Why the Bitcoin Community has Failed Bitcoin
“Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies are the future,” is a common refrain in the cryptocurrency community. In many ways, that claim is not wrong…
“Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies are the future,” is a common refrain in the cryptocurrency community. In many ways, that claim is not wrong. The benefits Bitcoin brings are huge, from its ability to combat racism and inequality, or to provide ecommerce entrepreneurs with a strong currency they can more directly control. Those benefits have been sounded off time and time again. But Bitcoin’s benefits have not been realized by the majority of the population.
In 2019, YouGov conducted a survey on Cryptocurrencies, and the findings are interesting. 81% of users said they knew of at least one cryptocurrency (with Bitcoin being the most well known by far, 75% had heard of it). Yet only 35% of Millennials had purchased any kind of cryptocurrency in the past year, among all age groups that drops to 18%. When asked if they felt Bitcoin was going to become more mainstream for purchases, only 40% answered that it would at least somewhat. And, again, it wasn’t just Boomers driving the pack, only a slim majority of Millennials answered favorably. This is both worrisome and confusing. Millennials are often more likely to go for technology to solve their problems. And we are hurting thanks to the economy, and in the US, a lack of societal and governmental support. Bitcoin can help with a lot of those issues. So, added to the above, why do Millennials not go for Bitcoin?
There is still suspicion and ridicule. JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, had a series of tweets in May putting down Bitcoin. Even Elon Musk, frequently seen as a champion for new technology, joined in to question Bitcoin’s validity. Donald Trump, according to John Bolton, told Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin to “Go after Bitcoin.” With all the benefits Bitcoin provides, why are people still distrustful? If Bitcoin is to see mass adoption, we still have a long way to go.
There are a few reasons Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies have not been more widely adopted. Some of those reasons might be hard for enthusiasts to swallow:
- First, is the external. There is a systematic attempt by dictatorial governments, and Wall Street/Big Banks to suppress Bitcoin. In this case, I’m not talking about the IMF or World Bank, or the EU per-say, although the influence of Wall Street/Big Banks over those institutions do create stumbling blocks, they are not the main culprit. Instead, it is forces like Russia, and China, who seek to take cryptocurrency and try to bend it to their will, and their stooges like Donald Trump.
- Second, is the internal, a problem with the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency community regarding messaging and direction. It might not be popular to say, and it is certainly hard to hear, but it must be said. The Bitcoin community is snobbish. They have problems with emitting an aura of welcomeness and education that would go a long to bring Bitcoin into the mainstream. Anybody who truly believes in the mission of Bitcoin should support this. (Libertarianism too)
- Third, is a lack of education. This stems from both of the previous reasons, whether its actors trying to suppress or misrepresent, or members of the Bitcoin community who can’t explain Bitcoin in a way that isn’t condescending nor overly technical (just look at the responses to JK Rowlings’ tweet).
By discussing and working to change these three areas, Bitcoin can go a long way towards mass adoption and realizing its full potential in helping solve many of the world’s problems.
The discussion of the first point is something said before, I’ve even said it before. There are a number of actors that don’t want to see Bitcoin take off. Wall Street and the Big Banks are the one culprit that’s been thoroughly hashed out. They see Bitcoin as a threat to their ability to greedily control the world’s money. Their tentacles are long reaching; they can influence otherwise competent governments to make dangerous mistakes. This is mainly a factor in the West, and exerts control especially over the US government. In recent days, it has come to light that Trump told Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin to “go after Bitcoin”. In response, Mnuchin announced in February, guidelines that would seek to limit Bitcoin.
But the other aspect is something talked about less, that’s authoritarian regimes (and their lackeys) trying to exert control over cryptocurrencies, and perhaps create their own. In this past year, in addition to Trump’s move in February to control Bitcoin, Russia has made moves to ban all cryptocurrencies. Meanwhile, China announced it was creating its own cryptocurrency to compete with Bitcoin. The US, Russia, and China all have the same idea in mind; don’t let Bitcoin get too big and instead offer their own alternatives.
With the three most powerful countries in the world actively against Bitcoin, and many of the most populous, that puts a damper on adoption. Chinese and Russians have played a large role in the mining and usage of Bitcoin, but further rules and government propaganda makes a huge problem. Having the populations of powerful countries, and populated countries is important.
These laws are not going anywhere, only the United States might change its course after the elections this year if Trump is voted out of office. But Wall Street will still exert control over the US government, even if it is lessened. That means, Bitcoin has to fight its own fight, it can’t depend on non-interference or allies.
