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The Digital Native Generation Is Coming to Crypto Through NFTs

4 mins
Updated by Leila Stein
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In Brief

  • Gen Z among the most interested in investing in cryptocurrencies.
  • This digital native generation are finding value in collectibles like NFTs.
  • Distrust of traditional finance found among this younger population.
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Gen Z, the youngest generation, is called “digital natives.” Unsurprisingly, this generation, born with the internet, is among the most interested in cryptocurrencies.

In a recent study, GamblersPick found that this generation is becoming more involved in the crypto market through non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

While Millenials are still investing the most in crypto, Gen Z is a close second. The older generations prefer more traditional investment avenues like hedge funds and stocks.

In part, this can be explained by the fact that most of Gen Z are still underage. Therefore they unable to invest in any capacity, meanwhile the older generations are all adults earning income. However, of the 18-24 year-olds surveyed, the interest in cryptocurrencies is significant.

Born into digitization

The Millennial generation is a digital immigrant generation. This is because they were introduced to the internet, computers, and a digitized world as it grew.

By comparison, Gen Z was born into a world almost completely digitized. For example, when the first iPhone was released in 2007, the oldest Gen Z’s were only 10 years old. When the bitcoin whitepaper was released in 2008, they were 11.

As a result, they are primed for a world in which cryptocurrencies and NFTs are becoming more appealing.

“We were interested in seeing what the investing trends were for these newly emerging adults compared to those who are older. We found that 28% of Gen Zers were constantly investing,” explains Joe Mercurio, project manager for the research.

“It’s definitely interesting to see the different trends that influence Gen Z compared to other generations, such as the influence of social media. Gen Z ranked highest for investing in meme investments and in cryptocurrencies compared to other generations,” he says.

An introduction through NFTs

The oldest Gen Z’s have been over 18 for around six years. However, most are still in their early stages of earning income. This has coincided with the rise of NFTs.

Major NFT sales have grabbed headlines in 2021, from Jack Dorsey’s NFT tweet to Beeple’s record-breaking art sale.

The opportunities that NFTs represent are massive. Sports franchises sell highlight reels, YouTube celebrities sell their videos, and artists sell their work on the digital marketplace. 

“We were interested in learning more about generational investment habits because we understand that for new investors, it is a way for one to potentially increase their net worth. With recent events with GME and the crypto markets, we’ve heard reports that people may be ‘gambling’ with their money, particularly newer investments,” explains Mercurio.

The market is also responding to the increased interest. Recently Step Finance announced adding augmented reality (AR) NFTs to its Solana (SOL) dashboard. As such, Solana users will now be able to see their NFT assets included in their portfolio on the Step Finance dashboard.

NFTs, memes rather than stocks

The research found that while this generation still participates in the stock market, it’s not their only investment. In addition, their reasons for doing it were vastly different from those who came before them.

It found that older generations said they invested for long-term stability. Meanwhile, Millenials and Gen Z are more inclined to do so for social causes, including undermining traditional financial institutions.

Anecdotally, this has already had an impact, as seen with the GameStop hype. Building from a Reddit community, investors on Robinhood ran up the price of GameStop to harm bigger investors who had shorted the stock.

This grassroots, social media influence was found among those surveyed as well.

“Our findings show that Gen Z seems to be the most influenced by social media, especially from Reddit where 40% reported being influenced. From what our findings show, we believe that this online presence is a trend that will continue on throughout the future of investments for not only Gen Z but for all generations,” explains Mercurio.

The disinterest in the bullish traditional investment sentiments and distrust for the establishment is echoed by Digital Strategy Consultant and startup CMO based in NYC Michelle Fang.

“Gen Z is motivated less by material acquisition, equating the piling up of physical items with greed. We were old enough to remember the financial crisis of 2008 and the stock market’s impact on our parent’s way of life,” she wrote in a Medium article.

Fang argues that Gen Z has grown up in spaces they find solace in, including gaming and memes, both of which are far more familiar to them than a traditional stock market. This then drives them towards NFTs, which are closely related to games and memes.

Context matters

It is easy to place a specific age group together and consider their actions representative of the whole. However, this is not really the case.

While the findings of age-based studies provide some insight, variables are missing from the overall picture. These include geographical and socio-economic differences between people of the same age group.

In the instance of NFTs and cryptocurrencies, a base requirement would be access to the necessary technology. So Gen Z’s in Europe and the United States can easily be involved in these investment streams. However, whether their counterparts in other parts of the world are is unclear.

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Nicholas McGregor
After studying journalism at Rhodes University, Nicholas worked as a financial reporter and analyst, covering a broad range of topics from logistics, to renewable energy, to ICT. Nicholas became fascinated with the ever-evolving world of technology. He is now a crypto asset journalist.