The Pandemic Groundhog Year (Part 2)

Ed Zitron 4 min read

On reflection on my post from yesterday, something clicked in my brain about the general exhaustion and repetition that’s led to hitting the pandemic wall, and that’s the whole Gamestop/Bitcoin thing. We regularly discuss how people are exhausted by the idea of hustle culture, and that we always need to be bettering ourselves and maximizing our productivity, but something I’ve seen in the 4-6 months is a new layer of desperation that has now gravitated to Bitcoin and stocks in general.

I’m now seeing people I’ve never really associated with anything stock or crypto-related discussing Dogecoin (which is a meme coin that has done some ridiculous numbers in the last few weeks) or investing in Bitcoin or Ethereum. I’ve seen similar amounts of people talking about what stocks they’re investing in, and how they’re gonna make money off of them, people who I do not think have ever done any investment who have now jumped on board.

I think the undiscussed element of the whole Gamestop-Robinhood-day trade bonanza and the growth of Bitcoin recently is a desperation motivated by the pandemic. The New York Times headline from 2018 about everybody getting hilariously rich (and you’re not) really summarizes the condition well, except it’s been amped up by the fact that everybody feels like they missed the boat again when crypto tanked, except the same thing happened with Gamestop. It’s a unique psychological phenomenon that I’ve explained as people doing the logical thing and being correct thing 999 times out of 1000 times, except the 1 illogical move is the one that paid off - which does not, and will never truly justify doing the illogical thing in the future beyond “it might go big.”

The other frustration people have is basically “I can’t see the future and I wish I could.” Most of these assets do not have any underlying reason why they’re going to get big. There’s no real logic behind it. I have had investments that I profited on that had I waited I’d have made six figures on - I feel like an idiot, because I got out, but the reason I got out was I needed that money to move, or pay off debt, or what have you - good reasons. But I still feel this simmering anger, as if I should have known when to sell, and when to buy, literally chiding myself for not being able to see the future.

And I think a lot of the current crypto and daytrading frenzy is based around this feeling - the feeling that you should have had something on the table, you should have left a little something so that if it went crazy you’d make lots of money. Everybody wants to get involved now it’s big, despite the fact that it’s big now being a good suggestion that the bottom may fall out - the odd lot theory that you as a normal person will probably not succeed. But even then, because there are examples of regular folk succeeding you too believe you can - that the next thing you find, somehow , will be.

I think the underlying feeling a lot of people have is that there’s a whole ocean of oil underneath them and it’s just a question of going and getting it. There are all these miscellaneous financial doodads that are seemingly just out of reach, and it’s just a question of grabbing one of them before they go crazy. And if you’d just known, you too could have been crazy rich. And of course, because you’d have known the thing was going to be big before it was big, you could have invested all of your money in it, so you’d have tons more money.

The fake proximity to these supposed overnight successes is effectively playing the Forex market, assuming currencies will become worth more or less at random and yes, you too could benefit from that. And it’s attractive to believe that you’ll be able to make that big investment that will get even bigger - that you too could be one of the supposed random people who randomly get rich because of DootCoin or PludgeThereum or whatever. Because it seems like it’s just a case of guessing the market, it’s just easy and of course it’ll happen to you.

Except the very reason it hasn’t happened is why it won’t happen again - you’re likely just too smart to fuck with these markets that are, in truth, entirely illogical and volatile. Those who are good at the market watch it constantly, and have killed the braincells that say “you are going to lose all your money,” and likely lose plenty of money on the way to making it. That’s the problem - in 99% of cases the person who makes a shit ton trading stocks or crypto is someone who does it all the time, and in most cases, the person who does it all the time gets ruined again and again. It’s on some level luck.

And I think the pandemic has widened and accelerated this as people are desperate to try and get out of the 9 to 5. People are trapped at home, and don’t want to work, because work has dominated everything as work is now home and home is now work. They read stories every single damn day about how people are making millions or billions on crypto or stocks, and they want out - the stock market is going higher and higher, but people are poorer and poorer, and the escape may or may not be the bastard world of crypto. It’s just close enough to touch.

Except it isn’t. It’s so remote, so chaotic, and anyone who can “time the market” is mostly just guessing. It’s a great way to lose a lot of money.

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