It’s fast, it’s in, it’s social, it’s easy, it’s entertaining, it’s cool, it’s the thing to do, it’s fun, and it’s educative: social media took our world by storm. Updating Facebook, finding the right places through location based services, keeping your Twitterville happy, and Googling the steam out of your environment added a whole new meaning to how we interact with our physical and social world.

Just following SxSW in Austin, you see people glued to their smartphones as if there was no tomorrow, and the number of tweets, check-ins, updates and posts bangs through the roof with gracious ease.

And all of that for free. Free Facebook, Twitter, Twitter clients, check-in services etc… occasionally you can spend a couple of bucks on some application, but nothing so expensive that it will make American Express call you to ask if you finally lost in.

Leaves the devices. Let’s say it’s reasonable. A couple of hundred dollars will get you a state-of-the-art social weapon to conquer your digital online world, even buying a high end top notch shiny one will cost less than a year of smoking.

But here is the trick: social media for mobile warriors does not come cheap. In fact, it is freaking expensive. Uploading and downloading your life through the cloudto your friends eats up bites, megabytes… gigabytes… and those come at a price. Dataplans of most carriers give out a decent flat-fee deal on mobile data, but as soon you breach through ‘normal use’ the prices skyrock.

And then, there is international roaming, which for Europeans and Asians coming to SxSW can get up as high as 20 dollars… per megabyte. Every day some innocent global traveller gets the yellow hinky-pinkies when the mobile phone bill hits the fan. Uploading a YouTube movie while in the States? Used a little half an hour of Facetime or Skypeover 3G while in Austin? You might get an over 1000 dollar bill. That is the price of an iPad 2 with ABS, power steering, and 17 inch rims.

So every time the free Wi-Fi in Austin falters, and your Instagram gets uploaded through 3G, a mobile operator somewhere grins happily, while sipping some expensive bubbly drink. Your social life just made his day.

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Danny Devriendt is Executive Vice President, Digital & Social Media Strategist, EMEA.