We are just under a decade removed from Satoshi Nakamoto introducing Bitcoin to the world. Since then, there have been a flurry of disruptive technologies and numerous communities around cryptocurrencies of all stripes. Fortunes have been made and lost in whirlwinds of investors entering and exiting the space. We have seen schisms break open and communities unite. To suggest that cryptocurrency is only one thing does it a disservice. Crypto is not going away, because it lives on in the most human way possible. More than anything else, cryptocurrencies are communities.

Finding Humanity in Cryptocurrency

With all the focus on prices these days, I wanted to remind people why cryptocurrencies are great in the first place. Of course price is important, but it is far from the most important aspect.

Money, exchange, and monetary systems are ubiquitous throughout recorded history, and for good reason. At their core, communities are based around ideas of reciprocity, gift-giving, and social debts (Mauss, Halls, 2000). Money or other mediums of value exchange are a profoundly powerful form of interaction that creates and strengthens social bonds. Trade and money make a lot of sense as a basis around which communities are built.

Cryptocurrencies offer a pure basis on which to build these interactions by virtue of their peer-to-peer nature. Without the need for a centralized mediator of transactions, we have seen the community generative power of cryptocurrencies firsthand. The number of Bitcoin users and holders alone has skyrocketed in the short time since its inception. If only price mattered, would the community really have survived? Maybe not. Rather, it and other crypto-communities have been tempered by the fires of price volatility.

Dogecoin provides what could be an even more apparent example of this. Our readers will know that I have a soft spot for Dogecoin particularly because of its funloving and active community. Dogecoin users demonstrate (among other things) that cryptocurrencies are not only about price, and that they are more importantly about building and maintaining community. 

To that end, physical meetups are popular as well; such community is not relegated to online spaces only. Even when they’re not exchanging cryptocurrencies directly, communities continue to build up around these digital entities. How cool is that?

This is not to say that cryptocurrency communities are not also plagued by division, drama, and the other shortcomings of humans. Turmoil in communities can be ugly, but it is wholly human. While we would hope to keep such instances at bay, it is important to remember that they are symptoms of all community and not unique to cryptocurrency alone.

New investments and users pouring into cryptocurrencies definitely helps pump up prices and raise awareness, but sustainable value comes from an active and engaged community. In Bitcoin’s whitepaper, Nakamoto uses terms like “peer-to-peer network” and describes processes for voting – an integral part of healthy communities – multiple times, but does not mention “price” even once (Nakamoto, 2009).

At the end of the day, cryptocurrencies are here to stay not because of their prices, but because they are excellent catalysts for communities.

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Dariusz is a Digital Anthropologist who has been closely following the world of cryptocurrencies since 2014. He has been somewhat of a crypto-evangelist, trying to educate more people on the exciting realm of cryptocurrency. During his time at University College London, his Master's dissertation focused on how communities inhabit, modify, and create virtual places via social media.