Just two months ago, Bitcoin and global crypto markets seemed hotter than ever: 1 BTC was worth nearly $68,000, bringing its total market cap to $1.27 trillion; crypto’s global market cap was a mind-boggling $3.1 trillion. Now, a multi-day sell-off has seen over $620 billion evaporate from Bitcoin's market cap and another $1 trillion from crypto globally—about $130 billion of that in the last 24 hours alone.
Part of this is thanks to a well-established trend: when investors fear the Federal Reserve will tighten monetary policy and raise interest rates, they tend to exit risky assets. Over the past week, we've started to see corrections emerge as the NASDAQ, Dow, and S&P are all approaching or surpassing 10 percent declines from year-highs. The downturn is affecting the dollar value of even crypto-assets that are resisting macro trends. Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs were down nearly 28 percent early Monday in dollars, for example, even though their floor price in ETH has gone up.
One might think this would inspire some reflection or debate about whether crypto-assets are actually a hedge against inflation as many advocates insist, or their use as a store of value. Instead, we’ve gotten some inspired memes as advocates double down and skeptics begin to take shots.
When large corrections and crashes begin to materialize in crypto, memes reliably emerge centering on crypto traders having to take jobs at McDonald’s. This crash is no different. Many memes have pointed out how the price volatility of Bitcoin over the past year looks like the company's golden arch logo, while others lament getting ready for work at McDonald’s.
"ETH going down? can't afford living? we got you,” reads the bio for @MCJobAppNFT. “Apply now to your dream 9 to 5 McDonalds job with our application.” This account links to NFT marketplace OpenSea, where it offers 1,111 NFTs that are just job applications to McDonald's.
El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele, who made Bitcoin his country’s legal tender and is trying to turn it into a cryptocurrency hub, shared a photo of himself in a photoshopped McDonald’s uniform over the weekend. Things got even weirder as the sell-off continued over the next several days, with Bukele tweeting on Monday: “Most people go in when the price is up, but the safest and most profitable moment to buy is when the price is down. It’s not rocket science. So invest a piece of your McDonald’s paycheck in Bitcoin. Now go back to flip more burgers you lazy fvçk!”
Noted crypto influencer “Cobie” (formerly Crypto Cobain) replied: “Sir, they don't need to invest their mcdonalds paycheck cos they paid taxes and then you invested it for them at the top.”
Another meme features many of Bitcoin’s biggest advocates—from MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor to US Senator Cynthia Lummis and former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey—serving McDonald’s to a customer.
In contrast to the gallows humor and the laughs that may (or may not) be obscuring tears, the Bitcoin subreddit is full of more encouraging words that, at times, border on parody. One of the top posts right now is a picture of an aging Baron Rothschild next to a quote that says "Buy when there's blood in the streets, even if the blood is your own." Another top post is a video titled "2013 BTC hodler POV" and features a giant Pepe dancing with roller skates and headphones on as a city burns and explodes around them. Another recently added post explains that the recent crash has them "feeling liberated" and wonders if anyone else is feeling the same. “It’s reminding me how much more to life there is,” the user goes on to write. “I can believe in the Bitcoin’s future and not be dragged down by Reddit, Twitter and general FUD. I feel great, it’s really nice.”
Still, Bitcoiners who have been in this thing for the long haul really are probably just chilling. One common refrain that has emerged over the course of this multi-day sell-off is that those who have held for years are still up—and that’s true. Though Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies are largely speculative assets whose narrow use values are somewhat dubious, anyone who bought Bitcoin before January 2021 or Ethereum before April 2021 is still up on their gamble.
The problem is that many investors got involved just this year: centralized crypto exchanges saw $14 trillion in trading volume during 2021, that's a 689 percent increase over 2020. In October, a Harris poll suggested 23 percent of African Americans own cryptocurrency. The industry has been targeting some of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society to gin up support for a volatile asset which is simultaneously held up as resistant to macro-economic trends but also unfairly sensitive to them—uniquely disruptive of finance’s status quo while also reinforcing it.
Despite all this, the bubble is unlikely to deflate just yet. That’s both a blessing and a curse for the hordes of people being sold, or who are about to be sold, the great white hope of crypto-wealth.