Sriya Guduru, World News Editor

If you’re 18 or younger, chances are you’ve heard of Reddit before— scrolled through your favorite subreddit, laughed at a random meme, obsessively checked r/ApplyingToCollege, and heard of the infamous u/dinosauce313 controversy. Sure, Reddit is a powerful online forum, but who would’ve thought it had the power to upend Wall Street?

An object of childhood nostalgia, GameStop used to be all the rage amongst young children and teenagers as a one-stop shop for whatever games they wanted. However, the company in recent months seemed headed for bankruptcy after massive losses, further exacerbated by Wall Street’s short selling.

To clarify, short selling is when an investor bets against a company’s stock, waits for the prices to plummet, and makes profit by re-purchasing the stock at a lower price. Say the stock for Starbucks was currently at $100 per share. You think this is ridiculously expensive (all that for a cup of coffee?) In turn, you borrow 20 Starbucks shares from a broker, and the broker sells those 20 shares for $100 each. Suddenly, the stock goes down to $25, so you buy back those 20 shares. Your profit is now $1500, since $2000-$500 is $1500. Oppositely, the stock could go up to $200. You would then lose $2,000 (all because you order a medium instead of a grande).

The GameStop crisis was similar to this, but instead of losing a few thousand dollars, hedge funds lost millions. On r/wallstreetbets, thousands of small traders recognized Wall Street’s bet against GameStop and sought to drive up the price of the beloved emblem of suburban malls. By purchasing up countless stocks and causing a short squeeze, the GameStop stock rose by around 1600%.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and general subject to internet trolling, tweeted “Gamestonk!!” on January 26th, causing an even greater surge in share prices. Eventually, Citron Research and Melvin Capital, the two hedge funds mainly responsible for short selling, both took massive losses.

So what does this say about Reddit? About the users active on the platform?

For one, the Internet is a more vast and influential space than any of us could have imagined. Wall Street has existed for over 300 years as a legal slave market-turned-financial powerhouse. US companies and government agencies turn to the eight-block street as an authority on many monetary subjects. Yet, the citizens (temporarily) emerged as the victor in this tale: they were able to band together in a community that otherwise might not have been formed and fight for a cause important to them.

Since the 2000s, virtual platforms have paved the way for many other kinds of social change as well. In June of 2021, teens on TikTok and K-pop fans reserved spots in Former President Trump’s Tulsa, Oklahoma rally, only for the 19,000 seat venue to have rows of empty seats after more than 1 million ticket reservations. Following the revelations of Harvey Weinstein’s abuse, #MeToo began as a viral hashtag for survivors of sexual assault and harassment to share their stories. Celebrities like Alyssa Milano, Reese Witherspoon, and Jennifer Lawrence all brought more attention to this movement. 

In repeated instances, these displays of widespread online activism have proven mostly successful. The virtual spaces allow users to collaborate, organize, and comment without a formal organization. Virality and globalism spreads the message even quicker, leading to the sense of camaraderie through mere screens.

So the next time your anti-capitalist tendencies start to flare up, head to Reddit, and maybe you too can topple an institutional hegemon!