What if I miss my chance?
It’s a question that everyone ponders from time-to-time, especially as the world changes and you begin to feel the pressure to learn something new, or change.
The wheels of change spin so quickly and it can often feel like the race to just keep up is a fruitless and exhausting proposition. How is anyone expected to be in a continual state of adoption and adaptation?
It feels like every week there’s a new trend, a new must-have app, a new “this changes everything” moment.
- Perhaps you are one to eagerly embrace the change.
- Perhaps you’re one to begrudging add it to the long list of new things to learn.
- Perhaps you ignore it entirely, either consciously, or because you weren’t paying attention in the first place and are now completely unaware of this new reality altering change.
What if I told you that it largely doesn’t really matter which group you fall into?
While it may seem that something being hyped right now is something you can’t afford to miss, the truth will set you free. Let me show you how to survive the Hypecycle.
My Trip through the Hypecycle
In 2003, I graduated from Temple University with a BA in Film and Media Arts.
During the time I was in college, photos and videos were moving from analog technologies to digital ones, and web 2.0 was in its early infancy. During my last year in college, I took a course about hypertextual narratives where wikis and blogging became topics of discussion. Shortly after graduation, Friendster launched and MySpace launched shortly after that.
I was leaving undergrad during a time of significant change poised to disrupt and fundamentally reshape various industries.
I missed my chance
While some people adopted these new technologies and became pioneers on these new frontiers, I tried to start a few businesses and wound up waiting tables.
In 2008, I graduated from my MBA program at the LeBow College of Business. Just in time for the rise of Social Media.
This time, I was ready. I wouldn’t miss my chance.
The Social Media Hypecycle
Perhaps you don’t remember it, but I do. I believed the narrative that social media would change EVERYTHING and to be fair, in many ways, it did…just not how I thought it would.
I believed that this was humanity’s moment.
We would come together, look past what divided us and find our communities of people. Companies would flatten and the relationship between buyers and sellers would grow beyond the transaction and into one of mutual respect, growth, and understanding.
So, I dove in head-first. I learned everything I could about social media. I worked for a few companies before going off to run my own agency. I was ready to build the next Ogilvy, but for Social Media. For 7 years, I ran my agency before being acquired. I stayed there for another year and a half.
At some point, the Social Media hype reached a fever pitch, and companies were feeling like without a Snapchat account, they may as well shutter their businesses. Countless articles subtly suggested that any company not taking part in “the conversation” was doomed to become a distant memory. Even now there are those shouting at brands about Tik-Tok.
A decade after it started, most of the hype turned out to be hyperbole.
After everything I’ve been through and everything I know about social media and web 2.0, I’m only marginally better off, and only in very specific contexts, than someone who ignored web 2.0 entirely. I know people who largely ignore social media and are still very successful and happy. I know companies that still have mediocre websites, uninspired or non-existent social media marketing, and, shockingly they’re still in business. I know people that started using social media more actively last year and they’re just fine.
The Collaborative Economy Hypecycle
Midway through my years working as a Social Media strategist, a new idea emerged that Jeremiah Owyang referred to as The Collaborative Economy. It’s now often referred to as “the gig economy.”
At the time, I was taken with the idea as it was presented: intellectually and philosophically. As I understood it, we were entering a new world where we would allow unused or underutilized resources to be shared or fractionally sold in service of maximizing efficiency and reducing overconsumption. I liked the idea of sharing resources and giving people new avenues to be their own boss and make money on their terms, from things they already own. In theory, this would keep money in the hands of communities rather than flowing upward to companies.
This was also bullshit.
Years later, the AirBNB effect has caused housing prices and rent to skyrocket, while rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. The uberfication of everything has measurably improved convenience for some, while creating an entirely new class of people in the economy (not a good thing). These on-demand drivers are afforded no traditional employment protections, depreciate and service their own assets (cars) at their own expense, and have no opportunities to advance or make more money except to put in more hours. Further, because they are independent contractors, any breaches in the suggested code of conduct, can be written off as rogue actors rather than a reflection of the company. It’s hyper-capitalist nonsense that benefits the venture capital firms and shareholders that conceived these companies in the first place while people grind away in their second job as an Instacart delivery driver, making a little more than minimum wage, so we can have ice cream without leaving the house.
