is anything really for free anymore?

Actually – this could be a bit of a loaded question – was anything ever really free? Perhaps, once upon a time…. But there is definitely an understanding – call it what you will – that nothing is for free. That’s what our parents always said to us growing up, right? “Son – nothing’s for free! AND IF THEY SAY IT’S FOR FREE, then it’s too good to be true!”

So what happened? When did we get so… untrusting? So guarded? So honest with ourselves that we should naturally question things – like questioning the integrity of a GREAT DEAL when we see one?

The truth is that some things ARE for free. Maybe we just don’t believe it, or we don’t want to believe it. And for the other guys (referring to NOT YOU – everyone else who ruin/ruined it for us good guys left in the world) who tricked and lured customers with their false and empty promises – have only helped to shape the evolving customer mindset – the ultimate THING that customers do before choosing not only to work with a specific business, or to buy a specific product, but further: to influence the way in which a customer decides to part ways with their hard earned money.

Now – the term ‘Free’ used to be fixed. It perhaps was once used to actually tell you a truth – that something was actually FREE. No terms, no conditions. No *asterisk. No fine print. Then advertising changed the game – and free and other fun marketing words became ‘subjective’. Businesses had to start stating their Terms & Conditions, or at least make them known to the customer – because the rules were changing too quickly. The waters were getting muddy…

Fast forward to 2016 – and it appears that lots of things are still ‘free’ – but we as technologically savvy consumers know this not to be entirely true. We’ve evolved. We’re smarter. We know to be smarter.

Let’s look at one of our generation’s biggest technological achievements – the dawn of Facebook. In 2003, Mark Zuckerberg shaped the way humans communicate on a global scale – and created what would become the largest social networking/media platform in the world. Now, most people understand that Facebook is free – at least, from a user-entry level (it doesn’t cost you any money to download or use Facebook, blah blah).

Whether the by-product of Zuckerberg’s vision is that there’s a company which now owns the world’s LARGEST voluntarily-entered into data pool (aka social network) – every user’s most personal and private photos and stories and status updates and likes and GPS location stamps and on and on… and whether you accept to agree to Facebook’s terms & conditions, by voluntarily “Clicking to accept” these terms – what have you really sacrificed for “free”?

And when you think in these terms, what do we really sacrifice when it comes to free? What are you prepared to trade when you see: “FREE IPHONE”, or “WIN THIS HOLIDAY”? Are you really thinking about what you are trading when you hand over your name/email address/best number to call you on when you enter that next competition? Sadly, there are a lot of uneducated or naïve or people doing this and hoping that the next email they open from a friend of their long lost uncle who just passed away – might really have $24million to give away…

So, the question is: If Facebook was to cost you money to download, or even a monthly user-subscription, would you pay for it – if it meant that you would be able to have absolute control over your most private data (YOUR IDENTITY)? Would you pay for music instead of torrenting free downloads off illegal websites, if it guaranteed that you would have a virus-free laptop – not riddled with malware or your credit card details being sold to the highest bidder?

You should hope to think that the answer should be yes. Again sadly, some customers go into a product purchase or a transaction with the hope of trustworthiness, only to be let down, disappointed or fooled time and time again. Maybe consumers are just simply tired of being ripped off, and the notion of FREE is an evolving sense of entitlement. “I have a right to download free music, because I already pay too much for everything else…”

Whichever way you look at this, we should all be asking ourselves what we are prepared to trade in exchange for free. We’ve certainly come along way from the glory period of advertising, however we’re in undefined territory as the technology race speeds up. And I know one thing for sure – I’d rather pay for a FLASHLIGHT APP on my cellphone knowing that it serves its exact purpose and only that, rather than download a “free version” – to find out that it has been constantly transmitting and mining my phone data since I downloaded it.

Is anything for free – that’s for you to decide.


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