Spending too much time online in the age of coronavirus is a dangerous game. This is doubly true for those on internet hubs for finance folks.
With more free time, less oversight, and more anxiety, finance forums online, particularly those hosted on Wall Street Oasis, has been aflutter with posts about how the global coronavirus pandemic is affecting everything from job offers to hedge fund returns.
The phenomenon is not unique to the finance industry. The New York Times has called it “the unending anxiety of coronavirus content.” A senior writer at the World Economic Forum pondered whether, as an increasing number of people work from home, coronavirus could “break the internet.”
Two people behind large financial meme Instagram accounts reported an increase in traffic over the past few days. “My views are spiking,” according to the woman behind the Instagram account @wallstreetconfessions, who spoke with Institutional Investor by phone under the condition of anonymity. “My engagement is spiking. People are sending more things to me.”
The man behind @litquidity, who similarly asked to remain anonymous, added that he has seen a rise in Instagram story traffic. “It’s because people are working from home,” he said by phone. “Their boss is not looking over their shoulder when they walk by. They can just pull up their phone during a conference call or when they have downtime.”
Even AQR Capital Management’s Cliff Asness is back online. He recently broke his Twitter hiatus, logging on to make dad jokes (“If they bail out comedians it’s the Lender of Last Retorts”) and to tweet a photo of himself with the hashtag #facialhaircourage.
But, as posting increases, so too does the proliferation of misinformation.
One of the most popular posts on Wall Street Oasis right now is dedicated to tracking changes to summer associate programs for banks and institutions based in New York City. (A spokesperson for Wall Street Oasis could not be reached.) Misinformation about these programs, particularly JPMorgan’s internship program, has been spreading like wildfire online. Posters will say that they – or their friend or family member – work at the firm and that internships and summer associate positions are being canceled.
A JPMorgan spokesperson said via email that internships and summer associate positions, for the time being, are going on as planned.
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That’s what most posters report hearing from their respective firms. Even still, anxieties haven’t been quelled, as fears of being laid off are cropping up. “What I’m seeing in terms of submissions to my website, is that people are afraid of being laid off,” said the woman behind @wallstreetconfessions. “It’s not so much worry about internships as it is worry about losing jobs.”
Those with full-time job offers that have yet to begin have been posting on Wall Street Oasis that they are considering contingency planning in case those offers get rescinded. “Are any master’s programs still accepting applications?” one poster asked. Another mentioned traveling, although the commentariat responded in kind with questions on where – and how – that could happen.
“The primary concern is over job stability,” the man behind the Instagram account @litquidity said. “People want to know if they’re going to continue to get paid.”
To wit: an investment banker made a post on Wall Street Oasis wondering whether the market’s downturn will affect bonuses. The resounding response? Yes, obviously.
The forums focused on investing and returns have also been abuzz over the past week or so. But, like many others, misinformation spreads, and gets shut down, at a fast pace. A post speculating on how hedge funds are doing included the caveat: “Weeks like we just had cause rumors and gossip to spread like wildfire, so stay sharp and skeptical.”
Indeed, one poster claimed that hedge fund firm Citadel’s returns were down 20 percent. But when fellow commenters asked for the source of the information, the poster stayed mum. The rumor was soon debunked, too, with a CNBC article reporting that the fund was down for the month, but remained positive for the year.
Wall Street Oasis, like any other forum, has some weirdos. Most are relegated to the “off-topic” area of the site, where, frankly, chaos reigns. This part of the site is for posts ranging from earnest (“Haircuts During ‘Rona” ) to likely troll-created content (“Is It Wrong For A Girl To Call An Escort?”).
One recent poster took to the off-topic forum to ask for health advice so delicate and personal that you could mistake them – an anonymous M&A intern – for a troll. Even still, commenters responded in earnest with health advice and concerns that the poster could have colon cancer. One poster expressed the obvious: “Why are you asking us? Ask a doctor.”
The forum, of course, is not all bad. One prolific poster — @thebrofessor — used the space to share a lengthy message for his fellow commenters dealing with “the new normal.” He listed myriad ideas for improving physical and mental health and called for fellow forum members to treat one another with respect, humility, kindness, and perspective.
“We are staring down the barrel of the first recession since 2008, and potentially one as bad as or worse than that,” he wrote. “But let me ask you this: when have we, as a species, never come back?”