It should not be surprising that somebody would be a staunch defender of something they believe in. It is human nature to gather with the like minded. The issue with the cryptocurrency and blockchain communities is not the tribalism itself, but the fact that it very much mirrors most online communities if not also some real world communities. The fact that the defense of the tribe now finds it acceptable to disregard logical discourse is an enormous issue in the cryptocurrency and blockchain community.
Alternet published an article in 2016 on this a very much related issue and not much has changed.
Rather than creating a community, the internet and social media have divided and disengaged us and set our politics adrift.
In the World of Echo Chambers
In an age where everybody’s opinion is supposed to matter, it has forced those with different opinions to entrench themselves where their opinions are accepted. As a result, online forums like Reddit allow the creation of massive echo chambers for differing opinions in targeted subreddits. In relations to cryptocurrency and blockchain, this type of tribalism is rampant. A tweet in March 2017 by Charlie Lee, then Director of Engineering at Coinbase and the creator of Litecoin said of the /r/btc subreddit, “Sadly, /r/btc is becoming a cesspool. It’s basically a Core/Blockstream/SegWit-bashing, BU-praising echo chamber. /r/bitcoin is much better.”
This is unfortunately the truth of all the coin or token specific subreddits. Whether it is a blank check on loyalty or blind aggression, the echo chambers dictate the conversation.
Sadly, /r/btc is becoming a cesspool. It’s basically a Core/Blockstream/SegWit-bashing, BU-praising echo chamber. /r/bitcoin is much better.
— Charlie Lee [LTC⚡] (@SatoshiLite) March 1, 2017
Look at any of the coin or blockchain specific communities and the signs reveal themselves quickly. Claims of censorship from outside the community, a torrent of positive news regardless of the truth, the refusal to address legitimate concerns, and the fear of those with slightly differing opinions from speaking up.
Surprisingly, censorship, something many are seemingly adamant defenders of on a regular basis, is relatively well accepted amongst these types of echo chambers. The majority of the responsibility rests on the owners and moderators of these communities, but sometimes this censorship comes from the community, such as downvotes on Reddit.
Ignorance is Bliss – FUD!
When you make out something as the enemy of what you’re defending, it becomes easy to disregard an opposing opinion on that matter as FUD or the person as some sort of troll. In a way, it is dehumanizing the person and opinion on the other end. When these scenarios are playing out every day on the world stage, it must also be happening in our personal lives, right?
Instead of individuals doing their own research and having constructive discussions, most of the community would rather rabidly defend their interests whilst not only dismissing any negativity regardless of truthfulness, but also attack interests that are not their own. This type of fervent tribalism in the cryptocurrency and blockchain communities is a cancer to the cryptocurrency industry as a whole. It is at least semi-understandable why many supporters resemble religious zealots, as much of the motivation for this is monetary.
The problem of course is that any proper investor should welcome criticism of their investment. Refusal to vet information that comes your way is not only the act of an irresponsible investor, it is beyond ignorant. The volatile state of cryptocurrency and blockchain is partly to blame. Projects overpromise and underdeliver on a daily basis creating a toxic environment that allows these negative attitudes to fester.
Any readers here can agree with my coming example that this is one of the metrics many use to determine the legitimacy of a project.
This metric should anger any enthusiast, developer, or investor. Let’s be honest, the real reason exchange availability ever became a metric is because of greed and the possibility for a coin’s value to increase. Although it can be used as a measurement, it is in no way a defining metric on the validity of a project, it’s progress, or it’s goals.
The very worst thing about this metric is that it is used as an argument both ways.
The typical opinion is that a project is a scam if it isn’t listed on a major exchange and sometimes instead the complaints are towards a major exchange for listing what some may consider a scam coin. These two stances completely contradict each other, but they are one of the most common arguments against a project in the sphere of cryptocurrency and blockchain today.
Tribalism at Every Level
This toxic thought process permeates itself even in places that are meant to be avenues of discussion for all projects. Take a look at these contrasting posts from two subreddits.
So a quick review of this post tells you a few things. This user supports some coins, dislikes the community subreddit of a specific coin because of their supposed toxicity, and then derides an exchange for listing that project’s coin.
Now a look from the subreddit in question.
Seems the feelings are at least mutual. The tweet in question of course is in defense of BCH instead of BTC, which is the accepted fork in /r/Cryptocurrency. It would seem like the /r/Cryptocurrency subreddit is a place for discussions on the merits or negative aspects of all projects, but it’s equally an echo chamber and a popularity contest. It’s more likely to find a top comment being on the levels of a meme more so than it is to find one based on legitimate discussion.
The Lack of Logical Discourse
The toxicity may be stemming from passion, greed, or even loyalty. It can even be all of these things. However, the one thing it cannot continue to be is an excuse to dismiss civil discussion based on factual evidence, something which is all too common in the crypto sphere.
One of the worst aspects of crypto culture is the idea that because math and code are supposedly apolitical, we do not have to be polite.
— Vitalik Non-giver of Ether (@VitalikButerin) April 10, 2017
If you take a look at some of the verifiably proven scams in this industry, take a look at how easy it was to draw in investors.
- Pretty Website
- Nice Whitepaper
- Big Names & Fancy Titles
These are the tools that were used to trick investors, yet they’re the same criteria used to criticize other projects instead of looking at that project and its progress.
Ask yourself, what besides greed gave you your loyalty to a project? Do you really believe in not just the project, but the team behind the project and their ability to deliver? Is that belief enough?
There are a lot of projects out there that seem worthwhile which generated a lot of income from investors, but much like the reality of any business, not everybody is meant to succeed. This is the cold hard truth about this investment vehicle, if it could be called that. Until the communities of the crypto sphere accept this fact, it’s a much more difficult journey to logical discourse than necessary.
Anybody who believes in blockchain technology or cryptocurrency should know that we’re all in this together. The industry is an unstoppable force that will continue moving forward regardless of the thinning of the herd. Being able to discuss different projects is something that can only be a positive force behind growth.
Taking a step back to understand a project in its entirety is something we should all take the time to do. If you can’t take the time to look into a project, your opinion ceases to be of importance. The adoption of this technology by big finance and big technology doesn’t validate cryptocurrency and blockchain enthusiasts. Until we can let go of our emotions to discuss a project based on the facts available to us, it’s hard to see this community as anything but the stereotypical “frat boys” trying to make their way to the moon.