He should have been concentrating on the student he was tutoring in physics — a job he did during his free time while enrolled in a post-baccalaureate pre-med program — but Omar’s eyes kept darting back to the Robinhood app open on his phone.
Omar had invested $6,000 in Beyond Meat options; in the days before that tutoring session he’d seen the value of that investment rocket up to almost $15,000. What he was witnessing now, though, felt like torture.
By lunchtime, the stock options Omar had bought were down around $7,000 from their peak.
“It was diamond hands,” said Omar, using the site’s term for holding an option even after incurring extreme losses or gains. “It was like, all or nothing.”
Within two days Omar had lost not only his gains but his entire initial investment.
Desperate to earn it back, Omar, 23 years old and the child of working-class immigrant parents, took the rest of the money he could scrounge up — cash from his tutoring gig, his stimulus check, a chunk of his freshly-deposited student loans that was supposed to pay for his living expenses (which were basically non-existent after he had moved home during the Covid-19 outbreak) — and poured all of it, $22,000, into his Robinhood account. Then he opened up WallStreetBets.
”I was really scared,” Omar told CNN Business in an interview in August. “All I wanted to do was just make my initial money back and pay it off.”
By the end of the week, he had lost it all again.
Omar, who spoke on the condition that he be referred to using a pseudonym out of concern over the legality of trading with money from his student loans, said that he blames himself for his losses but regrets ever stumbling upon one of Reddit’s most active communities.
”I would not have traded options,” Omar admitted, “if I had not found WallStreetBets.”
This January, with WallStreetBets now an inescapable presence, Omar was back on the board. Back to trading.
Stock market meets internet fringe culture
This past week has been a banner one for Reddit’s island of misfit investors.
Describing itself as if “4chan found a Bloomberg terminal,” the forum’s giddy nihilism, inscrutable language and memes fueled a war on a perceived corrupted mainstream.
And it’s led WallStreetBets’ evolution into an unprecedented force of retail-investing financial radicalism, offering the allure of get-rich-quick gains to a rapidly expanding audience of millions. (5, at last count).
Many celebrated WallStreetBets’ war on GameStop short-sellers as a populist campaign against hedge-fund raiders looking to profit off the destruction of a well-known retail brand like GameStop. But unlike many other similar online communities, there is also a clear financial goal for the people in it.
“It’s a means to an end,” explained one of them, AJ Vanover.
At his retail job in a battery store in Missouri, Vanover makes around $35,000 a year. But on Wednesday, he found himself a paper millionaire. (His Robinhood account exceeded $1 million, according to screenshots he provided, but he hadn’t cashed out yet). For months, Vanover had been following GameStop as a “value play,” posting his thoughts on WallStreetBets along the way.
This week, Vanover was off from work, quarantining…