Blockchain “Friends” “Forever”
I’ve been exploring NFTs for about a year. So I’m new but still an early adopter. I got interested in the possibilities and when I started listening to the proponents within communities I care about, I got hooked. Web3 promised to be less corporate than Web2, and not centralized, so our data can’t be bought and sold to benefit the ultra rich. All great. The environmental issues got my attention, but I quickly realized that that was mostly hype and was satisfied that buying and selling NFTs was not adding to my already small fingerprint (I use wind energy and drive an EV, etc.).
And again, what attracted me most was the people. Innovators, risk takers, but also just really really good folks whom I liked. I felt at home.
Fast forward to a few months in. I hear about BFF and it’s a big deal with some big deal celebs attached. It is focussed on bringing more women and non-binary folks into the Web3 space which is majority male. I like that. I’m curious so I listen to their intro talk and I mint the BFF friendship bracelet — a colorful jpeg. I don’t have any expectations, I just like their mission and want to show my solidarity. This is my bracelet: https://opensea.io/assets/0x72d47d4d24018ec9048a9b0ae226f1c525b7e794/3703
After a bit I start getting offers on the BFF NFT. $1400, $2000, $2300, and I get excited. I guess this NFT is going to have a lot of monetary value! It’s the first big project I’ve ever attached myself to. And I go into their Discord server and learn more about the roadmap. I see they plan on doing a PFP drop for bracelet holders! Sweet! I decide to hold, as my offers approach 1ETH — which, depending on the day, is more money than I make in a whole month. But I’m part of the community, I support their mission, and I want to see where it goes. I decide I’m not going to sell. I’m no paper hands!
Even though, as the offers roll in, a voice in the back of my head says “Sell it stupid! You need that money!” I hold and hold.
One thing that I like about NFTs is that creators make money. An artist can put out NFTs and sell them and the price can increase, and every time they sell, both the seller and the creator get paid. I love this for digital artists! The other draw for me was the aspect of community — gathering people together for a mission and a collective goal. For BFF it was uplifting women and evening out the playing field in this new business. BFF — “blockchain friends forever.” You join, bring your friends, support each other, find mentors, mentor others, and be a part of creating a new ecosystem, a new economy of sorts, led by women. From a financial perspective you all make money together. If the project wins, we all win. WAGMI!
But then it happened. I thought it would never happen, but I was beginning to take safeguards against such things. I ordered a hardware wallet. It was stolen in transit. Because of course it was. And I awaited my refund. I got one of the highest offers I’d ever gotten for my NFT and I ignored it, though tempted to sell. Meanwhile, I was tagged in a Twitter post. It looked to be from a reputable project that everyone knows about. They were beginning an airdrop following a pattern I was familiar with from another project. Depending upon how much business you had done on the blockchain you’d be rewarded with their new token. They just needed to see your transaction history to issue their tokens to your wallet. Another project called OpenDAO had already done this. That one wasn’t a scam. So nothing in my brain set off red flags. This brand was one of the most successful projects on Web3. I clicked the web site and pressed the button to connect my wallet. Then all sorts of weird transactions came up for approval, some for thousands of dollars. I rejected them. I thought I’d dodged a bullet. Until 12 hours later when I went to check on my collection on Open Sea. And my BFF bracelet was gone! Nothing else of lower value was missing. Just that.
Everything else was there. I was targeted because I had posted about my bracelet days earlier. I became a mark. I got tagged on Twitter by someone with tons of followers, and I fell for it.
I was devastated! I went immediately to the BFF Discord. If they really were my blockchain friends forever, surely they would know what to do. Surely I would not miss out on the PFP drop. Surely my thief would NOT get the benefit — they don’t want thieves as BFFs right?! It’s a real community. Why would they?
