As with all the most convincing excuses, there is a grain of truth there. Negotiating your way through the plethora of Bitcoin content, the good, the bad and the ugly, can be a tough call. Twitter can help you identify the people — influencers, if you will — who have the hottest word on Bitcoin, who have the sweetest soundbites, who can most succinctly tell you why they are a Bitcoin Maximalist this week.
It is also about who hates who right now, who we are canceling because they might have had the audacity to charge for a course, because they dared to suggest that maximalism is getting a little toxic around the edges or whomsoever currently has the dubious honor of being the focus of negative attention.
While Twitter has undeniably played a vital role in the development of the international Bitcoin community (and may I just take a moment to acknowledge that many Bitcoiners, very justifiably, love Jack Dorsey) it is also playing a destructive role, slurping up our time and our attention and wasting our energy on pointless infighting. We’re never going to insult people into financial freedom. Encouraging people to do their own research is undermined by cancel culture.
We need solid, interesting, engaging materials for those who are starting out and learning about Bitcoin.
Here’s a thought. Take a look at how much screen time you spend on Twitter each day and make a pledge: take half of that time and spend it explaining Bitcoin to someone new or developing something online which people can use as a learning resource instead.
If you want to scrap on Twitter, do it privately. Take it outside, into the virtual car park of direct messages.
A Call To Arms
Who have you orange pilled this week? We underestimate the power of community — and joining a community as such is not necessarily a part of becoming a Bitcoiner — just one of the beautiful things about the freedom it brings is that you get to choose how far into the experience you want to go. But once you have seen the ugly soul of the fiat system and the pristine alternative Bitcoin offers, you can’t look away. It could even be argued that there is a moral and ethical duty there to help others towards a better system, too.
So here is my request. Take some of your time this week to make some positive contributions in the form of orange piling. We can’t all be Jack Dorsey, Michael Saylor or Lyn Alden. But we can all make Bitcoin the subject for discussion around the kitchen table. We can all share the knowledge and information we have gleaned ourselves with those close to us — yes, even in the supermarket.
Invest some of your time thinking about the message about Bitcoin that you share with others. Troubleshoot your approach. Are you doing something effectively? Where are you going wrong? And if you can, share these learning experiences, too.
This is a guest post by Holly Young. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.