Bringing Cryptocurrencies to the Real World

Did You See That Cryptocurrencies Episode on Last Week Tonight?

John Oliver delivered an outstanding performance explaining what cryptocurrencies are. He even shared some crypto lingo. “HODL in the face of FUD … otherwise you’ll miss out when the coin MOONS … you’ll get REKT … and never be able to afford … a LAMBO.”

As a crypto enthusiast, I understand every part of that sentence. I see this kind of talk all the time on Telegram, a social messaging app frequently used by crypto traders. But if an average, non-crypto individual hears that, they’d likely shy away. It doesn’t sound cool if you talk like that … it just doesn’t.

While cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are now recognized around the world and are being adopted by more and more people, there’s still a disconnect between the crypto world and the real world. Confusion on what blockchain is and how it has real world applications may be a big issue that prevents it from being adopted, but what if we made crypto more socially applicable to our everyday lives? Would more people use it then?

Let’s Look at the Venmo App

If you told me a few years ago that exchanging money on an app could be a hip, social activity that you share with your friends, I would have told you that you’re crazy and no one would really care. But today, many young people use it to send emoji-filled messages along with money to their friends. Something that was traditionally boring and uneventful suddenly became fun and public-worthy. I’ve used it many times to pay back my friends for food and rent because it’s easy to use and fun to leave emoji messages (along with money I’ll sadly miss).

When you create a community around a platform, you create a shared sense of identity and connection. And when this happens, there’s a natural tendency for these groups to gather even more people. This is especially true on the internet where joining a group only takes a few clicks or taps.

In the crypto world, Telegram has been integral in helping people who have invested in the same crypto startup come together to discuss the company, but it hasn’t brought the average person to crypto trading.

There still needs to be a platform out there that makes trading hip and fun like Venmo. Now, let’s imagine that Coinbase, a digital currency exchange frequently used by crypto traders, took Venmo’s community-based approach.

Pizza Scenario

A young adult in his mid-twenties pulls out his phone. His friend just ordered some food for him, so he opens the Coinbase app to pay him back. The app first prompts him to add the recipient, to which he types in his friend’s name. He doesn’t know how much $12 is in Bitcoin, so he taps “U.S. Dollars” as the type of currency he’ll by entering. When asked about the currency type he’ll be sending, he taps “Bitcoin.” He types “pizza” and “money” into the message section and turns the words into emojis. Once he taps “Send,” the $12 amount is sent to his pizza friend in Bitcoin. His transaction is seen by his friends on the newsfeed, and his one weird friend comments, “I luv pizza” to which he replies, “Um, okay…”

Crypto trading clearly has more potential than just sending pizza money, but not every transaction has to be about gaining more coins. As a matter of fact, it’s the everyday transaction that attracts the everyday person. There needs to be a simple but fun avenue to guide friends and family to this seemingly cryptic crypto world.

There Are Still Many Challenges Ahead

Now, I’m not saying a social platform like the one above would solve all, if any, of the problems related to cryptocurrencies. Even if the solution was simple and fun to use for everyone, blockchain still has a way to go technologically to allow it to be adopted. Just as John Oliver brings up, there are issues to be solved — from scalability of transactions to proper regulation.

That being said, mass adoption is a possibility. Cryptocurrency used to be a ridiculous notion, but now it’s a worldwide phenomenon that even some national governments are looking at adopting. There’s a lot of potential in this technology, so I hope crypto companies will try to make the technology as user friendly as possible. Its future could depend on it.

If you’d like to learn more about building successful communities, I encourage you to read Building Successful Online Communities by Robert E. Kraut. Among its pages you’ll find a plethora of theories and lessons based on empirical research to help you build a successful online community. This article is in no way sponsored, this is just my personal opinion.

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