This article is based on the experiences, observations and opinions of the author. It is not backed by any sort of scientific (or even casual) study, beyond a very limited number of encounters.
Lately Coin Brief has been a quiet place, and that is partially because I have been traveling. I journeyed to Germany to visit a friend, and stayed in a dorm room in Augsburg. During my trip, I left my normal circle of friends, and was exposed to a huge group of new people from countries around the world. At this university, Americans are not common, and upon learning that I was from the USA, I often would be questioned about not just why I was there, but about my job. As I explained, over and over, that I was the editor and co-founder a digital currency news and information website, one thing quickly became apparent to me: Bitcoin is still extremely unknown. While these students were often studying finance, economics, computer science, or a number of other very technical degrees, not a single one knew what Bitcoin was. In fact, only two had even heard of Bitcoin, and those 2 were completely in the dark as to what Bitcoin actually was, or how it works.
Bitcoin’s Future Adoption Requires the Community’s Help
For those of us that are involved with digital currency, which is often limited to Bitcoin specifically, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everyone has some idea about Bitcoin. At this point, most of you are probably like me, and have explained it to your immediate friends and family. Maybe you have even convinced some of them to try it. However, this is not enough. If Bitcoin is going to achieve mainstream success, we must actively work toward the goal of educating the masses. As with any idea, it can only break through to worldwide adoption once it hits critical mass, and it seems like we are further from that than I previously believed.
Bitcoin’s Is Growing Quickly…Right?
The Bitcoin community, and the greater digital currency community as a whole, has grown by leaps and bounds over the past two years or so. From a tiny, niche idea that was mostly reserved for programmers, futurists, and a few forward thinking individuals in the financial community, a juggernaut has been created. The hashrate of the Bitcoin network has been growing exponentially, the Bitcoin-based payment processing companies have been onboarding more and more large clients, hundreds of other currencies and ideas have evolved from Bitcoin’s breakthrough, and the community has swollen to include a much more diverse group of users.
However, now the last point seems to have stagnated, at least in comparison with the other aspects of Bitcoin’s evolution. This has been pointed to as a potential reason for the recent drops in price, and is likely at least somewhat responsible. If the community was still growing at a faster rate than were the ways to use the currency, the influx of funds into the market would be pushing the total market cap up, rather than the downward pressure from BTC-to-fiat conversions resulting in a downtrend.
Bitcoin Has Always Been Volatile. What is the Problem?
The unfortunate result of this downtrend is that it makes new users hesitant to try Bitcoin, and join the community. If something does not change, and adoption does not pick up once again, we may be headed for lower and lower prices. For those of us that have been involved with Bitcoin for some time, this does not seem like a big deal, as Bitcoin’s growth has been defined by volatility. However, don’t be fooled into complacency.
The volatility of the past was acceptable, and expected, but the overall trend was always up. Adoption was always increasing. This is a different situation altogether. Bitcoin has caught the attention of many people and groups that have a vested interest in it failing, or at least being limited to a small corner of the overall world of finance. If adoption cannot reach critical mass before an “alternative” is presented by one of the more influential of these groups, then the advantages that Bitcoin has over fiat may not be enough to propel it forward. The freedom offered by decentralized currency could be at risk if a controllable currency is built with enough of the advantages that Bitcoin provides and is marketed more effectively.
How You Can Help Bitcoin Enter Mainstream Society
This is easier than it seems, and every single person reading this can do their part to help. To increase Bitcoin’s adoption, more people need to know that Bitcoin exists, and need to understand the advantages it offers. If you are an early adopter, you likely saw the advantages in Bitcoin quite quickly, and did not take much convincing to get involved, or you were in a situation where Bitcoin was immediately beneficial to you, and thus piqued your interest. At this stage of Bitcoin’s growth, everyone involved is still an early adopter if Bitcoin is a success. The majority of people are not going to be early adopters, and are more cautious with novel ideas. That is just part of the way society, and human nature overall, have functioned for all of our history. The risk takers and the forward thinkers must not only take risks and dream of the future, but must explain it to the rest of society in a way that appeals to them. We must make it easy for people to get involved, and that requires not only companies that are creating new uses, methods of adoption, or services, but also individuals that are willing to learn enough about Bitcoin to explain it to them in a way that is easily understandable.
