“If you are not paying for it, you’re the product being sold.”

It’s not entirely clear who is the author of this quote and variations of it but it’s getting more attention. Especially after recent privacy scandals at tech companies, most notably at Facebook.

When you pay for Netflix, Spotify, Dropbox and any other service you know exactly what you get. When you don’t pay for stuff such as blogs, articles, webinars, and courses, you start a journey with no clear milestones and no clear destination.

It can be costly.

You can end up in the wrong place, you can waste a lot of time, or worse, you can start believing that you need something you don’t.

Desire can be manufactured. Being a marketer myself, I know how companies build sophisticated customer journeys to sell stuff and keep you hooked.

Why is this important?

The answer is opportunity cost.

By choosing something available for free, you enter into a contract with no clear terms. You don’t know how much time, attention and energy it will require to get what you want. Instead of wandering, you can choose to pay for what you’re seeking for and get exactly that.

Just think about all the lost opportunities and great things you could do with your time.

Now, what’s the alternative?

I wish there was a browser extension that would instantly show what the website is selling and what’s the amount I can expect to spend (monthly, yearly, lifetime).

As far as I know, there’s no such solution yet and the only solution I found so far is to seek clarity.

Why was I using Facebook? To connect with my family and friends. It became a huge distraction and didn’t serve me so I deleted it.

I purged most of the apps and realized that most of the stuff is just noise.

The next time someone offers you something for free, think twice about what you’re giving away.