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Every new subculture eventually develops its own language, and the people buying and selling NFTs are no different. The blockchain scene is full of crypto-heads spouting phrases like WAGMI (we are going to make it), cope, and GM (good morning). Sometimes a subculture will produce a new phrase or buzzword so beautiful it gets adopted by the wider culture. So it is with “right-clicker mentality.”
An NFT-bro using the phrase “right-clicker mentality” went viral on October 26 on Twitter while talking about Salt Bae. If you aren’t familiar, Salt Bae is a Turkish chef named Nusret Gökçe who went viral in 2017 for the way he sprinkles salt on meals. His restaurants boomed on the back of his internet success and now he charges tens of thousands of dollars for gold-encrusted steaks at his London location. A popular genre of post online right now teaches you how to make Salt Bae-quality meals at bargain prices. In one video, a man recreated one of Salt Bae’s $2,000 steaks for about $90. A NFT fan apparently felt that this was an example of what they called a “right-clicker mentality” and took to Twitter to share their frustration.
“This is a great example of right-clicker mentality,” Midwit Milhouse said on Twitter. “Sure, you can make your own gold-coated steak for 65GBP, but then you don’t have the satisfaction, flex, clout that comes from having eaten at Salt Bae’s restaurant. The value is not in the cost of the steak. Go ahead, make yourself a gold-coated steak at home. Post a picture of it on Instagram. See how much clout it gets you. Salt Bae’s dish costs around 1500GBP because people want to pay 1500 GBP to show off that they can afford to pay that much. It’s all about the flex.”
So, what is the “right-clicker mentality”? Quite literally, it is referring to one’s ability to right-click on any image they see online to bring up a menu and select the “save” option in order to save a copy of the image to their device. In this term we have a microcosm of the entire philosophical debate surrounding NFTs. NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique tokens on the blockchain ostensibly representing a receipt of ownership pointing to some (usually) digital thing, like a JPEG hosted on a server somewhere. To be an NFT collector is to philosophically buy into the idea that owning this string of numbers means you “own” a JPEG that lesser people simply right-click to save on their machines at any time. Indeed, right-clicking initially emerged as trolling praxis as the NFT market took off in 2021, and the term “right-clicker” went viral in September: the comments under a post of someone showing off their new multimillion-dollar ape cartoon JPEG are reliably filled with people saving and reposting the image and claiming that, hey, they own it now too!To NFT fans, then, a right-clicker is someone who doesn’t understand NFTs and will never get that to view the Mona Lisa online is quite different from having the ownership receipt for the Mona Lisa stashed somewhere. Sure, you can look at it; you can even save a JPEG of the Mona Lisa on your computer, but you will never “own” it nor will someone pay you millions of dollars for your saved JPEG. That receipt, though, is another matter entirely.
The result of this is NFT investors insisting that they’re not mad, they’re actually laughing. When one NFT collector’s valuable ape JPEGs were stolen from him by scammers this week, he begged onlookers to simply right-click save the images from his tweet rather than purchase the NFTs themselves from the hackers. Such is the distinction between image file and receipt in the minds of NFT fans. And, to be clear, they are not-mad-laughing all the way to the bank, as people are seemingly still willing to pay huge sums of cryptocurrency on NFTs. But the right-click mentality is a bit of a cipher, and while it’s derogatory in the hands of an NFT enthusiast, it’s a badge of honor for the haters. An NFT fan might call someone a “right-clicker” because they don’t “get” NFTs, and a hater might embrace the label because, hey, there’s nothing to get, and this entire idea of owning an infinitely-copyable bundle of pixels because it says so on a digital list called a blockchain is a profit-seeking farce. As of this writing, Midwit Milhouse's original tweet only has 3 likes and 9 quote retweets. A post making fun of Midwit Milhouse for posting something so weird has 121 retweets and almost 2,000 likes. In the clout game, the right-clickers are winning.
A search of “right-clicker mentality” on Twitter returns thousands of results making fun of NFTs and the very concept of right-clicker mentality. “You can’t be funnier than their own coping,” one tweet said.“idk I think the real flex is a 95% discount just by cooking the steak yourself but maybe I'm blinded by my right-clicker mentality the steak tastes just as good, the jpeg looks just as good, there's no difference, NFTs can suck my dick,” another said.
The concept of “right-clicker mentality” so perfectly encapsulates the dizzying mental contortions and social dynamics inherent to NFTs that novelist Dave Whelan tweeted, “just been told about ‘the right clicker mentality’ and it annoys me so much when internet trolls are better at social satire than novelists.”
Whelan is right. Sometimes a word or phrase comes along that’s so perfect it almost makes you angry. NFTs only hold value because everyone owning them and trading them agrees they hold value. To right-clickers, the blockchain ledger where their receipt resides is a comforting technological myth that NFT owners point to to legitimate their claims of ownership of a JPEG. It’s a kind of slacktivism, a way to address the problem without risking anything. Right-clicking a JPEG, saving it, and displaying it back to the NFT owner is a way to point out the Emperor has no clothes. Meanwhile, the NFT fans make millions off their naked Emperor. Round and round. The phrase “right-clicker mentality” elevates this practical distinction to the realm of philosophy, though. To right-click is one thing, but to have a right-clicker mentality implies an ontological break between crypto-fans and critics. Indeed, it implies the person saving the JPEG to their hard drive isn’t just wrong, they’re broken in some way.The people who use “right-clicker mentality” unironically are participating in hustle culture mutated into a new form, playing fast and loose with risky new financial products. A few of them will win big, but many will end up with some variation of crying online about having their ape JPEGs stolen. The right-clicker mentality may win in the end, but not before the NFT crowd makes untold millions.