Coin Brief’s “What is Bitcoin” article can be helpful for this purpose, as well as the video from “We Use Coins” that is provided at the end of it. There are other resources available here, and on other websites, that can help to show others what Bitcoin is about, and why it is useful. That being said, these methods are not effective on a day-to-day basis. They do not drive adoption in a society that is as busy as the one we live in today. You must do that yourself.
Go out to parties, events, social gatherings, or any other place that you can meet new people in a way that is conducive to in depth conversations. When you are there, ask people if they have heard about Bitcoin, or digital currency in general. If they have, ask them what they think it is, and see if they have it right. Many people think that digital currency is virtual currency, such as currencies that are used in online games, and immediately discount any real use for it because of this. If they do not know what digital currency is, or if they have the wrong idea about it, try to explain Bitcoin to them in an easy to understand, non-technical way. Focus on the benefits of Bitcoin, such as the instant transmission to anyone in the world, the efficiency of decentralization (which is what allows the transaction cost to be so incredibly low), and how it can make counterfeiting and fraud statistically improbable. Mention the multi-billion dollar marketcap and the fact that Bitcoin is now accepted by many large companies, such as Dell, Expedia, and Overstock, with many others actively considering, and PayPal beginning to integrate it. I have learned that these things will catch many people’s attention, and can be used to drive the conversation forward, which may lead to an opportunity to follow up by directing them to websites (such as Coin Brief) to read more.
If they seem interested, then try to get them to check it out right away. Since smartphones are the norm in most of the world at this point, most people will have the ability to do so. Even if they do not read in detail right then, or you have failed at convincing them, then at this point a seed will have been planted. Their browser on their phone will have a Bitcoin related website loaded in it, and they may check it out later. If the conversation doesn’t get to this point, or if looking up a website right away is inappropriate, inconvenient, or otherwise off the table, then add/contact them on a social media website later (Facebook most likely, but whichever is the dominant social media website in your area is the obvious choice), or ask for their phone number if you think that would be well received. Try to not be overly pushy with this, but extol your support for digital currency at your personal level of support, and let them come to their own conclusions with the information that has been provided.
Shouldn’t Bitcoin’s Efficiency and Effectiveness Be Enough…
In a perfect world, this kind of work would not be necessary. Bitcoin is more efficient than traditional payment systems, has the potential to be more secure, gives individuals greater control over their own wealth, and fixes many issues that the legacy banking system has been running into because of the increasing level of global interaction between individuals. The “free market” should choose Bitcoin, or a similar digital currency, as that would make sense for the natural evolution of currency and finance.
Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world, and the “free market” isn’t exactly free. Wealth is power, and there are many, many individuals that are worth more than the entire Bitcoin market cap, and, likely, many groups or organizations worth more than the net worth of every person involved with Bitcoin combined. History if full of examples of efficient, effective, sensible systems being discarded in favor of a lesser product due to influence from powerful groups or individuals. From the light bulb to the original nuclear power plants, the best design, or best method, is often discarded or stamped out by those with power, but we have the ability to keep that from happening with Bitcoin.
The Bitcoin and Digital Currency Promotion Initiative
Whether you are a supporter of digital currency in general, or have a specific favorite, such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dogecoin, Reddcoin, Namecoin, a crypto 2.0 system such as Ethereum, or any one of the other currencies, the idea is the same. Spread the word, but not just to your immediate friends. Reach out to as many people as you can, and explain what is happening here. Help people understand WHY digital currency is the future of not just currency, but potentially contracts, nameservers, and maybe even the internet itself. At the very least, get them to check out some basic information about Bitcoin.
Share this article with others in the digital currency communities, and help to promote this initiative. If every person that is involved with digital currency can convince one other person to get involved, the community will double in size, but we can’t stop there. Keep talking to people, keep moving forward, and in a very short period of time, we can push digital currency into the mainstream, but it will take us all working together to accomplish it. Don’t depend on the companies that are building systems around Bitcoin, or expect that it will grow on it’s own. Everyone can take it into their own hands, and make the world see the benefits of digital currency and the block chain.
If you aren’t sure what to say, or how to describe Bitcoin in a way that will get people’s attention, check back here in a few days. We will be publishing a printable outline that can be used to explain the key ideas in an easily understandable way.