A little over a week ago, El Salvador President Nayib Bukele debuted a new Twitter profile photo with laser beam eyes in tandem with his announcement that bitcoin is now legal tender in the country. Various other lawmakers in Central and South America also followed suit and donned #lasereyes, leaning into a favorite meme of the bitcoin-loving set. They joined the likes of fellow bitcoin enthusiasts and investors, including Tom Brady, Paris Hilton, Michael Saylor, and U.S. senator Cynthia Lummis, who’ve all had lasers shooting out of their digital eyes at some point over the past few months.

El Salvador President  Nayib Bukele
El Salvador President Nayib Bukele

The #lasereyes meme is pretty standard internet. Memes blow up every so often and actually inspire mini cultural movements—or huge ones. Case in point: dogecoin. The internet, especially platforms like Twitter and Reddit, has a habit of spinning things that start as jokes into serious stuff.

Still, the fact that we’ve been able to get big-time politicians, businesspeople, and various other celebrities to add laser eyes to their very public profiles is pretty ludicrous. It has a bit of a “What are the kids doing these days?” feel to it. A little funny, a little cringey—and a smart marketing campaign for cryptocurrency, whether it was intentional or not.

Ever since the GameStop phenomenon, no one wants to be out of the loop. People are paying attention to the little guys—the meme maker, the Redditor—and those little guys are exercising their agency the best way they know how, through forums, poorly edited photos, “shitposts,” and the support of niche internet communities.

Where Did Laser Eyes Come From?

#Lasereyes’ origin was widely unknown until last week when an article, which looks to be written by the creator himself, @chairforce_btc, appeared in Bitcoin Magazine.

“The first account that I fell in love with on Twitter was American HODL. A toxic Bitcoin maximalist who would call out bullshit and scams, would have extremely insightful perspectives and, most importantly, he'd tweet perfect shitposts,” Chairforce explained as he recounted his journey to Bitcoin Twitter and eventually viral status.

After his idol American HODL (@THEAMERICANHODL) retweeted one of his memes, it was off to the races. Chairforce found a few other memers whom he connected with and created what he calls “The Meme Factory.” The group, he says, continued to grow, creating memes for other people and showing their solidarity through community avatars. The seeds of laser were planted.

An ask to add laser eyes to a bitcoin x Elon Musk meme sparked Chairforce’s best idea to date—he put laser eyes on all members of The Meme Factory’s avatars. The crew loved it, and they decided to release their avatars simultaneously using the hashtag #LaserRayUntil100K (until the price of bitcoin reaches $100,000). It blew up a little, then Elon Musk very briefly supported the campaign, and it blew up a lot. So it goes.

Elon Musk tweets "Just for a day" in regards to adding laser eyes to his Twitter profile photo.

The initial launch was back in February, and Musk rocked laser eyes “just for a day” on February 19, but we’ve seen waves of beam-eyed avatars rolling in through the following months, including the latest rush from multiple Latin American lawmakers. At the same time, investor Anthony Pompliano (@APompliano), who has amassed almost a million Twitter followers, tweeted on June 7, “Laser eyes will go down as one of the greatest marketing campaigns in history. Few understand this.”

Is #lasereyes a marketing campaign? Sort of. Chairforce and The Meme Factory aimed to publicize their support for bitcoin—but they did it in their language, on their terms, and it all happened organically. The beauty of the meme is its repeatability, and its genius is its exclusivity. People desperately want to be in on the joke, and they want to know when something big is about to pop off. Laser eyes offers no explanation or context. And you usually won’t be able to find out why these memes exist by searching on Google or Twitter. You just have to get it. And even if you don’t, it’s worth pretending you do. No one wants crypto FOMO.  

Is Laser Eyes Over?

A couple days after I finished writing this, the price of bitcoin dropped below $30k and all of its 2021 gains were briefly erased. A stream of tweets flooded in, ripping on people who still had, or once had, laser eyes.

Now the McDonald’s hat is a thing.

If laser eyes was the top, McDonald’s hat is the bottom, people are saying. As in, people who invested all their money in bitcoin now have to find jobs at McDonald’s.  

Homer Simpson McDonald's hat meme

Bitcoin Twitter is embracing it. People are happily fitting McDonald’s hats on their avatars' heads. Despite the looming “death cross,” a term used when a short-term average trendline crosses below a long-term average trendline, signaling a possible bear market, people are holding on for dear life (“HODL”).

And then, just like that, the price of bitcoin surged 18% in a day on Wednesday, June 23. President Bukele still has laser eyes (no McDonald’s hat—yet), and he was recently quoted saying El Salvador’s bitcoin plan looks “bulletproof.” There are talks of Uruguay becoming the next country to make cryptocurrency legal tender, too.

So, laser eyes isn’t quite dead yet, and Chairforce pledged #LaserEyesUntilFiatDies. At this point he has a long way to go, but until we see public figures in the Mickey D’s visor, laser eyes it is.