Hopeful Skepticism Is What We All Need for the Metaverse

A personal take from a geriatric millennial on what the meaning of the metaverse could be

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As a proud geriatric millennial who prefers the IRL over the URL, I am frankly too tired to learn something new. Being the mom of two toddlers in year three of a pandemic has stolen from us so many IRL moments.

Yet, systemically, IRL isn’t set up for a lot of acceptance. But we know that movements and cultures that begin online will manifest in exciting ways in the real world.

The metaverse question is a daily one at work. My role is to lead clients to opportunities that solve their problems or accomplish their goals through innovation and technology. That means understanding their business, their personal desires, their competitive landscape and the opportunity space that new human behaviors or nascent technologies can bring them.

An invitation to a new business call with a brand eager to find their space in the metaverse, countless projects to pioneer virtual worlds and a panel at Cannes have propelled me into this new frontier. And like anything I approach, I’m leaning in with curiosity and positivity.

It’s not always about revenue

I’m not going to say anything new here. Do know that I’ve invested in cryptocurrency. My wife has purchased NFTs for our children. And I’ve thought about trying to purchase property in The Sandbox. Apparently, there’s a waitlist—didn’t know the internet could run out of real estate.

After learning what I can through articles and podcasts and hearing directly from those passionate and knowledgeable about this space—including the skeptics—I’ve started to develop ideologies that match my values, both IRL and online.

The business goal is to drive growth through relationships. It would be super easy to hitch up the client wagon caravan and chase the gold rush of revenue with gimmicky uses of Web3 or get on stages around the world with a plethora of metaverse-related buzzwords. But that doesn’t feel authentic.

And so, the advice to clients is be a hopeful skeptic. Skepticism leads to finding the potential value for your customers. And this value creation doesn’t necessarily directly or immediately correlate to revenue growth for your brand.

Access to infinite worlds

Value, in this case, should be engagement, entertainment and utility. A new way to connect and experience your brand. Potentially resulting in growth. Leading the way into an exciting future.

Please don’t create scarcity and exclusivity to create a new stream of revenue. It’s tempting, but it’s robbing the poor and the youth. A valuable tenet of Web2 was an expansion to access and of the self that didn’t play by the financial rules of the real world. No matter your level of financial privilege, if you had access to an internet connection, you had access to infinite worlds and information that made you smarter and made you feel less alone.

When I collected sports cards as an 8-year-old, I’d get a new Beckett at the local card shop once a month. Within the Beckett, it would showcase the pricing of the cards I had and others I deeply desired. These cards had personal value: Pride, bragging rights and feelings of specialness. According to my Beckett, they also had monetary value.

According to my mom: “They are only worth what someone else will pay for them.” And 30 years later, this same tactic and insight rings true with NFTs.

Philosophically, Web3 is part of our evolution. Brands are encouraged to participate. We are currently using new technology to exchange for access, material goods and permissions (i.e., stuff that’s always been around).

Remember when email wasn’t really a thing? We all got one anyway. 20 years later—after more adoption and perceived value, the behavior of how to use it adapted to the new tech. We couldn’t live without our emails today. I suspect the same will happen with Web3.

We don’t want brands to find themselves as the boomers who ignored Web2 and have to call their kids daily to fix their logins on Hulu or remove unwanted photos accidentally uploaded to Facebook.

So set up your stores in the metaverse. Make interoperable branded avatars. Give consumers a meaningful connection point where they already are. Give more consumers a reason to adopt.

Lay the foundation so that when society does figure out how to use this new tech for new things, you’re ready. You’ve tested it all out. You’re educated.

Build some preparedness for what’s next by placing small investments in your company and its learning today. It’s the new ROI: Return on Innovation.

Finding community during the loneliness epidemic

We live in what some experts call a loneliness epidemic, and if we can create worlds where people can feel less alone, and where they can feel their most self, that’s a mission worth undertaking.

Personally, my hope for the metaverse is for Gen Z, Gen Alpha and beyond to find their community and reduce bullying. An insight that sticks with me is that more than 50% of Gen Z feel most authentic in expressing themselves online.

I can relate. Kinda.

When I was a junior in college, I was struggling with coming out as a Gay woman. And because I had lived so much of my life trying desperately to pass as straight, I felt that my current community around me would feel like I was a fraud. That our relationships weren’t based on truth.

They weren’t. Living in the closet is living inauthentically.

My thought was: Go somewhere else and start over. I applied to study in London. My plan was to go live a semester in London where I knew absolutely no one and introduce myself as being Gay. Find a new community. Live authentically. Get brave and confident enough to come home and come out.

I didn’t have a metaverse to go to. I didn’t have an avatar to express myself in androgynous clothing. I didn’t have a searchable community to find people like me. But I get the desire to need this space where you can be yourself.

My personal hope for the metaverse is for just that: Finding your people. Starting over. Getting braver. Acceptance. Live and let live. 

I know there’s a whole negative side to finding your people and affirming ideologies. An avatar allows for a level of some anonymity, the Blockchain, however, should help deliver on accountability.

But like I said, I’m leaning into positivity, curiosity and hope.

Kathryn Fergerson