Like social media, the gig economy has introduced some obvious benefits to society, along with a substantially greater number of problems.
Welcome to Web 3
Without a doubt, you’ve heard about Web 3 by now. If you think you haven’t, you’ve probably heard about it by its various components: cryptocurrency, NFTs, and the Metaverse.
So, here we are, yet again, about to enter a new hypecycle.
How big is THIS hypecycle, you ask?
- Facebook, a company with a nearly $550b marketcap changed their name to Meta in order to signal their belief in this bold new frontier (and also to desperately try to wash off the stench of their sizable role in the downfall of society through misinformation).
- Real estate companies have laid off team members to pivot into virtual real estate in the metaverse.
- People are paying millions of dollars for pictures of apes.
None of the above examples are from The Onion. This is really happening.
This hypecycle is in full swing and you may already feel left out or left behind. So, here’s where I tell you how to escape the hypecycle.
Take a deep breath
Step one is really just to not get caught up in the emotion of it. Take a deep breath and try to stay level-headed. It might seem like there’s no time to waste because some crypto bros can barely hold a short conversation with you without bringing up Ethereum.
Do we always have to invite Brad to brunch?
While it can seem like the whole world is moving that way and doing it fast, keep in mind that just because a few people are really loud about it, or articles are being written about it, doesn’t mean that it’s already hit mass adoption. It’s just marketing, and FOMO is a helluva drug.
Look who is behind the curtain
The next step is to look at who is saying what.
When someone who has a crypto wallet full of bitcoin and ethereum, a few bored ape yacht club jpegs, and who hangs out in Metaverse rooms on Clubhouse is trying to get you to buy into the idea of Web 3, consider their bias. Further, when you look at who is at the helm of these crypto, NFT, or Metaverse projects, ask yourself who really stands to benefit from its success.
Generally, you’ll notice that the most vocal in this new world are also heavily invested in its success.
Find balance and interrogate the claims
Instead of just listening to Brad and his list of crypt podcast recommendation, consider adding a few alternative points of view. But be warned, this is the part where doubters and skeptics are labeled and derided. I saw it, and I even lightly took part in it back in my social media days. Nowadays, I like to dig a little deeper regardless of what anyone else thinks. A good rule to follow is that you should not invest too much time or energy into something you don’t understand.
Further, it’s important to question any claim that the success of the project might rest upon. One I hear a lot about the Metaverse is that younger people, specifically Gen Z are actually looking for and interested in more immersive digital experiences and hence, the metaverse will be an obvious success. To me, this immediately felt questionable. Upon further interrogation…yeah, it’s another made up claim. Even in that survey, the framing of the question was whether or not it would be “the next big thing” which is less about the utility of the metaverse, and more about perception, which is driven by marketing.
Those who do deep dive analysis of the claims inside any hypecycle are your best bet of having the tools you need to take a measured approach. One of my favorites is Line Goes Up.
Determine who you want to be
In every hypecycle, people react in different ways.
There are those who are curious and jump in to learn, those who are curious and jump in to start selling, and those who wait and see.
There are those who take advantage of the uninformed, those who try to educate the uninformed, and the uninformed.
In the case of a con, scam or grift, there are the scammers, the marks, and the useful idiots.
Whenever a new hypecycle comes along, you can get swept up in it, like so many others, or you can take a more measured approach and decide who you want to be. If you recognize that it is yet another scam, I just hope you don’t decide to join in and take advantage of others.
If something really has the legs to go the distance, chances are, you’ll figure it out. My dad knows how to Facetime, read news on his iPad, and share videos from TikTok. My 103 grandmother has been on Zoom. If it comes to it, I’ll buy them both a VR headset, but until then, I can’t wait to see them, my friends, or my colleagues in the real world.