Of course, I’m not saying we need more overpriced leather bags made at the expense of animal lives. We need absolutely none of those.
What we need are more companies genuinely invested in making the best product they possibly can. Companies who literally bet their business on the sole belief that, if they focus on making the best product for you, everything else will work out and they’ll be successful.
Perhaps not surprisingly, for those companies, two things tend to hold true. They do make superior products according to what their customers value, and they’re not the cheapest brand in the marketplace.
For the privileged minority able to afford them (that’s us), I’d argue that buying a few great products is a much better idea than buying a ton of crappy ones. Not only will you end up with objectively better products, but “better” often also correlates with “as durable as we could make it,” which gives meaning to the saying “I’m too poor to buy cheap things.” And of course, it reduces the amount waste we add to our planet.
I’m too poor to buy cheap things.
Nevertheless, we seem uninterested in using good, useful, functional products. And that’s particularly true in the digital realm, which now hosts the latest form of brainless consumerism.
We’re addicted to free digital stuff
Almost everyone assumes digital products must be free, to the point that we even get a bit mad when a company has the outrageous idea of asking to us to pay for their work.
Look, the trial already expired. These money-suckers only want my dollars…
I bet you’ve had some version of this thought cross your mind. I certainly have.
Free products used to be uncool and useless (who’s using that 64mb USB-stick we all got at an event). And they had an explicit name — Promotional Merchandise — explaining why they existed. Now they’re the only thing we’re willing to use, and we even got used to their lack of quality.
(Image taken from here)
As a result, our lives are filled with digital products made by companies which aren’t even trying to make a great product for us. If we’re unwilling to pay, we’re not their customer. So they do as they should and focus on their real customers — the advertisers — and on keeping them happy.
To that goal, the product only has to be good enough to keep us busy while we’re presented with ads. And of course, the longer we remain busy, the longer we’ll see ads, the more money they’ll make, and so on. You see where this is going and is not on our best interest. For them, we’re a commodity.
This dynamic, in summary, is the reason why we feel technology takes too much of our time. It’s not by chance! Some of the most powerful companies ever are doing all they can to achieve exactly that.
Time is the new Luxury
There’s no shortage of quotes you can frame and put up on your wall stating how “time is the new gold” or how it is “the only thing you can’t make more of.”
Time is the only thing you can’t make more of.
And free digital products are cashing in on this gold. Which wouldn’t be a problem if you had decided to give it to them, but more often than not, you haven’t. Digital advertisers use evil manipulation techniques to force you to give your time away, to stay on their product and to watch their useless content.
Notable exceptions are, of course, all free products that don’t have any advertising business-model behind, like anything open-source.
So, to finalize, here’s my strategy to dealing with this issue, in three steps:
1. Do an audit of all free products you use and re-consider if they add anything positive to your life.
2. If they do, consider finding an equivalent paid product (or simply upgrading) so you can get even more of that good stuff into your days (for me that was Spotify, for example). If they don’t, then close your account, delete the app, do whatever you have to do to remove that product from your life (for me that was Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, 9gag, etc).
3. Next time you consider buying a digital product and feel like it’s not worth the money, just remember you’ll pay that value anyway. So your only choices are to pay dollars and get a great product, or pay in time and get a mediocre, manipulative one.
Thanks for reading.