Editorial | You don’t need to understand NFTs to know they’re meaningless

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

NFTs caught fire on Twitter last year and took the internet by storm. But even though countless people have inserted their opinions about them on the internet, does anyone actually know what NFTs are?

People have sold digital art, viral videos and even memes for hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of dollars. The ridiculous things that rich people will buy are astounding, but nothing quite as outrageous as spending $2.9 million on a tweet.

NFT stands for non-fungible token, and is a kind of cryptocurrency that transforms digital artworks and other collectibles into a one-of-a-kind verifiable asset that is tradeable. You can quite literally purchase an image for more money than most of us will ever make in a year’s salary. Although they only recently gained infamy, NFTs have been around since 2014.

The reality is that NFTs are merely another thing for rich people to waste their money on. The tweet that sold for $2.9 million can just as easily be screenshotted and saved on your phone and immortalized in the cloud for the cost of zero dollars. It doesn’t take millions of dollars to enjoy an image — unless your immense greed is telling you so.

CryptoKitties, a digital cryptocurrency trading game created in 2017, was one of the original NFT platforms and now has over two million creations. The game allows people to purchase and sell virtual, customizable cats that they claim are “100% owned by you.” Basically, the whole premise has to do with original ownership. CryptoKitties may be a site for community engagement and creative fun, but the people who pay millions for digital “art,” just so they can lay their claim, demonstrate that NFTs are not created equally for everyone.

The wild thing is that any digital image can be purchased as an NFT — even your family portrait circa early 2000s, but whether or not someone would buy it is another story. Mike Steib, CEO of Artsy, told CNN Business that some are “intrigued by the idea of taking a digital asset that anyone can copy and claiming ownership of it.”

“The recent headline price records for NFTs seem to have been largely driven by newly minted crypto millionaires and billionaires looking to diversify their bitcoin holdings and more interest to the crypto ecosystem,” Steib said.

Simply put, digital images are just really expensive pawns in the NFT chess match for the 1%. 

If you’re stressed because you still don’t understand NFTs, don’t be. NFTs aren’t made, or even accessible, for working class people — especially financially struggling college students. It’s a way for rich people to frivolously spend their money in a new and exciting way, making them feel special over the intangible ownership of digital items we could just as easily store on our phones. You too can be the proud owner of the Nyan Cat GIF, just not the $580,000 NFT version of it.