Hi. My name is Blaise and I'm addicted to Foursquare.
I wonder how many people would openly admit to having developed an addiction to geo-location network Foursquare or its competitors like Gowalla, Rally or BlockChalk. Would they admit to feeling panicky when they don't have enough of a connection to check-in? To suggest to their friends that the new bar that's just opened is the perfect place to go out, because it means a few bonus points and a possible mayorships?
Well, in the interest of cranking out a vaguely entertaining blog post, I'm admitting to my addiction and have compiled a short list of disturbing behaviours I have started exhibiting since downloading the Foursquare app on my iPhone.
- As above; I have carefully planned routes on nights out and suggested moving on to the next bar or pub to my friends, just so I can pick up a few more points and bag a couple of mayorships along the way. Result: My friends now think I am flaky and can't sit still. They also ask me whether I've checked in yet, in that condescending way people ask you whether you would like to go out for a cigarette when you get a bit fidgety.
- That dreaded top 100 users of the week... I've raged internally at certain people who I now accuse to all who'll listen, with no proof whatsoever, of cheating. I will analyse their points per check-in ratio and any anomaly leads to more accusations of foul play. Since Foursquare launched in London, I have managed to stay in the top 10, but since brand new users are rewarded for new check-ins, older users are at a disadvantage. This makes me very proud of my achievement, and also feel incredibly stupid for bothering. Result: I am becoming a mathematical genius. I am also losing my sanity.
- Foursquare claims that the mayorships and points system is just "a bit of fun" - NO, NO IT ISN'T. You can't build a complex reward system that results in financial benefits (in the form of discounts) and then have it gamed via the mobile site and disrupted by the vagaries of GPS technology, and decline responsibility because you intended it as "just a bit of fun". Result: I feel cheated when I'm not mayor. I feel cheated when I'm mayor and the venue doesn't provide a discount. I feel cheated that people can checkin from their bedroom twice a day to get a discount at The Breakfast Club once in a while when I eat there twice a week but won't cheat. I just feel cheated and used by a broken reward ladder.
- Having risked alienating most of my friends with my incessant checking in, I now do it from the toilets in each venue I go to if I am out with people who "don't get it". Result: My friends now think I have either a serious bladder problem, a drug problem, or am developing an obsession they really don't want to dwelve into.
- I have taken to enjoying collecting virtual badges. Let's say that again; I now pride myself (and have showed off) in my collection of little groups of coloured pixels on a screen. Result: Even my basketball card collecting friends laugh at me now.
- I have developed a conflicted view over going on holiday. On one hand I can pick up easy mayorships and points abroad in areas of the world Foursquare isn't commonly used in yet, but in the process I spend all my time panicking over the stream of emails I receive telling me some cheekychops in London has taken over yet another one of my prized venues. Result: I can't decide whether to go on holiday anymore, and wait for others to make the decision for me so I can blame them when I become mayorless. They then look at me as if I was mad, which in way I am. (OK, not in a way. Just plain mad.)
Net result of all of the above? I'm at risk of losing friendships as they slowly back away from my check-in frenzy. Which isn't quite what you'd expect from a service that bills itself as a social network allowing you to find your friends. Unless they mean "your NEW friends who are all as hopelessly addicted as you are." The bottom line is that I'm not sure fostering bitterness is what Foursquare had in mind. In any event, they've succeeded in creating something which is unhealthy addictive.
Anyway, hope you liked the list; must dash, I have a check... toilet break to make. Do you use Foursquare? Do you have any other humourous but pertinent thoughts to add from your experience of the service?
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