At 12:24 pm on January 11, the actor and entrepreneur Reese Witherspoon made a startling announcement to her 2.9 million Twitter followers. “In the (near) future, every person will have a parallel digital identity,” she wrote. “Avatars, crypto wallets, digital goods will be the norm. Are you planning for this?”
That final line struck a note of urgency. The metaverse is coming, was her message, and you haven’t packed your go bag yet?
Witherspoon’s tweet arrived amid a backlash against celebrities cheerleading the virtual world and pushing their fans into cyber currency. It was bad enough that for years we had been pummeled by crypto dudes for not diverting all of our cash reserves to bitcoin and HODLing no matter what. The Twitter history of “Bitcoin Billionaire” Tyler Winklevoss (who, with his twin bro, Cameron, has done very well since being punked by Mark Zuckerberg back at Harvard) is an endless barrage of FOMO pitches, delivered with the enigmatic faux-wisdom of a blockchain Buddha. “Because of bitcoin, the universe will never be the same,” he tweeted recently. Got that, God?
Such self-interested investment advice by those in the actual crypto business can easily be written off. But now the celebrities are piling on, and people are noticing. The creepy Matt Damon commercial where he likens crypto investors to heroes who explore the stars or scale Everest (pre-Sandy Pittman, presumably) has been endlessly and unkindly deconstructed. (Even South Park got its licks in.) Everyone hates on that Tonight Show clip where Jimmy Fallon and Paris Hilton bore us with their bored apes. Witherspoon herself has been critiqued for her NFT holdings, and whether her interest is as an investor or promoter.
I’m less interested in Witherspoon’s non-fungible tokens than her ominous public alert of an impending shift that we need to deal with, like, now. Life is stressful enough with Covid, inflation, and Lady Gaga’s Oscar snub. Do we now also have to worry that we’re behind on our avatars? Will the metaverse hit us like that comet in Don’t Look Up, leaving us tragically engulfed like the poor souls living in the Pacific Northwest who may be in the path of a deadly tsunami when the Cascadia fault quakes? Should we take a cue from the star of Apple’s TV’s Morning Show and drop everything to begin our planning?