type - big idea
Big Idea
category - digital
sector - media & technology
Amid a big tech backlash, cyber-savvy consumers are gathering in decentralised social spaces that use blockchain to unlock elite communities

Privacy prevails

The communities behind the Alternet – originally brought together through a desire to overthrow the handful of companies that have colonised the internet – are becoming much more powerful. In the US, 72% of adults say social media companies have too much power and influence in politics today (source: Pew Research Center).

This anti-monopoly mindset can often be traced back to data concerns. ‘People no longer want to exchange their privacy for free services. They no longer want to be held hostage by tech monopolies,’ writes Pavel Durov, the founder of Telegram, urging WhatsApp users to exit the app following a poorly communicated update to its terms in February 2021.

Telegram is among many alternative platforms that are seeing user numbers surge, as people leave WhatsApp for decentralised social media networks in which they own their own data. Discord is another. The platform’s user base doubled in 2020, according to its chief marketing officer Tesa Aragones, with 25% of its users taking part in eight or more servers, highlighting a desire to be part of multiple closed conversations.

But as popularity rises, maintaining the privacy of these communities is paramount. is a system that uses cryptocurrency to manage Telegram or Discord chat groups so that only those with a certain number of tokens are permitted entry. Moderators can add a bot, which acts as a bouncer to keep the channel's guest list exclusive.

Published by:

9 December 2021

Author: Holly Friend

Image: Respawning Li Ning Into God Mode by Traum Inc, London


Friends With Benefits (FWB)

Social capital isn’t the only platform using the recent non-fungible token (NFT) boom to change the way we interact online. Cryptocurrency can offer more ways to reward digital creators, surpassing likes and followers as previous markers of reputation, and creating real financial incentives for influencers who once relied on brand sponsorships.

For the younger generation, being paid in cryptocurrency will soon be as commonplace as online banking. A recent survey by Unidays found that 43% of students in the UK already own cryptocurrency, with 40% believing that it will replace traditional currency within the next decade.

Crypto newcomers, such as Rally, are highlighting the potential market for Personal IPOs by empowering influencers to launch digital currencies, fans to unlock exclusive content and creators to establish independent fandom economies. It recently launched Taki, a fandom platform that lets fans directly reach out to creators for advice or to learn a new skill.

But as creators gain cyber-power, the common practice of incentivising fans to invest in them will dissipate – instead, they will simply ask fans to bolster their cultural status. $HEAT is experimenting with this concept. It’s the first cultural social reputation token that provides exposure for crypto-creators, giving users a tangible means to reward tastemakers with ‘heat’ to show recognition for their work, personalities or contributions to the community.

The internet elite

This is leading to a future of hyper-exclusive decentralised digital clubs. The members’ club model that has long been favoured by creative tastemakers in the physical realm is being transported to the digital world by an inner circle of internet elites.

‘HEAT is transparent, tangible, ownable, sustainable and ultimately as ubiquitous as the phrase ‘that’s hot’ or ‘it’s lit’ is with culture’

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