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Wednesday, Feb 08, 2023

ikTok logo seen displayed on a smartphone. Screenshot of TikTok featuring "Dabloons" trend

The Dabloon economy is the latest craze engulfing TikTok: from inflation and debt, to thieves and factions

TikTokers have created a giant fake economy within the app, with millions of participants, using a fabricated currency—Dabloons—and it reflects real-world events.  Millions are part of the Dabloon economy, but the fake currency is suffering from inflation.
Based on the 16th century coin “Doubloons,” the coins can be earned simply by scrolling over a video that gives them out. You then might come across another video, usually containing a cat and the phrase “hello traveler”, that offers goods that you can buy using your Dabloons—things such as weapons, fictional pets and castles. 

The trend originated in 2021 with a nonsensical meme shared by the Instagram account catz.jpeg, in which a picture of a cat was captioned “4 dabloons.” In recent days, however, it has taken on a new life and come to symbolize much more than a whimsical fake currency—it has become an economy reflecting real-life events. 

At first, it was an immensely popular and quirky role-playing game that was easily accessible and had no real rules or consequences. Nothing about Dabloons is real, neither the currency itself nor the items you buy, and you could most definitely cheat in the game (though doing so would largely be pointless, as it’s meant to be non-competitive). 

As the movement grew during October and November, users have taken it to new levels, including tracking how many Dabloons they have in intricate spreadsheets, and even coding their own Dabloon-tracking apps. 


TikTokkers tackle inflation

The freedom of the Dabloon economy is such that anyone can sell items for Dabloons and anyone can make videos that distribute Dabloons—and inevitably, this has led to inflation. 

To combat this, TikTok users have begun enacting fiscal policies around Dabloon use and distribution. These have been almost universally accepted within the app, based on a trust and shame system. One such rule holds that the maximum number of Dabloons that can be given in one video is capped at 100. 

Accounts such as the Dabloon Government and Dabloons HQ also exist to inform and police the Dabloon economy’s incredible growth. 

But not all is rosy. Thieves have emerged, stealing other people’s Dabloons, while victims go into debt. As the role-playing evolves, some users within the Dabloon economy have also split into factions, and some have formed an anti-capitalist revolt. 


Fun or coping?

For many, the Dabloon economy appears to be a fun form of escapism. One Twitter user Marie Lum reacted to the trend, saying: “It’s really creative and fun and I love it, it reminds me of games I used to make up with my friends when I was a kid but this is on a much larger scale.” 

But could it also be a coping mechanism? London-based freelance illustrator and TikTok-user Alice Marcella Williams, 26, told Fortune that she thinks the trend is a reaction by young people to the current economic climate. 

“It’s comedic because it’s directly confronting an active fear and presenting it in an easily safe and defeatable thing,” she said. “It’s TikTok’s comedic answer to the energy crisis and worldwide economic breakdown.” 

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