The Next Generation of Social Media Doesn’t Have To Be So Bleak

Prerna Gupta is a Founding BFF. The Founding BFFs are comprised of more than 100 female and non-binary leaders across crypto, tech, design, business, and more. Just like our community, some are new to crypto, and others are full-on experts.

Who: Prerna Gupta, Founder, hooked, smule

Web2 Prerna 

Gupta co-founded Hooked with her husband in August 2015, which also doubles as a way to collect data on what books are resonating with teens. More than one million teens have installed the app and, in early December, Hooked even took the number one spot in the app store, beating out favorites like Messenger and Snapchat. Gupta sold her previous startup, a music app called Khush, to Smule in 2011.

Web3 Prerna 

A serial entrepreneur, Prerna Gupta, launched music video NFT social platform Mysterious with a diverse group of majority BIPOC, female or non-binary founding artists.

Her TLDR: “We think about blockchain historically as a financial innovation, but I actually believe that the biggest long term impact that we will see in Web3 will be in how we socialize online.”

Edited excerpts: 

What was your “aha” moment in Web3? 

It was last year when NFTS started to take off. I've been interested in crypto for many years. I actually first bought Bitcoin in 2011 and then proceeded to lose most of it when Mt. Gox blew up a few years later. After that crashed and burned, I kind of licked my wounds and got back into crypto as an individual investor. But as a builder, it didn’t personally become interesting to me until NFTs. What clicked for me in that moment is understanding that blockchain is fundamentally a social innovation. We think about blockchain historically as a financial innovation, but I actually believe that the biggest long term impact that we will see in Web3 will be in how we socialize online. 

Why do you think that?

We are wired to interact socially, to interact with other humans and to respond to human signals, that is the most important thing that we do. We experience significant joy from these moments when other humans give us these gifts, and these things are very strong signals of social appreciation. When someone gives you a hug, you know there's actually a cost that is being borne by the human. They have taken time to come and see you physically and be in your space and these things are very strong signals that this other person cares about us. And this is what we create.

Web2 brought about social networking, this ability to socialize with each other virtually online and in the beginning this was incredibly amazing. It was revolutionary. It allowed us to connect with people from all over the world. People that we have known from other parts of our life but are not physically close to anymore. It allowed us to find people from new communities that we would never meet because we don't share the same location. It also allowed us to disseminate information in a matter of seconds. All of these things were amazing and revolutionary, and life changing and were really net positive in the beginning. But now we're at a place where almost all of our social interactions now are happening online on Web2, everyone, almost everyone you know, billions of people around the world are on these platforms and this is how we're interacting. 

The problem with that is that the social interactions that we have likes, loves, retweets, follows. Posting photos, frozen photos of ourselves online. These are very weak social signals. We are wired, our brains are wired to respond to strong social signals and to respond positively. What's happening with Web2 social media is that it has hacked our brains to constantly crave and constantly seek these Web2 social interactions which are very weak signals. And so we're in this seeking behavior we crave. These signals and when we get them, they're really disappointing.

When did Web2 social signals start to fail us?

The biggest thing that happened was the algorithms, right? It's because they got so big and so ubiquitous, and everything is free and it's based on two things. It's based on advertising revenue and it's based on algorithms that are meant to optimize the ad revenue that's coming in. And so the problem is that we are all now a part of this machine. We are feeding this machine that is built to maximize very weak social signals and we are all participating in this and it's making us collectively sick. It's making our society sick.

So how can Web3 change that?

Blockchain is a public ledger, which means it allows us to ascribe value to our social signals. Our social interactions online and NFTS are the innovation that allowed us to start doing that at a mass scale and start to understand how we can interact socially through the blockchain. But in its very simple form, it's just saying ‘OK, through an NFT we are all collectively as individuals buying into this community. We are supporting this particular cause that we care about.’ We are supporting this artist that we care about and through that we are coming together. We are taking all of the beautiful things that Web2 gave us, which is the ability to find people like us through different parts of the world, and we were using that to collect and create smaller communities. We are enabling a public ledger where we can state our interactions online for everyone to see. 

What is Mysterious? 

Mysterious is a music video, NFT platform. Long term, we will be expanding into other types of video as well. But we're starting with music videos and are really focused on music as a medium. One of our biggest beliefs is that the music video is really the cultural currency of our time. It is how we establish a common culture around the world. How we disseminate culture is something that is  somewhat broken in the online world that has been created over the past several years. It is one of the few things that truly brings us joy and allows us to share joy with each other. And that's why we're starting with music videos.

I'm also a musician and my two co-founders are artists as well. We have had so many transcendental experiences listening to music and sharing music with each other and historically as humans. Music is one of the ways that we bond, as in in very small, tight knit communities, and so our vision is that by bringing together these artists who have extremely avid fan bases who are in the experimental music world, they're really built their careers off of thinking about the future of music and how to how to help people have deep emotional experiences through the music that they're creating. We've brought together a group of 24 founding artists from that community and we will be doing a series of drops that really are serving as an entry point for their fans into these tight knit communities that we hope to help them build through blockchain and reconnect with their fans in a very intimate way. 

Listen:  NFTs and The Music Industry

Mysterious is also focused on diverse musicians and creators. Why?

A lot of times diverse perspectives and diverse art comes from artists who look and sound different from the mainstream. That can be gender and that can be race and so that's one of the places where we're starting, but it doesn't always have to be. The most important thing to us is that in Web3 there's a culture that is representative of humans of all different types. In Web2, going back to this idea of algorithms feeds, what's happened is that it has created a monoculture where the type of media that ends up surviving is the media that appeals to billions of people. And if you think about what you see in your feeds and if you log on to Instagram or tick tock or or Twitter, you’ll often notice that you'll just keep seeing the same people again and again and again, even if you're following thousands of people, and that's happening to everyone, and it's because these feeds reward creators who are able to reach billions of people because the only way that anyone makes money in an ad optimized world is when there are billions and billions of views. 

We believe that Web3 gives us an opportunity to lift up these amazing voices of amazingly talented creators who are oftentimes just being under rewarded by the ad-supported business models in Web2. 

So what is your hope content will look like with these Web3 incentives?

It’s such a great question and I think it's at the heart of all of this. The vast majority of creators got into making art, whether it's music or visual art or storytelling, or you know some other type of art form that isn't mainstream. They got into it because they wanted to. To put out something with meaning, something that shows their unique view. Creating that kind of art takes time. You cannot do it within a few seconds within a few minutes and turn out several a day, and that's what you have to do if you're a creator on TikTok or a creator on Instagram or Twitter, you have to churn out a bunch of content several times a day to be able to, to eek out a living. And so one of my biggest hopes with what we're doing with Mysterious and just generally with what's all the amazing things that are happening in Web3 and with art and NFTS in particular Is giving creators this time and space to slow down and feel like they can take time creating something actually meaningful.

This is not financial advice. If you don't want to spend money investing in crypto or Web3 — you don’t have to. The intent of this article is to help others educate themselves and learn.

Caroline Fairchild is Editor in Chief at BFF

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