When “free” isn’t free
I love free content on the Internet, but there are times when “free” isn’t really free: it’s just cheap or maybe a sales ploy. And free content can be the result of people working really hard, because they care. Sometimes free content is a heart-gift; this is how I have seen my personal blog, Yogic Muse.
When I get a salad at Whole Foods in a reusable bowl, there is usually a free publication for me to look at as I do my rabbit-munch. I can usually read about health centered topics, and there are suggestions for things I can buy to support my health. This is an example of sustainable “free” content. I find myself questioning the word “free” here because the magazine gives me ideas for things I can buy right there in the store. So it seems like I am paying for those attractive little healthy lifestyle stories through my purchases at Whole Foods. So even though I am not having the bar code scanned at the cash register, I am paying for the content just as sure as if I were buying a magazine.
There are similar scenarios behind most sustainable free content sources. Maybe we shouldn’t be asking for the free content as much as looking to see how we are paying for it. What is supporting the production of what we are reading? How does that support affect the content?
I care about having access to independent voices and information. It’s not important that I agree with everything I read. I like to have my thoughts challenged and my perspective widened through smart articles. And, of course, I also like “yes, me too” reads. But if I were to only read things that either supported products I like or a self-important conformist worldview, then would someone please come over and help me to wake up? Because we are in a world that contains difference, and these differences can keep us healthy if we let them. Trying to make everything fit into a consumerist framework where everyone is the same and everything runs smoothly is hurting us. Our egos love it because we love to have our expectations met, but our hearts and minds suffer. Hearts thrive on opening and embracing difference; it’s good for our minds, too.
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