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TikTok is feeling emotional damage over the market crash

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Maybe taking investment advice from social media was a bad idea

Tessellated TikTok logos against a dark background. Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

My TikTok For You page is generally a wonderland of soothing cooking videos, lesbian carpentry, dieticians frothing at the mouth at fitness scams, and whatever it is @yoleendadong is up to. But every so often, my FYP will land me in FinanceTok and CryptoTok. And buddy, I do not think everyone there is OK.

I’ve never turned down a chance to leap down the TikTok rabbit hole, and perusing the #marketcrash2022 and #cryptocrash2022 tags is truly tragic. There’s this baby going through a rollercoaster of emotions watching stocks go up and down. There’s also this grown adult man doing the same thing, set to the Emotional Damage vs. Pompeii by William Li sound. Actually, it seems like a lot of grown men are crying about their cryptocurrency and investment portfolios tanking.

Those are just the tip of the iceberg. FinanceTok is a menagerie of self-proclaimed money experts telling you which stocks to buy and sell. It seems they’ve all read Rich Dad Poor Dad and I Will Teach You to Be Rich but come to very different conclusions about what the lessons ought to be.

But once a crash actually happens, so do new types of videos. There are the self-satisfied creators who called the crash several months ago and are using that as clout so you’ll “hit plus for more.” Then there are the smug creators opining about why they’re “not worried about the crash” because “historically markets always rise after a crash.” An absurd number are obsessed with that one Warren Buffet quote, “Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.” It’s used to justify either HODLing (that is, continuing to hold) or going on a crypto buying spree when the market is down.

Meanwhile, a TikTok astrologer who pivoted to cryptocurrency has over a million followers. One of her latest YouTube videos, a 22-minute clip about how Pluto returning to the US’s second house of finance hints at economic malaise (and a good time to invest in crypto), has more than 36,000 views.

Even the real estate TikTokkers are joining in, sighing at the discourse about whether this is exactly like 2008. Others are keen to explain why or why not a housing crash is also on the way because the Fed is going to raise interest rates. It all sounds plausible when you see it on TikTok. Housing markets usually cool off when interest rates go up — and the Fed plans on raising interest rates this year — but there are usually way more factors that go into housing busts.

If you’re trying to find an idea of who in these videos is worth trusting — I recommend closing the TikTok app and sticking your head out the window for some fresh air. Finance is labyrinthine. Entertaining snippets on TikTok and other social media are digestible. Occasionally, you scroll away knowing something you didn’t beforehand. But as confusing as investing can be, going off “advice” you saw on TikTok (or r/wallstreetbets) might not be the best idea. That’s how that GameStop chaos happened.

It’s all good fun, but some of us are actually using these platforms for investing advice. Just as influencers and social media helped drive the market up, it’s possible they can also inadvertently shepherd it in the other direction. Sure, many influencers are urging us to HODL and see slumping prices as an opportunity. But it only takes a few scared folks in an echo chamber to spark panic selling. This is how memes end up in the back of people’s minds as they make real-life decisions.

Stocks can go up or down, but FinanceTok has just made an important discovery: markets going up or down provide good fodder for the content mill.