What Are You Really Buying When You Buy an NFT

Now read the title again as if it were a question because nobody seems to know the answer.

And it’s not a terrible thing because what we do know is that NFTs are worth something. Clearly all the content and data floating around the internet today is worth trillions of dollars. If we stopped making websites for Google and posts for Facebook they would stop making any money entirely. Take one of the floating pieces of internet “content”, capture it as an NFT, rethink how it can be distributed and you boil its value down to its essential participants: the person who makes it and the person who consumes it.

Start first with the person who makes it and for this argument let’s narrow the scope of how we define ‘content’. Let’s go with this example:

“Here’s a photograph I took and shared online. It embodies my perspective to some degree on what I find beautiful or valuable or interesting in this world. I think other people might see what I see in it too.”

Whether you realize it or not it takes years of practice and quite a bit of energy to get your photography to embody your perspective. You spend a little bit more with each photo that you share in a public space. You understand the colors, the placements, the subjects, the textures and the framing because you are making choices, choices based on what you like about your own perspective. Your photos taken from perspective mean more to you than the other photos in your camera-roll, like your drivers license that you needed for some mundane life task. No the photos that you decide to share online have more value to you because they embody your perspective, which takes a lot of energy to discover (forever).

Now approach this from the other end as the consumer of this photograph (probably online) where you came into this whole ordeal with no context about where the photo was taken, what preparations it needed, why the subjects are even together at the same time, when all of it was arranged, or why the light looks the way it does. But none of that matters does it because something about the final product reflects your own perspective, and that strikes you on an emotional level. It makes you feel something and who cares what it is you feel – maybe nostalgia, arousal, cringe, joy – but just the fact that you feel anything to any degree is enough for you to understand the value. When you click like on the post, when you follow the photographer’s profile, or when you share the photo with somebody else it’s like you’re saying to the photographer:

“Hey thank you for that key-bump of feels! I needed a jolt out of my daily monotony. Maybe you can be my dealer going forward?”

The photographer likes it when you perform these signals of affirmation because it gives them a bump of dopamine themselves; validation that their perspective indeed, has value.

When you turn content into NFTs these actions of affirmation are replaced by actions of contribution sending stronger and more direct signals of value to the photographer and that’s how you can really get someone’s attention. A creator now becomes a seller whose perspective is validated when a buyer sends them a strong signal via purchase. A consumer now becomes a buyer whose perspective is validated when a piece of content on the internet hits them in the feels and they want to signal that to the creator. A relationship forms between the two, peer-2-peer I’ve heard it called, because that’s. what. blockchain. does.

Imagine that. A relationship between two people, over the internet, via a natural exchange of value and perspective. Wait, wasn’t that what the internet was meant to do from the start?

Well to be honest, it used to. If you liked my status update on my nascent Facebook profile I considered you my real friend. After many years of this, our friendship became more and more intermediated by Facebook who controls the distribution of my posts, aka. made it possible for our “friendship” to even happen in the first place. Facebook is a business and a business needs money to grow and growth is survival, so out of survival Facebook had to gradually siphon value from all the relationships they stewarded between content creators and content consumers in exchange for their massively expanding service of content distribution.

It’s only natural and it’s the way we had to set up the internet so don’t be bitter. Just be excited for web3.

So then what are you buying when you buy an NFT?

You’re buying back your relationships. Pure and natural and peer-2-peer just as they were intended to be from the start.

Disclaimer: I work for an NFT platform and I am optimistic for the future.

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