The Memes of Wall Street

In Beats + Bytes by Nue Agency

The most exciting thing in culture this week is…the stock market?

It’s obviously more complicated than “Reddit is wreaking havoc on Wall Street,” but it’s also true. There has been major disruption in the finance industry thanks to a relatively small group of savvy users who discovered weaknesses in the market and exploited them using technology designed to democratize the trading system, namely the Robinhood app.

The “subreddit” WallStreetBets consists of over 4 million people. Their collective buying power sparked a movement that allowed a lot of people to make a killing by leveraging short squeezes on companies like Game Stop, AMC, Blackberry, Silver, and others. This wild play is being framed by some as a retributive attack on hedge funds. Robinhood got in over their head and made the very controversial decision to halt trading (sidenote: I feel much safer using an app called Public).

Elon Musk, who has seen his Tesla stock grow more than 3,000% over the past five years, also once fell victim to hedge fund short squeezes, which he overcame, causing huge returns for investors and making him a people’s champ of sorts (as well as the occasional richest man in the world). Tesla and Bitcoin have been on-and-off to the moon!

Musk understands this culture and knows how to stoke its fire, which massively impacts the markets and make his followers a fortune along the way. “He who controls the memes, controls the universe,” he famously Tweeted a few years back.

This week he jumped on our favorite app, Clubhouse, for a series of questions and answers. The CEO of Robinhood joined to make his case for stopping trading. In short, he didn’t have the funds to cover but was able to raise 3 billion dollars off the back of this fiasco. That’s one way to capitalize on the moment.

It has all been, at the very least, fascinating and, at the very worst, illegal. “A picture says 1000 words, and maybe a meme says 10,000 words,” Musk declared. “It’s a complex picture with a whole bunch of meaning in it.”

The times and media are shifting. Things are moving fast and systems are being rewritten. As I’ve been preaching, this is an era of transformation. It’s important to stay abreast of top trends and move at the speed of culture to remain relevant (and maybe even get rich!). Fortunes will be made and fortunes will be lost.

That said, keeping up with the Joneses has its drawbacks. The opposing school of thought says to ignore the horse race and not get caught up in the madness; focus on your craft and create. A Jay-Z quote comes to mind: “Would you rather be a trend, or Ralph Lauren? I’d rather be Ralph Lauren.”

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Also published on Medium.