If there’s anything we’ve learned in the age of Web2, it’s that people’s lives are rarely what they seem online. It can be nice to enter into a virtual world where you can explore anything, meet anyone, and discover endless opportunities. But the damage that’s been done is clear: presenting only the most ideal versions of ourselves on the internet has ravaged mental health.
Even internal documents from Meta (formerly Facebook) show that Instagram is harmful to teenage girls.
People’s lives — especially those of young adults — have been significantly affected by the ever-deepening divide between reality and online personas. We had a front-row seat to the damage and pain caused: we watched our own teenagers struggle as they navigated the highs and lows of the pressure for acceptance, belonging, and the roller coaster of insecurities and self-esteem.
The subsequent feelings of inadequacy and isolation create a spiraling effect, where those affected find it difficult to break the cycle and find confidence in themselves again. As the average age of consumers online sinks lower, we are concerned that there is an ever-growing population of impressionable people vulnerable to this culture. We have an opportunity to make a change in Web3. How can the NFT and Web3 community plan to forge forward?
The change we need
The harm done by conformity culture makes us realize that we must normalize differences to tackle the problem at the source. Studies have shown that social media consumption in mass quantity is linked to depression and loneliness, according to many sources, including Jean Twenge, a Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University and an author of 140 scientific publications and books. In response, we need to take those small steps towards a culture that accepts individuality and celebrates every person’s unique qualities.
We need to create a community of like-minded people, acting as a safe space in Web3 for everyone.
We’re also facing a lack of accessible mental health resources, especially in lower-represented communities. According to a recent study in the journal Psychiatric Services, the number of centers offering mental health treatment in Spanish declined by nearly 18% between 2014 and 2019.
We can reach across the globe to create an online community that guides others to valuable resources, such as by bringing forward motivational speakers, self-growth classes, and access to mental health tools. And we must do so. In this new community, we must encourage people to be comfortable in their skin and take advantage of these self-growth opportunities.
We are always brainstorming ways we can offer support to those striving to rise above the challenges of the Web2 era, and we think we know how to do it.
Forming community via NFTs
If you think these initiatives are coming from a place of paranoia, try an online search of celebrities like Deebo Samuel, a star wide receiver in the NFL. In Web2’s culture, many would see their fame and success without considering the entire picture, the reality behind the screen. It’s easy to stay uninformed of the hardships online figures have faced. Notice, too, how it’s much easier to leave disrespectful comments online about people you’ll never meet face-to-face.
Last year, Samuel opened up about the hurdles he faced in a tribute to his stepmother on GQ. With a rough upbringing in South Carolina, Samuel experienced a challenging family environment, such as his biological mother being unable to take care of her children and his brother going in and out of prison. Samuel attributes his ability to rise above it all to the generous support of his stepmother, Precious. He concludes, “when you’re stuck in those circumstances, that endless spiral, thinking life will never get better, thinking that you’re stuck forever, you stop believing that the sun will shine tomorrow — unless you have someone like Precious that’ll hold your hand as you walk through the storm.”
But not all young people have a support system to get them through the difficult times in their lives. That’s why, when Samuel first learned of our mission, it struck a chord. “As the metaverse grows and NFTs become more mainstream, we need communities to be socially responsible and represent all backgrounds, races, genders, and experiences,” said Samuel.
That eloquent and powerful message may be personal to Samuel, but it rings true for all of us. If the Web2 culture is all about conformity and demonizing of differences, perpetuating the endless cycle of perfection and idealism, then what can we do to pull ourselves free and fight back against the ever-worsening mental health crisis?
The answer is right in Samuel’s message: we need a helping hand and a strong and supportive community, and NFTs give us a way to build a community and change things.
NFTs allow individuals around the world to form communities and unite around shared interests and causes. They give you the flexibility to support projects and values that you believe in. Beyond our own mission at trumii, we admire how others have created strong communities, such as the Women Rise NFT project and Bored Ape Yacht Club. But this is just the beginning. We have so much more work to do. The communities we create can have the power to bring the change we seek.
The whole world participated in forming Web2, building platforms for virtual interactions with good intentions, but now Web3 gives us an opportunity to address the unintended harm done. The onset of this new era is certainly exciting — full of entrepreneurial opportunities and new experiences — but with amazing opportunities comes an urgent responsibility to do things right. Without the support of a hopeful and open-minded community, we’ll easily fall into the same traps we did in Web2.
We believe that all of us, especially companies getting involved in the building of Web3, have a responsibility to create a brighter future for online life. We must pave a path to a more inclusive, accepting, and supportive online world before Web3 becomes an integral part of our lives.
Anjali and Girija founded trumiiNFT after they bonded over helping their teenagers navigate the challenges of Web2. Their goal is to create an environment that does not repeat the pitfalls of social media. To learn more or become a part of the community, visit the project website or follow on Twitter for updates.