When a service is free, there always is a reason why this is so.
It is up to us to be clear about why we use the service and what we are being used for.
It’s inconvenient to do so as it requires to make oneself aware of it when one starts using the service as well as stay aware of how the service changes. Reading the terms of services for all the online services we are using would most certainly cost weeks of reading while requiring several years of education to actually be able to understand the notions and implications of it.
The pull to use these services has become major for quite a few of these services, they are embedded in our work, connect us with our people, and are sometimes required when offline services have been pushed online.
We buy in and somehow trust the organizations. And if not, the challenge of finding an alternative often fails with the assumption that it makes it difficult for others to reach us or connect with us. We give up.
In this respect, the internet does not distinguish well between paid services and free services.
The ease of defining online services in their shape, design, and link with the user gives these organizations the power to decide what they do. The more complicated it becomes to gather the relevant information, the more users get used to clicking agree without further thoughts. It’s not astonishing that a byproduct is that users have less and less authority in the process and organizations grant themselves more authority.
Free services contribute to this change by transforming a user into a product. The user is there to serve the organization’s business objective. The eco-system providing a free service may involve customers, but with the objective of scaling business models evolve to reduce the customer’s ability to impact the system.
The distribution of power and authority is shifting more and more towards the organizations and thus towards an incessant model of scale. One where users find themselves more and more locked into the system.
What it does is continuing to shift our world towards an instrumental one. If it leaves space for the humanistic approach it puts it at the service of an instrumental approach. Leaving little space for genuine connection.
These services are not going to go away overnight. However, we can think about the care we bring to using them. It’s a question of the world we want to have.