“Free Lunch?”

Free Lunch?”

“There ain’t no such thing as a Free Lunch”. The first time I heard of this phrase, I felt very hurt and sad. Why were people being so pessimistic? However, the more I think about it, the more practical it becomes.

There is no documentary evidence confirming when this saying actually originated. According to Wikipedia, its first appearance in practice was around the 1930-1940s.  American bars offered “Free lunch” to their customers who purchased a drink. This resulted in the customers spending a lot of money on their drinks because the food offered was very salty.

Obviously, the word “Free” is the best strategy for attention and deception. At the beginning of internet era, every website offered free services. The excitement of social media has overwhelmed us. We agreed to their terms and conditions for a free for life account without reading them, especially with electronic services like Hotmail, Yahoo, Facebook and Google. Even though, you tried to read it but finally you would give it in as their privacy policies were very complex and difficult to understand.

Social media was a new channel for communication, and connection with others, and so, an escape from our boring reality at no cost. With advances in technology, internet has become our new fundamental as it revolutionises our ways of living. It ruptures our lives into polarised directions: it allows our minds to explore and connect in cyber space. On the other hand, it isolates and widens the gap in our physical reality such as between rich and poor, educated and non- educated.  Strangely, we are connected around the world but lonely.

The Youtube website is a big challenge for the traditional media and politics around the world. Google earth is mapping revolutions for scientists, biologists and epidemiologists.

We can do almost anything at our own convenience: watching news, TV and movies; reading newspapers, listening to radio, stalking celebrities and shopping online. The Global village is no longer just a fantasy idea in textbook but reality.

As much as it pleases us, like the ‘Free lunch’, we still have to pay. We purchase these freedoms of expression and creativities with our privacy and confidentiality. All our personal information and emails has become the property of service to sell. Every time we visit any websites, they will give us little cookies to track our activities and send our information back to them. Behind their ‘free’ services, they are generating a huge profit for themselves each year. The latest update from Yahoo Finance, saw Facebook earning $1.46billion in the first quarter of 2013. Google also reported their finances gaining $13.97 billion this first quarter.

We have totally no control over this. Well, we have already signed our rights away when we agreed to use their online services. Precisely, there are no secrets in this virtual space as accessing information depends on your IT skills in hacking, manipulating and tracking down whatever information you are after. Our global village is producing its own cultures and cyber activities: porno-ing, bullying, stalking, trolling and much more than we can imagine.

Of course, we can not change the past, but as Web 3.0 is about to be released, and still no improvement on users’ protection but the sophisticated search engine for marketing purposes.

The questions here are, “Are we happy to let Social media take control of our way of lives and take away our privacy?”, and

“if we want to do something to change this situation, what should we do?”.

I cannot deny I have seen the beauty of this chaotic space. Many wonderful creations were born from our global village.

There are so much to discuss but before we go on.

Have we paid enough for this “Free Lunch”?

Please enlighten my world with your thoughts, wisdom and feeling.

There is no present or future, only the past happening over and over again now, Eugene O’neil.”

Criminal minds season 8, ‘Pay it forward’ episode/script.

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42 thoughts on ““Free Lunch?”

  1. My mum told me since I was young ” Nothing in this world is free, you have to pay for the invisible price that comes after the words ‘conditions’ ”

    I totally agree with you 🙂

  2. Agree with the main message in this article caz it’s very similar to the “Cost of zero cost”. Nothing is actually free for us to take and just walk away 🙂 as u describe the cookies and how we are being tracked while using those social media and Internet. It’s like they attach the invisible tracker in any “Click buttons” lol. Let people be more mindful of what they’re dealing with.

  3. I don’t think we have absolutely no control over privacy and so forth when we sign up to an online service. Facebook, for instance, has altered its privacy policies several times in response to outcries from the user base, even though that user base had already agreed to the conditions of use of the site.

    However, as an individual we have little power. Indeed, even our power as a community is in some sense compromised by the fact that these services form the very substrate that our communities are built upon in an increasingly online world. Calls to boycott Facebook were still broadcast on Facebook and in doing so indirectly encouraged the use of Facebook!

    I agree that we have to give up some of our privacy and control if we want these services to be free, and all the really successful ones tend to be free. How can they fund their servers and staff and so forth otherwise? I think, though, that Big Data and marketers right now operate with virtually no rules or limits placed on what they can do as this is such a new terrain and does not operate under a single legal jurisdiction.

    I hope in the future we achieve (possibly via international agreements and/or domestic legislation) some limits to how intrusive these organisations and individuals can be, whilst still allowing the system to be sufficiently profitable to keep it accessible and innovative. Precisely how that could happen, though, is a complex problem. There is no free lunch, but hopefully there is a spectrum of fairly priced lunches in our future online world.

