I wasn’t able to attend NFT.NYC on Nov. 1–3, which has quickly grown into the world’s largest NFT gathering since its birth in 2019, with 5,000 attendess on hand in Times Square for sessions on nonfungible tokens, DeFi, crypto, the metaverse and all things Web 3. Fortunately, the event organizers live-streamed the show. One of the sessions worth catching was event co-founder Jodee Rich’s fireside chat with social media marketing pioneer and NFT collector Gary Vaynerchuk.
The session was too abbreviated, but Gary Vee (as he’s known) managed to touch on several big-picture topics that those of us in the space ought to keep in mind as we forge a path forward together.
Rich set the table when he assessed the NFT landscape this way: “[NFTs are] tribal. They’re collaborative. And they allow us to create value. And that is unique. … All of us know how to create content. But when we release it into the universe, we don’t really own it. And NFTs have given us the ability to own our own content. The thing that’s amazing and so wonderful in this space is that we are moving from being users of someone else’s thing to being creators of our own things.”
Gary Vee agreed, and went even further. “This is the most interesting technology shift since the Internet decided to go social,” he told the audience. “That’s why it’s gonna be phenomenal: It’s bringing a lot of us back to a creative place that we gave up at age 7, 9, 12, 13. … This has been the greatest thing that has happened to the independent artists in a long time.”
Rich put the question to him: How will NFTs change the world over the next year?
That’s probably too short a time horizon, Vaynerchuck correctly noted. But over time, the effects will be huge, spilling out into nearly all sectors.
“Every business is going to be affected by what we’re talking about right now,” he said. “I just don’t know what gal in Tennessee has an idea right now and is going to start something that’s going to go after this or what what person in Harlem is going to go after transportation. But what I can tell you is there won’t be an industry not addressed, affected, changed, impacted by the infrastructure of decentralized servers with a platform. … It’s gonna change the world and it’s gonna change in a big fuckin’ way.”
When Web 2 meets Web 3
The subject that was hanging in the air, but wasn’t really addressed, was the friction between the Web 2 and Web 3 worlds. Gary Vee is walking in both worlds. His VaynerMedia empire is built on Web 2 and social media. So it came as no surprise that he rushed to the defense of the democratizing impact of Twitter and Facebook while downplaying their deleterious effects on society.
“I love how everyone’s like social media so bad,” he said. “I’m like, ‘You mean you like the alternative of mainstream media? You mean the media communication infrastructure that led to the most fascism, dictatorship and wars?’ Let’s not get confused right now. I understand the current conversation is to razz social, but this concept that the media that used to be controlled by 49 people was so much better [is wrong].”
“Facebook made zero people racist. Facebook exposed the racists,” he added.
Vaynerchuk is half right about that — but importantly, he’s also half wrong. Facebook turned zero people into racists. But it gave racists a platform to self-organize, to reinforce each other’s repugnant and antisocial belief systems, and to turn those beliefs into a political movement.
The destructive effects of Web 2 platforms like Facebook upon society should not be glossed over, and it’s one of the driving forces behind the Web 3 movement. That said, Rich was right in not steering the conversation into politics or Facebook bashing.
But the conflict and natural tension between Web 2 and Web 3 was an especially ripe topic for conversation and we never got to hear Gary Vee’s thoughts on the subject. Will Web 3 eventually eclipse Web 2, as its most diehard believers suggest, or will the two find a peaceful co-existence? How will the Web 2 tech giants respond to the coming rise of the decentralized Web?
The closest we came to the topic was this interesting exchange:
JR: What what I what I love about where we are now, apart from the money making part, it’s, it’s actually decentralized.
GV: It’s not decentralized.
JR: I think it is.
“You know what’s decentralized? When you have enough self-esteem to think for yourself. That’s decentralized.”
— Gary Vaynerchuk
GV: No, it’s really not. Let’s talk about why the technology is decentralized. Is anybody watching what’s going on? The humans become the centralization. … We blame platforms but it’s people. Everyone’s like, this is awesome. It’s decentralization, I spent 13 hours discovering an artist named Sarah in Texas that I like and just literally said [on social media], ‘Oh, I like this art.’ And then I get 400 DMs saying, ‘You’re the centralization.’”
Vaynerchuk’s point, I think, was that people are always looking to blame others for their shortcomings and foibles. “You know what’s decentralized?” he asked. “When you have enough self-esteem to think for yourself. That’s decentralized.”
In other words, you’re the creator of your own fate. You own your destiny. What will you do with it?
The dangers of day-trading NFTs
Gary Vee went on at length about the day-trading aspect of buying and flipping NFTs — a subject he regularly broaches on his podcast appearances (too often, I think, because he’s a prolific NFT collector now). I don’t know that I agree with him about the extent of the trading frenzy driven by short-term greed, but then again, he owns 59 cryptopunks — many of which are worth a cool half-million bucks apiece — and I own zero, so perhaps he’s more attuned to the overall vibe of the space.
“Ninety percent of the people currently in our space are in the business of day trading NFT is to make a buck. And that’s OK. But we have to understand it’s also dangerous” and will inevitably lead to a crash, he said.
“We have to be very conscious about this because here’s what’s likely going to happen if we stay this way. I we’re going to have a massive crash because there’s too much supply. And people will get hurt.”
In the end, he said, “We have to be very thoughtful about this.”
Stellar advice from one of the giants of the field.
You can watch the full 45-minute session on YouTube.
This post originally appeared on the Digital Culture Works blog.