We’re going through hell because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Tens of thousands of Australians are suddenly out of a job, major industries have vanished overnight, and hits to the stock market have threatened to drive a new recession.
On Reddit’s Wall Street Bets board, users are coping with these new financial realities by shitposting — and flinging around huge sums of cash in the process.
I am obsessed, and I’ve never made a trade in my life.
The /r/wallstreetbets subreddit, or WSB for short, has become a hot topic in some financial circles for its brazenness and seeming disregard for financial consequences.
While the more conservative minds of /r/Investing urge users to consider how much they can risk before entering a volatile stock market, WSB focuses on spectacular ‘call’ and ‘put’ options, which, at their most basic, are wagers on whether the price of a stock will rise or fall, respectively.
I’ll let WSB founder Jaime Rogozinski explain the board’s obsession with calls and puts. In conversation with Bloomberg earlier this month, he said, “In some capacities it’s aggressive investing, active investing, other times it’s straight-up gambling.”
Consider this screenshot from user /u/tebedam, who claims to have made more than US$500,000 (AU$840,000) over the past month in the US market by ordering puts on stocks like Apple and Intel.
Not everyone has been so fortunate.
The market downturn has been mirrored in remarkably well-produced shitposts, like this The Witcher parody, which imagines hero Geralt as the contracting ‘bear’ market, decimating WSB users who wagered their money the wrong way.
It’s relentlessly dark humour, if you can even call it that, but WSB users are memeing the hell out of one of the worst financial downturns in decades. Cop this, a tacit admission the US stock market will fall further, despite the potential for another stimulus package intended to shock the market back to life.
At least one user is thinking longterm, sharing a glimpse at their backup resources.
Another has memeified video conferencing company Zoom, which has experienced massive growth in recent weeks now a significant chunk of the population is working, studying, and peeing from home.
This isn’t to say it’s all fun and games on WSB. Despite the bravado and a juvenile, frat-boy fixation on slurs, some of its users have expressed serious concern for the coming weeks and months.
Overnight, users asked why the US Federal Reserve Bank seems poised to bail out enormous private enterprises with taxpayer funds — again. Another pointed to a rising unemployment rate and the ongoing damage to retirement funds as cause for serious concern.
Their fears speak to the overarching financial concerns of Millennials and Gen Z. In his discussion with Bloomberg, Rogozinski said the bulk of WSB subscribers are young people, who potentially have enough funds to invest for the first time in their lives; watching their money evaporate – not necessarily due to high-risk positions, but through the grinding halt of an economy they inherited – isn’t exactly enjoyable.
“Millennials certainly play their part for doing what they’re doing with the market,” Rogozinski said in a later AMA session. “But it wouldn’t be possible if they didn’t have the tools, motivation and regulatory blessing to do so.”
Things aren’t looking great in Australia, either. The Federal Government has rumbled off two enormous stimulus packages in quick succession to keep the economy turning over, but banking giant Westpac today predicted the unemployment rate may hit 11 per cent by June.
It’s all a bit grim, but I’ll keep watching WSB. When hopes for the future seem to have hit a lifetime low, it’s nice imagining a world where stonks only go up.