    The other thing is that people often bias short term and relatively certain costs or benefits over longer term ones. For instance, if you asked many people in 1980 if they would be happy having an E-tag in their car that could track driving habits, many might have objected to such a violation of privacy. However, the convenience they offered in the short term was tangible and any long term costs to privacy less certain, so most people are fine with such technology. Now there isn’t even a cash option anymore on many tollways! How does this apply to the internet? In much the same way people tend to sign up to online networks without really considering the impact all of these networks, in aggregate, might have on their privacy long term. I suppose that as a society, we seem to be becoming more and more compliant as things get more and more convenient.

  4. I think we’ve overpaid for our ‘free lunch’. I think the problem is that everyday users of social media don’t quite understand exactly what they are giving up to social media. The hype of social media and this global village concept and interconnectivity glamourised what social media really is…big business and easy access to you – the consumer.

  5. It’ true …” no free lunch” but social media is like a book ..you can close it anytime you want. I really thankful to use it once it lead me to explore the world and fine you there^^

  6. Yes, nothing in life is ‘free’, but I think that it has always been like that, even before the technology J-curve took off. We are all linked, whether we are brothers or sisters, mothers or fathers. We all give and receive as part of a community and there is nothing wrong with this at all in my opinion! We should celebrate sharing and see advertising for what it is, too. We are smart enought to do this and shouldn’t be afraid of the ‘Brave New World’ we live in.

  7. Except pure philanthropy work, any service would NOT be free for costumers. I had some bad experiences nearly to lose some money because of my ignorance. Having said that, “Free” service should have some benefits to some extent. Therefore, we should recognize the main purpose of the free services. As we can see the privacy issue on the internet revealed by “Edward Snowden”, most of personal information has been freely captured by specific organizations. However, we actually gain huge benefits from the free service over the internet. If we know the risks and way to reduce the risks, we should be able to use the free service reasonably. While I personally don’t believe free service is purely free, we have some choices to take the free service “with a price”.

  8. The best thing in life is free!

    However, unless one has reached the state of being a needy that the society might provide welfare. Even though, the authorities require many declarations before they really provide assistance.
    I am sure we as able beings rather be self sufficient than enjoying something free, in today’s society. Cruel reality.

  9. I agree with Sahar, I think we have overpaid for our free lunch. These days the only other alternative is to stay away social media. As long as you are aware you are giving up your privacy, confidential discussions are a thing of past if you share info across social media platforms etc, go for it. I just wonder how many people are really aware of the actual cost of this free lunch.

  10. We love the word “FREE”.
    However, we need to be more careful “Free Lunch Strategy”.
    Your idea should be pasted next to the kind of “cookies”.

  11. I think there’s a very important point that everyone is missing here in the uproar about how our basic info and surfing habits are made available to big businesses in return for otherwise free platforms and services that connect us to each other.

    And the point is this – as consumers, we aren’t simply helpless victims of big business.

    First, we have control over the type of personal information we want to put online (don’t want to use your real name? then don’t! don’t want to reveal your birthdate, postcode, address, fax number, sex, relationship status, place of work, profession, education history, etc? then don’t!). Big business can’t force us to reveal all our personal information. We have far more control over our own privacy than a lot of people here are giving themselves (and others) credit for.

    Second, even if we do provide big businesses with this information about ourselves and they use it for targeted marketing to advertise, say, pet food or lingerie or electronics to us – guess what, guys? We don’t actually have to buy it! Consumers do this all the time, whether online or offline – we have the power to assess the messages being sent to us and then to either click through or completely ignore. Most of the time, we exercise our power to completely ignore the cries of ‘Buy me! Buy me!’ that corporates put out.

    In short, I would like to encourage everyone to remain calm. There really is no emergency.

  12. We have definitely over paid. Privacy doesn’t exist anymore, its a scary and abstract thought. And for what, so some hacker/identity thief can easily access your online footprint and ruin your real life one.

  13. Such a great post! I couldn’t agree more with you. I and my friends are always dragged into every shop that show ‘Free’ or ‘Sale’. Hahaha even though we didn’t buy anything, we also want to know their condition.

  14. Great post Kris. I’ve had a turbulent relationship with social media having shut my Facebook account on a couple of occasions. This has often been prompted by the feeling of having thousands of acquaintences and not many close friends. I’ve had a change of heart recently witnessing some of the good that can be achieved through such powerful networks (2011 political uprising in Egypt being a good example). I do hope we we become better at harnessing those powerful elements and avoiding many of the traps you identify.

  15. Great post!! I agree that we have to give up some of our privacy and control if we want these services to be free, and all the really successful ones tend to be free.

