Hello from The Goods’ twice-weekly newsletter! On Tuesdays, internet culture reporter Rebecca Jennings uses this space to update you all on what’s been going on in the world of TikTok. Is there something you want to see more of? Less of? Different of? Email email@example.com, and subscribe to The Goods’ newsletter here.
There isn’t much to say about last week’s wild Redditor stonk squeeze-a-palooza that hasn’t already been said by people who actually understand the stock market (for a really great explainer, just read our own Emily Stewart’s all-encompassing guide). One takeaway from the pandemic investment boom: Money is fake, but day trading is TikTok’s favorite new get-rich-quick scheme.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but considering how little financial literacy is taught in schools, it’s easy to get sucked in by the feeling that everyone on the internet is making thousands of dollars by the minute — and you can join in, too, if you download this one app that makes stock trading easy and cute right now. And last week’s meme stock spikes were particularly alluring and particularly dangerous for latecomers. I know because this happened to me!
On Wednesday, I spent $18 on AMC stock just as r/WallStreetBets was telling everyone to buy it, and then when it immediately started going down I heard that, actually, I was supposed to be buying BlackBerry stock, I spent $24 on that, too. And then because Nokia stock was only seven bucks, I was like, sure!
The problem is that by the time someone like me — a person who does not obsessively refresh r/WallStreetBets or have access to its Discord channels — hears about what’s going on, it’s already too late. The only people who really win are the earliest adopters, which is fine! It is extremely cool that some of these people smartly invested their stimulus packages and were able to pay off their student loans as a result of collective action. (I love this Times piece on the mostly young men who coordinated the squeeze.)
I didn’t actually expect to make money; mostly, I wanted to feel what it was like to participate in such a rare and paradigm-shifting internet occurrence. But I was slightly troubled by how frequently I went back to check Robinhood and how disappointing it was to see the numbers go down, and how outraged I felt when the app announced it was halting buys on all the meme stocks.
It was, however, a good reminder of why for most people, options trading isn’t the smartest move. When Emily and I worked on a recent story about risky financial advice going viral on TikTok, she stressed that when the stock market in general is going up, it’s easy to feel like once you’ve made a little bit of money, you can’t lose.
“Some investors are attracted to options trading because it’s exciting and can feel more like gambling than investing,” she wrote. “But investing isn’t really supposed to be exciting. And it’s possible to make a couple of good bets early on, only to eventually get wiped out — a common story. In June 2020, a 20-year-old day trader died by suicide after believing he’d lost hundreds of thousands of dollars on options trading.”
It’s easy for me to imagine teenage amateur investors losing their life savings because of a misguided sense of safety and normal stock market fluctuations, but I doubt they’ll be making TikTok videos about it. The ones who hit the jackpot, though, will surely be documenting their gains while glossing over the fact that nobody, not even the most seasoned hedge fund types, necessarily knows what they’re doing here. Once again, money is fake! (But I still lost 10 dollars.)
Anyway, here are my favorite TikTok videos about #stonks:
It’s 3 pm: Do you know what your child is doing? Spoiler: This.