But to many Bitcoin users, that’s a positive. If one takes a look at the average Bitcoin enthusiast, he is a libertarian (or similar a classical liberal, to non-Americans). A common refrain is to push to limit any kind of government oversight, and to bring down central banks. Unfortunately for Bitcoin enthusiasts, especially those who want to see wide Bitcoin adoption, this can scare off people. Although many complain about taxes, they still like the government providing some stability. The rhetoric of the Bitcoin community can sometimes be problematic.
That could be circumvented though, if the Bitcoin community had the right attitude. Unfortunately, we don’t. There is a sense of snobbishness in the Bitcoin community. Technical statements and tweets are popular, and a sense of superiority because they found Bitcoin before others. However, there is still a common refrain about bringing new people into the fold. How does that mesh?
Take a look at JK Rowlings’ tweet. The response by the Bitcoin community was either angry jabs or over complicated technical explanations. Any attempt to explain it in layman’s terms failed miserably. That’s not to say JK Rowling was not wrong, and didn’t act like a jerk herself, but the Bitcoin community failed in a good opportunity to bring the general public in on Bitcoin. Exploring #bitcoin on Twitter, there’s a lot of price graphs, and in the know memes. That’s not a bad thing, everyone needs a place to discuss, but it can be intimidating to new users. To offset the technicality of Bitcoin, enthusiasts should be friendly, and willing to teach. But all too often that doesn’t seem to happen. There are some exceptions to that rule. r/BitcoinBeginners on Reddit is generally a nice place where newcomers can learn and be greeted with a friendly face, and not get overwhelmed. The Bitcoin community needs more areas like that.
If Bitcoin enthusiasts want to see Bitcoin become adopted on a mass scale, as we claim, there has to be a change in attitude. There can be talk about bringing down Big Money, but until there is action beyond holding Bitcoin, none of that will happen. Bitcoin has to see greater adoption to be able to finish its mission. Right now, the Bitcoin community is hindering that.
Both of the above reasons, authoritarian and Wall Street influence, and an attitude problem in the community means the people are not being educated on Bitcoin. On one hand, there is the propaganda from authoritarian sources. Especially with China’s new cryptocurrency, expect to see increasing propaganda against Bitcoin, and Russian bots will most likely join in. On the other hand, the Bitcoin community right now is not offering a counter point, instead sitting firmly on a high horse with technical and snobbish explanations.
This means, the population is not educated about Bitcoin. Too many people hear the negative things Trump or Putin or Xi Jinping say, and believe them. Take my personal experience. I have been looking to rent a house with my SO. Whenever I’d explain to a potential landlord that fact, to try to avoid concerns later on down the road, I’d be met with skepticism and concern. Finally my SO told me to just stop saying I was paid in Bitcoin, just to not mention it at all. People just don’t think positively of Bitcoin, they find it confusing and possibly fraudulent.
When people are taught about Bitcoin in a friendly, easy to understand manner, they look on it favorably. I had a wonderful conversation with my SO’s mother about Bitcoin. She admitted she was always skeptical of it, but asked me to explain it to her. I believe it helps that I know little about the technical aspects, beyond the basics, but can instead discuss the ideas. I described the basic idea, that Bitcoin was a type of currency just like USD or EUR, but entirely digital. I explained the basic premise of security and anonymity, and I answered any question she had. The key was not to get too technical, and use financial jargon she already knew as an everyday user of currency (as we all are). She was happy with my explanation, and seemed to really be fascinated by the topic. Will she go out and buy Bitcoin tomorrow? No, but she’s now open to the idea that Bitcoin could play a larger role in economic society. Explaining things in easy to understand untechnical ways gets people on board. That’s what needs to be focused on, that kind of education. Until that happens, Bitcoin cannot be adopted on a mass scale.
Bitcoin is a wonderful currency, it has the opportunity, unlike ever before, to become a truly democratized currency. A currency for the people by the people. That is a worthy goal, and something people on both sides of the political aisle could (and should) get behind. But that is not happening yet. On the one side, countries like China and Russia and the US are working to undermine Bitcoin for their own nefarious purposes. They release propaganda (or tweets, in the case of Trump) calling Bitcoin a fraudulent currency. On the other hand, the Bitcoin community itself doesn’t strive to make the entry barrier into the Bitcoin world low.
This means the people are not getting the proper education they need about Bitcoin. The Bitcoin community has failed so far in its mission to bring Bitcoin to the masses. The community must change its tune. Until it does, Bitcoin will remain in its current state.