There was a time when "free" was the name of the game. During my college years, there were whole websites out there dedicated to aggregating the best free deals on everything from promotional t-shirts to pizza, and people would practically fall over themselves to snatch these deals up. Personally, I once filled out a credit card application to get a free Nerf basketball hoop. Who cares right? It's free! I can work on my jumper in the privacy of my dorm! WHERE DO I SIGN?!
Most of us are a little more cynical now.
Imagine you are standing in line at your favorite fast-food joint, waiting to order. A person approaches you and tells you that they will pay for your meal. You give this person a look that is part confusion, part skepticism, and then you say...
"What's the catch?"
Sound about right? Most people I know have this attitude embedded so deeply that “what’s the catch?” becomes their default knee-jerk reaction when they are presented with something that seems too good to be true. And who can blame them? Surely some of these people also filled out credit card application forms to get their own free Nerf hoops, only to come to the realization - after being buried under letters offering the most wicked-awesome APR or whatever - that nothing is really free.
Back in 2010 there was a phrase that kept popping up in relation to both online holiday deal shopping and Facebook that went as follows: “If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.”
While this might make some sense in the context of freeware and data-mining, it just shouldn’t pass the smell test in the real world. Sure, it hits the ear right and works as a great buzz-phrase, but there is too much it doesn’t account for. Like, for instance, just being nice.
I’ve noticed this issue ever since I was first given the opportunity to get involved with SmallBox’s Nice Grants program and I think I have a solution. A really simple solution.
I propose that everyone reading this post goes to their boss(es) and encourages them to get out in the community and just do something nice. Bosses - encourage your employees to do something nice. Work for yourself? Do something nice! Don't work? Do something nice! No strings attached. No ulterior motives. Just get out there and nice somebody, anybody, everybody you can, and then encourage them to pay it forward. It doesn’t have to be anything big, (after all, we are huge fans of giving away things like beer, snow cones, records and cinnamon rolls) but if you get enough people behind you these small efforts can make life better for everyone.
Cynicism, like any other –ism, can be drowned out – you just need a big enough wave.
<3 – Nice Grants