  16. This is a very long article. I did not read it all. However, I still see some free lunches. I learned a lot of computer knowledge on Youtube. All of them provided for free even though some have annoying advertisements. That alone, it is still free. I believe social network is a free lunch where everyone can share their knowledge. Long live social medias.

  17. Yup … agree..there no free lunches .. you have to work in order to achieve your goal … In today society , everything comes with a price.Sometimes it is the tactics that “seduce” the consumers to buy something or get something cheap although you may not be in need of it.

  18. I’m always distracted by “Free Lunch”. Some are great but some are tricky.

    But well I do believe personally there is no free lunch in this Capitalism world.

  19. Well-said! There is no such thing as a free lunch. But my question is, is there an alternative for internet giants like yahoo and google to fund their business and make a profit if not by making money from their users?

    • Hi Pen, Thanks for your question. I don’t think anything wrong for making money from their users. Internet is a big business avenue, however sell personal information in the name of marketing research… There are more fair and legitimate ways to do business, for instance, Youtube, don’t you think?

  20. Nothing is for free in this materialistic world. The word Free attracts like nothing else does – otherwise there would not be so many successful scams. Social media has changed the world so much that I don’t think you can ever reverse it but in reality you do have some control over how much information you want to release to protect your privacy.

  21. I think that there are definitely instances where one has every right to be worried, especially in the case of big businesses targeting minors through so-called ‘free services’. Needless to point out, children are very much less aware and informed of business processes and protocols than adults and therefore need to have their rights and freedoms protected. The big, dangling ‘free’ social media ice-cream lunch is incredibly tempting for them, but one wonders what ramifications this will have down the line…

  22. I see social media in positvely of give and take more than the concept of free lunch. I gain a lot of thoughts and relationship with my friends. But if someone feel being controled live and privacy, you have “free of choice” to shut it down.

  23. What a great evocation of the world we live in. And yes, there is no such thing a a free lunch. I wonder how many people who have ‘paid’ for that lunch, would, in hindsight, re-do it all over again if they new the real cost of what they were signing up for? IanMc

  24. I think it depends on our own. Because I think we can decide what information should we put and how many of them, so basically we can control our privacy by ourselves.

  25. One big challenge of engaging with this 21st century communication technology is the issue of privacy. Forming bonds over social websites is typically free of charge, but users’ information is being bought and sold inevitably. In this case, Google reserves the right to collect users’ information for two specifics purposes. Firstly, it aims to increase its popularity by pleasing users with more personalisation and service improvement. Secondly, personal information marketed to businesses, especially advertisers in generating billion dollar revenues. I aware of this secrete trading but i enjoy with using its overwhelming benefit , why? It seems they can read my mind, i can find what i wanted in a short time. As long as we keep using online communication, our own privacy is basically out of our control.

  26. this is a really good post, Kris. As nothing good comes free i guess so does social media. Even if it seems to give us so much benefits, but we have no control over who tracks our databases and where we’ve actually been online. It’s pretty scary come to think of it, there must be a greater power behind all of it, and the rest of us are playing in a game that most of us are not even aware of.

  27. This is a great post Kris. You have captured the essence of the matter: social media provides connectivity at the expense of the users’ privacy. It may just be dots in and there, but with the computational power and algorithms out there, Google for instance, can join the dots and create a comprehensive profile of anyone who uses their services.

    I was interested in this so I watched this TED talk on how easy is it to capture meta data (and what’s the big deal):

    As to what we can do, I believe we as humans make what life is with our choices. Let’s not blame it on other created ‘beings’ to live a fulfilling life or controlling us and obtaining our personal information. Didn’t we agree when signing up. There is negligence on the user’s behalf as well. Of course, these service providers must be transparent in their operations.

    Today, it seems that life is evolving around social media. However, let’s enjoy the simple pleasures of life – and let social media revolve around these simple pleasures. It may seem too idealistic for a post millennial generation that was born into the Facebook era (and they are more tech savvy than most of us), but when principles of self-control and temperance are nurtured, this discipline can take control and allow us to bring back the true mean of being ‘social’.

    BTW: I closed by Facebook account for about a week: never been happier 🙂

  28. Agreed. Free is a form of marketing strategy where is almost irresistible. I ever watched a video where the word ‘Free’ was put into the test. There are 2 baskets – one pay 10 cents you get a apple and an orange, other FREE for a slice of apple. Although you pay much less and get a greater value of worth, people still choose for ‘FREE’ slice of an apple.

    Do remember, although it is FREE, do read the T & C carefully

  29. Liked this post. Some may think “give and take is fair play”. Nonetheless, privacy in social networks can still be protected by not overlooking your rights and social media policies.

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