It was the year that finance jumped the doge

None of this would matter if it all remained confined to the realm of social media. Except the last few years have seen the explosion of commission-free trading apps that allow easy access to the stock markets, and suddenly people can continue their love for the meme. US Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler has often thundered against the way Robinhood and his ilk have ‘gamified’ investments – through the inclusion of social media-like features, funny push notifications and confetti entertainment in the best Vegas slot tradition. But gamification goes beyond garish visuals: it has to do with the ease of use and low price of these trading apps (until someone gets involved, with potentially ruinous consequences) – so usable that they allow people to spend time exchanging instead. of, say, playing candy Crush or strum on a guitar. “It’s just a hobby, in a lot of ways: it’s a little money,” says Mel Stanfill, assistant professor of games and interactive media at the University of Central Florida. “But on a large scale, small sums of money turn into huge sums of money that can rock the stock market.”

Mix a financial meme with a handy app and you’ve got a GameStop moment. Were the folks on r / wallstreetbets convinced of the potential of GameStop’s business? The “fanatics” among them, such as Keith Gill (aka DeepFuckingValue), one of the action’s most vocal advocates, indeed seemed to think the retailer was about to make a shaken comeback. Were the people on r / wallstreetbets trying to punish hedge funds? Some certainly were (and some of their less tasty cohorts in Telegram’s QAnon-themed groups framed this attack in vile anti-Semitic terms). But many more were just for fun, writing about how they wanted to “see the moon” and “love this stock” – their goal was to keep the price of GameStop going up and playing with their games. friends online.

Obviously, memes came home to roost in spectacular fashion this year, when millions of people around the world, forced into confinement by the pandemic, were bored and looking for a hobby. On top of that, the US government issued stimulus checks for $ 1,200, providing much needed cash food to many hobby traders. Yet the memorization of finance had been in the making for some time. It was already making its appearance in 2020, with the unlikely success of smaller-scale actions such as Kodak or Hertz, similarly supported by trade on past applications. But, really, you can go back to cryptocurrency.

Long before people on r / wallstreetbets declared their love for the memes stock, people on other subreddits, as well as Telegram and Twitter, had been shouting their misspelled motto, “HODL.” That is, “hold back”, like buying a certain cryptocurrency – from Bitcoin to the last scam coin – and keep it in your wallet in the hope that its value will rise again, around the moon. If spending a mile to build up a physical chain store’s inventory during a pandemic takes a lot of confidence – or a lot of nihilism – the leap of faith required to invest the savings in a novelty currency whose price is simply determined. by its popularity online is mind-boggling. And yet, right after the GameStop frenzy came the Dogecoin Frenzy, with the Robinhood Squad pumping out a parody cryptocurrency, its symbol a dog meme, from $ 0.0041 on January 1 to $ 0.50 in May. Elon Musk, who took a liking to Dogecoin, maintained a high level of attention with a barrage of Doge-laden tweets and a shout at Dogecoin on Saturday Night Live. In the second quarter of 2021, Robinhood generated $ 144 million in revenue from Dogecoin transactions. (Robinhood makes money from market makers who place actual trading orders, through a controversial mechanism called payment for order flow.)

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