*I don’t own any NFTs nor do I have plans to buy into the market. Apart from a broader interest in the mass adoption of crypto, I have no fiscal stake in the non-fungible revolution.

The right click and save meme is one of the most obvious critiques of NFTs. It’s just a JPG, skeptics claim… Why the hell should I pay $30 let alone $300,000 for an image? A valid question to be sure, worthy of a real answer. Here’s my opinion on the subject.

When a person buys an NFT they’re not paying for the image, they’re paying for authenticity and exclusivity. Buying an NFT confers upon the purchaser the ownership of a unique, unduplicatable digital good. The idea of authenticity = value is neatly summarized by the following counter-example.

With a couple of grand you can buy a conversion kit which turns a regular car into a “Lamborghini.” When assembled correctly, a kit car can end up looking surprisingly like the original and yet… I think 90% of us would agree that a Kitborghini is in incredibly poor taste. Who the fuck are you trying to fool? Are you that desperate for validation? Driving a Kitborghini is like trying to buy love.

Returning to NFTs, right-click-and-save the JPG is the digital equivalent of a kit car. Sure, your saved JPG looks the same as the NFT, but it’s a false god. The point of a high end NFT or a Lamborghini isn’t solely ascetic appreciation or tight cornering, ownership is about status and cultivating an image. I’m sure you could buy a nearly perfect replica of the Mona Lisa for a few hundred bucks, but who’s going to hang it in their living room and feel pride in ownership?

In our digitized world an online reputation is like a curated museum. Reputation matters, and to a certain subset of the population (the younglings) it matters an awful lot. Having an original, authenticated NFT is not meaningfully different than having a Lamborghini in the garage. A real NFT is a flex.

This is not to say that all NFTs are valuable, easily 95% of NFTs on OpenSea could be no-bid in a few years. Even if we’re in the midst of a massive bubble though, that doesn’t mean that the underlying technology is going to zero. People (myself included) care about prestige, status and projecting an image to the world. NFTs fulfill that need and, bear markets aside, I expect that the ecosystem will continue to grow.

Twitter recently announced that they’re working on an NFT verification service. Any user who sets their profile picture to an NFT can get a checkmark proving that they’re the owner of said image. Encountering a user with a verified Crypto Punk as their profile pic (Crypto Punks are currently worth hundreds of thousands of dollars) is the digital equivalent of seeing someone drive by in a Lambo.

I expect that within a year or two, most other social media platforms will follow Twitter’s lead. Facebook, Instagram, the little picture in your email profile. We will invent ways for people to show off their NFTs and in this world, the right-click-and-save image has a flex value of zero.