As bitcoin plunged below $20,000 in mid-June, many cryptocurrency users were distraught over massive losses – with some reporting they had lost their life savings. But one corner of the internet was cheering: Buttcoin, a Reddit subforum launched in 2011 to poke fun at cryptocurrency.
“I’m addicted, I need help,” read one popular post. “I just love watching line go down too much. I always tell myself ‘after it breaks through this next support line, you’ll be satisfied’ but there’s ALWAYS another lower level after that.” “I’m actually hoping it levels off at 20K for tonight,” said another user. “I’m kinda tired and need more time to think of new lower priced memes.”
One tech industry worker who frequents Buttcoin told the Guardian they stayed up until 3am one night to watch the crash unfold. “I know this may sound pathetic but I get a dopamine hit when I see the bitcoin price going down. It was so exciting.”
The cryptocurrency flirted with its two-year low again this week, which meant a festive mood at Buttcoin. With about 135,000 members, the subreddit is tiny compared with the millions of people who chat on Reddit’s many pro-cryptocurrency forums. But frequent contributors to the community – whose logo replaces bitcoin’s golden “B” with a pair of golden buttcheeks – describe it as a kind of digital support group, laced through with dark humor, for people who are horrified by the proliferation of crypto scams and pyramid schemes. Though they may not have the power to destroy crypto, they can make jokes when it stumbles. As Buttcoin members say, instead of mining useless digital coins – they’re “mining comedy gold”.
Just like the crypto culture it mocks, Buttcoin has its own set of memes. Some of them simply flip crypto sayings. Instead of baying for token prices to rise “to the moon”, Buttcoin users chant “to the floor”. But Buttcoin’s most popular jokes take pro-crypto logic and push them to sarcastic extremes. To skewer crypto promoters’ habit of spinning negative news, Buttcoin users comment “This is good for bitcoin” under stories of cryptocurrency catastrophes. (Bitcoin’s been banned in a major country? Good for bitcoin. Bitcoin’s price is plummeting? Good for bitcoin. Someone lost their life savings to a bitcoin scam? You guessed it… good for bitcoin.)
Another crypto catchphrase smugly referencing the technology’s complexity, “Few understand,” has been become a Buttcoin meme in its own right. (For example: a Buttcoin user jokes that a 2003 Toyota Camry’s rising price amid the crypto crash makes the Camry a superior “store of value”. “Every 2003 Camry has a unique VIN and you can drive it to the supermarket too … Few understand,” another replies. “This is good for Toyota,” a third chimes in.)
Buttcoin’s most senior moderator, an IT worker who goes by spookmann, told the Guardian that the 11-year-old forum has “changed as crypto itself as grown and festered. “Originally the tone was almost entirely ‘Haha… that’s so silly!’ And certainly that element is still present, but nowadays there’s an increasingly tragic element of ‘Ugghh… so many people are having their lives ruined by this damn thing!’”
The biggest posts on Buttcoin are shot through with schadenfreude. The subreddit invariably celebrates when bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency, dips below symbolic price levels – which to many Buttcoin users, proves that the scam is unraveling. “I definitely get hopeful when it starts seriously dipping or when some stablecoin scheme goes to zero,” said Joe, a systems engineer who browses Buttcoin every day. “There’s a kind of thrill to the validation of it, right? Especially since the crypto bro stereotypes are so obnoxious whenever it goes up in a new bubble.”
But the more controversial posts mock crypto investors themselves for losing money – though there’s disagreement over how far to go. Some highly rated posts on the subreddit argue that there should be no sympathy for victims. “They can go fuck themselves,” read one post in late June, with more than 1,500 upvotes: “Criticizing scams is not being mean. This also isn’t a support group to help console people who lost all of their money on ElonDogPoop Coin.” Not all Buttcoin users agree. “Even if they are assholes, I don’t relish the idea of the average [investor] losing their life savings even if they should have been able to see the scam for what it is. That unambiguously sucks,” Joe says.
There’s a “shared enjoyment of watching things go up in flames”, said M, a Buttcoin user and a tech industry worker, but he still has “sympathy for those drawn into crypto by family members or by the promise of a better life … Times are tough for most.” He pointed to the victims of Celsius, an unlicensed crypto “bank” that offered massive returns to over a million investors in an alleged ponzi scheme that collapsed earlier this summer. The court testimonies – which included pleas from ordinary people who lost their life savings – were “heartbreaking”, M said.
Because Reddit’s pro-cryptocurrency forums quickly delete critical posts, Buttcoin also attracts users looking to commiserate over loved ones who have been caught up in the scam. One support seeker was Izzycc, a 23-year-old social work student whose boyfriend of eight years had become depressed after getting sucked into the NFT fad and losing money.
“I’m absolutely fucking praying for the downfall of cryptocurrency,” she wrote. “It would mean a wakeup call for him, he might finally pull out of this scam, and maybe even start to feel a little better not staring at a number that’s only going down.” Buttcoin users urged Izzycc to break up with her boyfriend – and so she did. “It was for a couple of reasons, but the NFT stuff was kind of a big one,” she told the Guardian.
“I just hated being around it all the time. I hated when he would talk to my family about it. It was just kind of embarrassing, I guess.” She’s doing “a lot better now”, but still browses Buttcoin: “The people are funny, and I know too much about cryptocurrency to not at least casually browse the site at this point.”
Buttcoin sometimes deals with heavier tragedy. In August, a user described a close friend who had gone all-in on crypto before he killed himself. “I was secretly making fun of him,” the user wrote, “till I recently heard the bad news … and it’s hard to feel sorry for crypto bros, but now that I’m here, I do.” “I’m tearing up hearing about this,” wrote one user. Another user observed: “This sub makes a lot of jokes that I consider comic relief, but everything about this sucks, in reality.”
That’s the tension that runs through Buttcoin: beneath the memes lies real pain – and a frustration of watching helplessly as more people around you get hurt. “I think if the crypto cult was just a bunch of dudes off in the woods with a server farm and a maypole there wouldn’t be any real call for Buttcoin to exist,” said Joe. “But it apparently intends to stick around and become a sufficiently big part of the world overall that I don’t have that option.”
Buttcoin isn’t so much a force for resistance as it is a coping mechanism, Joe said, and one that at least for him, may even be backfiring.
“I’m pretty sure the algorithms have actually been sending me more crypto ads since I started posting regularly because they can’t tell the difference between ‘I’m reading about how absurd this is’ and ‘I’m reading about this as a potential sucker/customer.’” He refreshes Buttcoin anyway, hoping he’ll one day witness the price go all the way to the floor.