Offchain: You Say Meme, I Say Community

Offchain: You Say Meme, I Say Community

Crypto is having its memecoin moment. Is it a tribute to crypto’s fundamental emptiness or a celebration of its enduring community?

Yo brah, don’t know if you’ve noticed but memecoins are going fkn off chops right now.

PEPE is up 800% in a month. In the same period, SHIB has tripled in price, dogwifhat (WIF) is up more than 500% and FLOKI has done the same, while also taking over a billboard in Times Square. Solana, which briefly crossed US$200 per token, is giving birth to literally thousands of memecoins every day (not a typo) and AVAX ain’t far behind. People are sending millions of dollars to anonymous wallets on the promise that a memecoin might soon be released.

Sure almost all of them are gonna be rug pulls or go straight to zero, but memories of the guy who put US$17 into SHIB in October 2020 and walked away with US$15 million less than a year later are still strong. Why wouldn’t you dump a few bucks into a whole heap of dumb coins and see what happens? (A method I like to call “spray and pray”.)

What’s happening to memecoins right now reminds me of the DeFi summer of 2020 or even late 2017’s ICO mania. And like those eruptions of mass hysteria, there’s every chance it becomes the defining story of this cycle. So, should we be lamenting or celebrating Memecoin March?


I may be an idiot, but I’m not stupid

Nothing makes crypto skeptics more apoplectically furious than memecoins. Already convinced that crypto has no purpose, to then be presented with a multibillion dollar financial ecosystem whose entire MO is purposelessness must be a direct insult on par with those Frenchmen from Monty Python and the Holy Grail yelling “I fart in your general direction”.

And sure, at a basic level, this feels like a quick vindication of the “financial nihilism” theory from a few issues ago. For young people raised on generational inequality and financial powerlessness, gambling seems as good a use for your money as stashing it in a low interest savings account. How else are you gonna afford a house?

I reckon that’s underselling what’s happening here though. Back in December, the Avalanche Foundation announced that they’d be investing US$100 million into memecoins as part of a Culture Catalyst fund. In the announcement, the Foundation described the coins as representing “the fun, spirit, uniqueness and interests of diverse crypto communities”.

Rather than memecoins, the Foundation has taken to calling them “community coins”. Sure, it’ll never take off, but I think we can stop to appreciate the sentiment. 

Beneath all the wilful silliness, what makes these coins interesting – and what the Avalanche Foundation is trying to harness – is that their velocity and dynamism is driven entirely by the people shitposting on Discord, trolling on TikTok and nurturing their $17 investment like it’s the nest egg they feel they’ll never have. At a basic level, people are having fun and on the modern internet that’s a quantity in desperately short supply. Maybe that is worth celebrating.

What if the real gains were the friends we made along the way?

Alright, I’m about to blow your mind: every successful cryptocurrency started as a community coin. You can talk the biggest game you want – and people in crypto certainly do – but you cannot get noticed without a group of people who come together to say “Yes, this is my coin. I believe in it. And so do all these other cartoon animals masquerading as Twitter influencers.” 

Bitcoin may have ascended into the financial pantheon, but a decade ago it was just another functionless curiosity with dreams of one day hitting the big time. Fortunately it had a lot of believers and they found strength in numbers – and memes.

This is surely the thing that sets crypto apart and the thing that makes it so enduring despite all the ups and downs, the scandals and scams and repeated cycles of over-promising and under-delivery. Crypto is fundamentally social in a way that stocks simply aren’t. A cryptocurrency’s identity is shaped and moulded by the people who own it, not by the board or the CEO or the marketing department. (This is perhaps why the Crypto Bowl ad splurge fell so flat – crypto’s growth, by nature, has always been organic.)

Memecoins are merely the most extreme version of this idea, community expression as democratised financial product. Does it need to do anything beyond that? Or can we agree that at a certain level we’re all just in it for the culture.

Luke for CoinJar

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