I called out on the general chat and was immediately sent to a support ticket channel. I told them which bracelet it was and showed them the wallet holder who had stolen it. And the response was akin to “oh that’s too bad, sorry we can’t help. Things like this have happened to others, and maybe you can go commiserate with them…”
WHAT?! If this were my community, I’d investigate! I’d nullify the stolen NFT. I’d make sure my original community member was taken care of. This isn’t web 2 after all. Turns out, it’s much, much WORSE. It’s a Hollywood hyped up gated community and once you lose the key, you’re out. And if someone steals your bracelet, they are welcomed. Because it’s not a real community, just a pile of BS marketing jargon intended to make easy money. And hey, my thief sold my bracelet and who benefits? BFF benefits from that sale. In fact, they benefit more from the thief who stole it and resold it than they do from me holding the NFT. And if it benefits them, they don’t give a shit. There is nothing ”friends”or “forever” about this fake community of women who pretend to support other women. In fact the new owner of my BFF bracelet calls himself “HomelessKing.” HomelessKing is your new BFF, ladies. Congrats! In fact you can see him right there in the ledger. Right here: https://opensea.io/assets/0x72d47d4d24018ec9048a9b0ae226f1c525b7e794/3703. The bracelet doesn’t belong to him, but you won’t do anything about it. Why?
Looking back I should have known. I had tried to find mentors within the BFF Discord as I set up my own NFT project — something they said was the purpose of their community — and I came up crickets. Most of my posts with questions were ignored. I even offered to hire consultants there to answer my questions. I believe in paying people for their expertise. Nothing. I thought it felt a little unfriendly, but passed it off as it being a very large community and Discord being such a busy place. I gave them the benefit of the doubt. As it turns out I should have just sold the stupid bracelet and moved on at that point.
For days I went from Web3’s biggest cheerleader, defending against misinformation among detractors, to hating everything about it. I felt ashamed of my NFT hobby. The fake “friends” who lure you in, the over abundance of scammers and the convenient blockchain loopholes that make it easy to claim it’s not possible to recover lost goods, so sellers don’t have to take any responsibility and can benefit even when their people get scammed and ripped off. An empty dreamworld of false hope. BFF are so generous at the start, but at the core they just want to make money on jpegs by triggering all those happy feelings in your brain that you are a part of something. You’re not. No one there is going to be a real friend. Friends help friends when they get harmed.
I wonder if all the big projects are like that. Because I haven’t had that problem with smaller projects. Projects run by artists doing something cool and innovative — like distributing their film in one second clips, or creating images that change unexpectedly over time. Those are the real communities collecting around the art and innovation, and not around celebrities or labels. BFF and projects like it are just Web2 redeux, but even more shallow. It wasn’t the theft that hurt. It was the dismissive way I was treated after.
“Maybe you’ll find a community that suits you better,” one bracelet holder replied, flippantly. And I turned down a whole month’s income to be one of you. I was so stupid.
I let my guard down. As an indie filmmaker I trust nothing Hollywood. And yet I fell for the glam because I had had such good experiences with the Web3 community before that. I thought that, even if they were Hollywood, they were cool because they were embracing something so few understand. It turns out to be less of an embrace and more of a leech-like situation, sucking and getting fat off the clout of a shiny new trend.
Surprisingly, I’m not totally turned off by Web3. There is enough good here to stick around, with my guard up of course. I understand why people are turned off by it and I probably won’t defend it much any more. It is a cesspool of scamdom, living up to its bad reputation. But I still find many of the people genuine and many projects worth supporting. And now that I know that, as I create my own NFT projects, I will protect my original supporters in every way possible, conferring all the benefits of membership to the OGs, and not just the secondary buyers. Because once you’re in… you’re my people. You believed in my vision and ideas. You deserve my actual friendship, not just fluffy marketing BS. And if I find out someone stole from one of mine, they will be cut off. I don’t want them. That is the only way to foster real community, not just sell a fashionable image. I want to be one of the people who makes Web3 a better place, not just pile onto the hype.
I am embarrassed that I was excited and fell for the marketing. It ticked off all my boxes. Embracing new tech, supporting women, mentoring others, and creating community. And BFF knows that. It just turns out they use those ideas as selling points, but don’t deliver on them. Web3 folks: Do better. Don’t be like BFF.