Crypto talk could ruin Thanksgiving dinner

With the arrival of Thanksgiving, it’s time to talk turkey—by which, of course, I mean, it’s time to talk frankly with your family, over turkey, about crypto.

Blame Facebook all you want, but the kinds of harmful attitudes and misinformation about crypto that famously spread like wildfire on social media are just as likely to stem from dinner table talk. What transpires there, in the familial sanctum sanctorum, has just as much power as Mark Zuckerberg to shape your uncle’s opinions for years to come. While you can’t monitor all the suspicious news your closest relatives may ingest, especially with how gauche spyware is considered these days, Thanksgiving is a perfect chance to shut down alternative facts (aka fear uncertainty, and doubt; aka FUD) about altcoins in the meatspace, while gorging yourself on meat.

After all the uncertainty and chaos of the last year and a half—the Shiba vs Doge wars turning sibling against sibling—it may be a particularly tense time to have this conversation. Arguing about DAOs could potentially render the holiday spirit in your house DOA. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here’s how to talk with your family about crypto this Thanksgiving, without having mom and grandpa form a blockchain against you coming home for Christmas.

Don’t rush in

The hardest part of being a crypto enthusiast is not being able to talk about crypto for upwards of five minutes sometimes, but it’s a necessary sacrifice. When it comes to educating your family about the magic of Web3, you can’t just barge in as you would at a cocktail party, where it’s fully acceptable to use greetings, such as, “Hey, did you know that bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency that can be exchanged online without a bank or any intermediaries whatsoever?” In this instance, it’s better to let the mountain come to Muhammad. Or, put another way, let Mars come to Elon Musk.

The good news is that it almost certainly will! In light of recent events, odds are strong that the topic of bitcoin will emerge organically this Thanksgiving. (In fact, odds are so strong, I would bet on it. With bitcoin.) Picture it: Everyone is gathered ’round the TV on Wednesday night, watching the Laker game as a family, when an announcer mentions that soon the team won’t be playing at the Staples Center anymore, but rather at the Arena. (Same address, new name, starting December 25.) If that doesn’t happen, perhaps someone at the table will have heard that a group of high-profile crypto investors recently banded together to try to purchase the U.S. Constitution. Now you have an opening!

Lead with love

Before donning your debate hat at the dinner table, bear in mind that these are people whom you love. Family members are not ideological enemies to be destroyed with logic, but rather fellow token holders to be gently persuaded before a Discord call. If their response to your initial explanation is to say that crypto sounds like virtual currency, rather than real money, take it in stride. Do not point to the laptop from which Cousin Hunter is zooming in because of COVID and ask whether his virtual presence makes him any less real. Restraint is key.

From where you’re sitting—HODLing on a mountain of digital greenbacks—it seems like any fool should understand crypto’s undeniable tangibility. But it didn’t happen automatically for you, and it won’t for your family, either. Better to ease them in by explaining just how real bitcoin has become. Start with the fact that Coinbase, the crypto exchange hub, went public last spring, fetching an $85 billion valuation. It might not change your nephew’s mind, but it’s an impressive amount of money. Any way you slice it, an $85 billion valuation sounds real af.

While your Thanksgiving cohorts are still chewing on that number, hit them with the fact that crypto is considered legal tender in El Salvador, and that you will soon be able to use it to pay with PayPal or make donations to UNICEF. It’s not only digital gold, but it’s also much more than that! Serve them simple points with a soft underhand toss. If you had the patience to teach your grandma how to text, you can teach her the basics of bitcoin.

Connect on their level

Unfortunately, even a bitcoin has two sides, and it would be irresponsible not to hold forth on both. As you explain that a central feature of cryptocurrency’s decentralization is the loosey-goosey taxability of its transactions, you should also explain its volatility. This is the critical moment: expounding on the constant nail-biting drama of crypto without turning off an impressionable audience. How then to convey drastic shifts like the rug pull that felled the Squid Game coin, the way Elon Musk can alternately elevate or drop a coin with just a word, or that China can just suddenly decide to ban crypto one day, reigning chaos down upon investors around the globe?

You do it by connecting with them on their level. Go light on the technical jargon and get real. Sure, all this nerve-wracking volatility makes investing in bitcoin seem like a gamble, but what’s also a gamble if not our belief in the value of money persevering? Besides, do we not gamble with our lives every day? More than 38,000 people die each year in car crashes on U.S. roadways, so you might say that just getting into a car puts one at a similar level of risk as investing in Baby Doge. Plus, think of the learning experience when you click on a bad link in a Discord, and your crypto wallet gets emptied out.

You have one mouth, but two ears

At this point, it may turn out your family has concerns about crypto beyond just its staggering unpredictability. Resist the urge to steamroll past these points of contention with more amazing factoids, and instead hear them out. Listening is like the bitcoin to talking’s U.S. dollars: An alternative and possibly better route to getting where you want to be.

Someone in your family will likely bring up the potential energy problem posed by bitcoin mining, which is the process by which new bitcoins are created through the solving of a computational puzzle. Your family will likely have no idea what any of that means, but rather have just heard that it is bad. (They may have also heard that NFTs are bad for the environment as well, but there is only so much enlightenment that can be achieved across one Thanksgiving meal.)

If you’ve listened to your family’s concerns, and it seems like bitcoin mining is among the most prominent, now you have an area of focus, and you can form a plan of (gentle!) attack. Let them know that, according to an estimate from Cambridge University, bitcoin mining currently makes up just 0.4% of the world’s energy consumption. They don’t need to know that all the other data centers in the entire world only consume 1% of its energy. Part of listening, after all, is knowing what not to say.

Know when to fold ’em

Not everyone was born to be a brave explorer on Planet Crypto. Some people won’t budge on their skepticism for alternative currency, and you just may be related to them. If you’ve tried your best to convey the coolness of bitcoin to your family—explaining that it’s endorsed by such beloved politicians as Andrew Yang, Kyrsten Sinema, and Ted Cruz, or that rapper Money Man recently accepted the large advance for his album Blockchain in crypto—and they’re still not on board, it may be time to throw in the towel.

There’s nothing wrong with that!

When that DAO sought to buy the U.S. Constitution recently, they may have been thwarted by a last-minute 5% drop in the value of Ethereum—but at least they tried. It’s this same spirit of boundary-testing, determination, and grit that animated the pioneers of bitcoin . . . also the pilgrims. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on how well both of those projects turned out.