Reciprocity is the Key to Growing Cryptocurrency Communities

With Bitcoin trading well over $1000 right now and its popularity higher now higher than ever, Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies at large still have a long way to go. If one goal of cryptos is to have a wider adoption and use, then something needs to change from the current implementation and advertisement of bitcoin and altcoins.

It seems that the average user of cryptocurrencies is a miner, a trader/investor, or a technophile. In no way am I suggesting that these users are not important pillars of coins, but it does create an environment which may be daunting for the average joe. Lack of guidance, lack of technical knowledge, and skepticism of others could turn away potential new crypto enthusiasts. To draw a parallel to fiat currency, the vast majority of Americans do not know how fractional reserve banking (FRB) works or what the Federal Reserve Bank is, but they use currency generated by FRB and issued by the Fed on a daily basis.

French sociologist Marcel Mauss’ seminal work The Gift may be able to lend some valuable insight into building the crypto community(ies). Mauss suggests that communities and interpersonal relationships are built on the foundation of reciprocity, gift giving, and social debts. This is to say that the creation of social obligation forges bonds between individuals. He argues that these gifts given usually were self interested. If you give a good or service to someone, they become indebted in some way. It mandates engagement with others.

I’ve actually witnessed a similar kind of reciprocal crypto community already: Dogecoin. At the height of active users in the Dogecoin community, they were sending teams to the Olympics, funding a NASCAR sponsorship, and helping provide clean water to less fortunate communities. In addition to these large philanthropic endeavors, dogecoin remained very active among smaller time cyrpto users as well via giveaways and tipping. Since Dogecoin is relatively cheap and rather stable against fiat, members of the community will often give away small amounts of coins to other users to keep everyone excited. They’ll also tip some coins during discussions about anything ranging from the future of the coin to how an individual is feeling that day.

The creation of these social debts created opportunities and obligations to have community members return often and participate. This is where Mauss’ idea seems obvious to me. Obligation to participate grows a community. For a fair amount of time, Dogecoin was one of the most traded altcoins. Sadly, the same is true about less frequent participation. Dogecoin’s active members have seen a downtick recently, which have affected popularity and participation.

Bitcoin also used to have an easy way to tip others on the Internet via ChangeTip. This service allowed easy mircopayments between individuals across a plethora of social media and networking platforms. ChangeTip was very popular. It saw over $250,000 worth of tips sent and received with most tips hovering around $1. Despite this, the service shut down in November 2016. Maybe we need a new alternative to ChangeTip?

In no way am I suggesting that everyone start throwing large amounts of bitcoin around at each other in the same way Doge was able to. However I am suggesting that if small crypto tips are not available, that we think of Mauss and gift what we can to newcomers and veterans alike. This can be small amounts of altcoins (if the transaction fees allow), but more so knowledge and guidance. Helping individuals get started with crypto is the single easiest way to create that social obligation, to engender participation. Because participation is likely the most effective way to wider adoption and use.

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