Awkward Family Photos is auctioning off NFTs of its most popular awkward family photos, and this is one of the most exhausting sentences I’ve ever typed.
Look: I like Awkward Family Photos just fine. The photos are relatable, they’re funny, they’re nostalgic, and they’re an example of how comedy can be found in the most mundane and everyday of places. I would never want to take anything away from the kid with the clarinet or the family with the bulldog or the goth at the beach. They’re perfectly fine fodder for Instagram or Twitter or whatever other social media platform you’ve forwarded them on. They all became memes for good reason—and then became greeting cards, calendars, a documentary series, multiple board games, and more, for the sole reason of trying to capitalize on the idea’s success.
All that Awkward Family Photos merch will no doubt grow dusty in basements before clogging up landfills for generations to come, but overall they’re fairly harmless. NFTs, though, aren’t: the ecological impact of the blockchain-using art fad has been well-reported as the NFT market exploded over the last few months. It takes an absurd amount of energy to perform whatever computer nonsense is needed to keep the blockchain chugging and to “mint” NFTs. And since NFT art isn’t a physical object—it’s literally a computer image and a bit of code on the blockchain keeping track of its official “owner”—the carbon emitted by minting the NFT, and the environmental damage it contributes to, are the only tangible result of the entire process. Buying an NFT is basically buying a GIF that makes climate change worse. The NFT market is incomprehensibly absurd and wasteful, and even during these endlessly embarrassing and shameful times, the whole fad is especially embarrassing.
This auction just underscores the fundamental idiocy of the NFT marketplace. Awkward Family Photos isn’t the only company capitalizing on the NFT craze—it almost seems like they might be the last, given how much nonsense has been non-fungibilized over the last few months—but it might be the most thoroughly inessential one to make the jump. Email forwards your mother sent you over a decade ago are being recycled in a cynical campaign of trend-hopping whose only physical aspect will be hurting our environment. Memes are something you laugh at in the moment and then forget about until the next time they cross your feed, not something you spend money on in a confusing, invisible transaction that will make wildfires and tornadoes more common and more dangerous.
Again, more power to the people in those photos, who are involved in this auction alongside the founders of the Awkward Family Photos site. Their embarrassing photos have brought strangers minute amounts of joy over the past decade, a second or two of levity between judging their friends on Instagram or getting angry on Twitter. That doesn’t mean they need to be repurposed once again, and this time in the most ridiculous and irresponsible of ways, though. Buying or selling NFTs of these photos is far more awkward than anything you’ll see in them—yes, even more than the nerdy girl with the jazz hands—and considerably worse for our environment.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s also on Twitter @grmartin.