Like so many others my life was upended during the pandemic. I was an international university student living in California and when the pandemic hit. I was just about to graduate. Unlike so many other international students who went back to their home countries after the universities allowed students to take online courses, I was not able to go back to my native India. With graduation looming and with four years of undergrad about to be under my belt (not to mention the international tuition bill footed by my parents), I did not want to leave the country without attempting to land a job. Problem was, no companies wanted to hire me, especially with my visa status. With no solid job prospects looming after graduation, little savings left in my bank account, and the real prospect of my visa expiring within the 90 days requirement to find a job, I was thinking about my next move. Should I leave and go back home? Should I continue to try my luck job hunting? I had to do something. I didn’t have much money left. It was at this juncture that my computer screen started proliferating my mind with latest pandemic fueled bitcoin surge.
I guess Facebook and Google’s algorithm read my brain and understood my fear of not being able to earn money properly. They showed me ads, clickbait, and many other forms of people getting rich off bitcoin. I always wondered how they read my mind so well. How did they detect my angst about losing my savings. How did they detect my need for more money? Was it something I said that AI picked up from my laptop? It could have been something I read online, or vaguely clicked on or glossed over. So scary how strong their algorithms are. Incredible actually. Either way, the prospect of getting rich off cryptos interested me. So I thought to myself, if so many others can do it, why can’t I?
And so began an addictive post-graduation journey of me becoming a “crypto-holic”. I decided that come what may, job or no job, I would find a way to make money. And if that meant dumping some savings into Robinhood and Coinbase, then so be it. And so the crypto-holism began. I dumped 50% of my savings and spread it over ETH, DOGE, BTC, and Bitcoin Cash. I started reading about the coins, their uses, and bought into the hype that they would surge quickly and I could take some profit out. The problem wasn’t that they didn’t surge. As you all know, surge they did.
Note to reader, this is not a story about how I made a lot of money from dogecoin or bitcoin, or any of the other cryptos. This is a story about my “cryptoholism” and the pitfalls of the incessant iPhone checking, weight loss (or gain depending on your body type) and other health and social hazards that may come with being addicted to the world of crypto “get rich quick” schemes.
Initially, my crypto bank account wasn’t doing poorly. Bitcoin was surging. I was happy. Ether was surging. I was happy. The fractional shares I bought through Robinhood were paying off. I wasn’t realizing any of my gains though. I truly believed my investment would go to the moon, so I held. And it was going to the moon, often in a big way. Every time the damn cryptos surged, I would reward myself with two bottles of beer, revelling in the delusional fact that I was a crypto genius, and I was exploiting the market better than others.
Within six months, I lost most of the money that I had put in. The problem was my own psychological undoing. I would read in an article about how big crypto was going to be, and then inevitably I would put money in. Then, as soon as the price went towards a downturn, I would read about all the ways the coin price was going to sink. Again, my phone and computer didn’t discriminate when it came to proliferating me with crypto news. So, when I took the money out, most of the time it was because I intended to cut my losses. But man oh man, the pull was strong to put it back in. And I did just that. I follow the news and made trades based on what I read. I began a pattern of dumping in money during a surge, and pulling out money during a downturn. Unfortunate for me, I was usually cutting my losses rather than raking in gains. I know, in hindsight, it sounds stupid. But I was a novice and a reckless idiot. In some ways I still am.
Whats worse though was my dedication to crypto not only lost me money, but destroyed my health. I sat on my computer for more than 14 hours a day reading about crypto, reading about Elon Musk, reading about which sites I can make the most of buying my crypto through fractional shares. Little did I know that after six months of staring at my screen all the time, I developed a severe case of digital eye strain. Some of you already know how this feels. I would get aches across my eyebrows, a little fatiguey buzz would erupt above my forehead from time to time during the day. Worst of all, the digital eye strain ended up giving me insomnia. Not unlike so many others who were living through the pandemic lockdown, I would stay up til the wee hours of the night researching and worrying about crypto (whether I made the right investment or not). I would get up at 1 pm, my body not in the least concerned that I needed breakfast or realizing that my natural circadian rhythm was totally out of whack.
I lost my appetite. Within six months, I had shed about 20 pounds, mostly because all I did was sit on a chair or lie in bed reading about crypto and the alarming positive and negative news articles that came with it. The pandemic lockdown made it easy for me to excuse myself when I thought I needed to go out for a run or go exercise. So I stayed in, and all I did was look at my screen. My body wasn’t burning energy, and hence, there was no need to feel hungry for long periods of time. My body eventually pushed me to stupidly believe that a mere one or two meals of pasta and sausages is enough for me to survive with. I did survive, but if you looked at me in December 2020, you would think I was little more than a ghost.
This process went on for about seven months until my savings ran out and my parents were unable to send me anymore allowance money. Their business was going into a downturn and I needed to find a job. By now, I had invested over 80% of my savings into crypto, and the remaining amount was dwindling quickly. I looked at myself in the mirror and was shocked to find myself looking totally gaunt. My eyes had circles under them. My hair had grown to lengths I hadn’t witnessed before. My unkempt and patchy beard grew outwards and curly, giving me a haggard and haphazard homeless look. I looked like a knock off desi version of Christian Bale in The Machinist. I looked horrible.
To make matters worse, my visa was running out and I had no way of actually staying in the country should I not be employed. It was time to sell everything. And so I did. Starting with bitcoin. As soon as I sold bitcoin, the doggy dog of cryptos, Dogecoin began surging. So I thought, why the hell not give it a shot. Still had a few weeks. I will pull out of Dogecoin at the slightest hint of a collapse. So I bought DOGE, and as soon as it surged to 7 cents, it fell within a matter of days to 5. I lost a massive chunk of the value I put in, and I cursed myself for repeatedly being idiotic and not learning my lesson.
The point I’m trying to make is, it sucks to put all your eggs in a speculative crypto market. I paid for this with financial losses, the opportunity cost of searching for a job, and probably the worst thing was that I totally forgot about my health. Not to mention, no girls on Tinder wanted to date a dude who looked like a pawned off version of Christian Bale from the The Machinist. Lesson learned. Right?
Question for Readers
What advice would you give the writer that could have helped him rake in more gains?