The dark side of bitcoin

'After all that stress of buying bitcoins, you might be in the mood for meth or some other unholy substance,' says the writer (Reuters)

'After all that stress of buying bitcoins, you might be in the mood for meth or some other unholy substance,' says the writer (Reuters)

THE FIFTH COLUMN

Let’s get down to brass tacks. The bits of coin lying around the house are not bitcoin. So, what exactly is bitcoin? Few people know. Is bitcoin safe?

It’s unclear, but consider the following: the only way to buy bitcoin for cash — and I’m not making this up — is to find a bitcoin seller in your area and deposit money directly into his or her account.

Now, that bitcoin buddy could probably be anybody. Bitcoin has few rules. Whoever the buddy is, he or she must have wi-fi and internet banking but, hey, while you’re getting cosy swopping bank details, why not meet them face to face?

Where you meet your bitcoin buddy is up to you and your buddy. In the comfort of his or her seedy cyber cave, or on a street corner. A street corner is probably best — it gives you both a chance to get out.

After you meet your bitcoin buddy on a street corner of your choosing, the logical next step (this I am making up because bitcoin is a little tight-lipped on exact procedure) is to hand your bitcoin buddy the cash.

One of two things can happen now. Your bitcoin buddy can take your cash and say he or she will be back with the bitcoins, in which case you know they’re lying because bitcoins are virtual, or your bitcoin buddy can tell you to check your phone in a while, in which case you know they’re to be trusted implicitly because bitcoins are virtual.

Either way, your bitcoin buddy will probably walk away with your cash and leave you in the lurch.

To pass the time constructively while waiting for the confirmation SMS, I recommend standing in one spot staring blankly at your phone’s screen.

Depending on your bitcoin buddy’s plans for the day, the SMS will arrive moments before you burst into tears, or moments after you have collapsed on the sidewalk.

Good news is: after receiving the SMS, you will have less money in your wallet and tons of bitcoins in the cloud, or under Bill Gates’s mattress, or wherever they stash
bitcoins.

After all that stress of buying bitcoins, you might be in the mood for meth or some other unholy substance to settle into your new identity as a free-wheeling cryptocurrency owner and you’re in luck! You have unwittingly stepped into the underworld and are now an honorary member of the Darknet.

Stop loitering on the street corner and find an internet café with an ambulance parked out front. They might have a Darknet in the back. If, heaven forbid, they don’t have a Darknet in the back, ask for the Net with a naked light bulb in the ceiling, ominously swinging from side to side, and make your way there.

This is where you’ll find your meth moving forward. Here you can mingle in poor lighting fully anonymous without the need to look over your shoulder.

It’s a seriously chilled zone — created by users, for users — where everybody knows your screen name and you can really let your guard down and just be yourself.

Hey, you might even bump into your bitcoin buddy.

JS Smit

JS Smit

JS Smit is a Cape Town-based freelance writer. Formally trained as a copywriter, he took a break from ads in 2010 to write a blog for the Mail & Guardian's Thought Leader and since 2015 has written for the Mail & Guardian. Read more from JS Smit

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