Foursquare Etiquette

Foursquare is one of these things that I like some of the time and hate the rest of the time. I've written about it before, mostly to demonstrate that the internet is making location more, not less, important than ever. That said, I witness the spirit of Foursquare being violated day in and day out. I've been biting my tongue for a while, but I'm at the point where I need to say something. I know there are many who agree with me on these questions, and an outspoken minority that doesn't. Before commenting to tell me I'm wrong, please hear me out...

(from Flickr nan palmero)

Foursquare Etiquette Tip #1: Don't add or check into your home.
When you click on someone's Foursquare profile, it tells you a few key statistics, first of among them are a person's "total nights out." This reflects the fact that Foursquare's creators intended the app to be used as a social tool to let you're friends when you're going out. Checking into your home is exactly the opposite, alerting people when you are staying in.

Aside from that, adding your home to the Foursquare database makes it incredibly annoying to find the venues that people actually want to check into. When I open Foursquare the first few results are for venues like "Tom's Crib" and "Jack's Pad" and "Casa de Mom". I've always thought Foursquare should be linked to a more reliable source of venues, like Yelp. But alas, it isn't - please don't fan these flames.

Foursquare Etiquette Tip #2: Don't check into your place of work.
This is going to be a point of contention, I know because tons of people are doing this. But part of the spirit of Foursquare is to encourage people to be repeat visitors of business and aspire to be the mayor. The whole value behind mayorships is to reward the person who visits more than anyone else. People take these things seriously, believe me. So consider this... what if the bartender at your favorite watering hole checked in everytime she has a shift? Or the barista at your local coffee shop? or the cashier at Target? You get the point.

I know what you're thinking... "I work in a cubicle farm and our customers don't come into the office." In this case, does the business have clients or other visitors who do come by? Even in the rare instance that it doesn't, what's the point of checking into your place of work anyway? What does it even mean? That the mayor takes fewer vacation days than everyone else?

Foursquare Etiquette Tip #3: Don't check into places that you are only "passing through" and places that aren't interesting.
You know the people who are mayor of like, 37 venues? It usually seems impressive until you actually look at the list of places where they are mayor. The quintessential example here is people checking into gasoline stations. Why? Seriously, why? I'm yet to hear a good justification for checking into a Shell station. If Foursquare is a tool to inform your friends where you are so that they might decide to come meet you there, checking into mundane and uninteresting places does not accomplish that goal in any way.

There is a really simple litmus test to determine whether you are checking into a worthwhile venue. Consider whether, in the pre-social media days, you would have called or texted a friend and asked them to come hang out with you at a particular place. If the answer is yes, then go ahead and check-in. If the answer is no, then what's the point?


    That assumes that your purpose in using foursquare is as a social tool. For me, it functions much more as a way to "keep notes" on what I'm doing--I can look back at the history and see what I did on a given day. Work checkins are definitely part of that. It's closer to a journal than a social network, especially since many of my friends have a weird aversion to the whole idea so only about 1/4 of my actual friends use the site.

    On May 24, 2010 Will said...

    I agree with you on all 3 points. I also have a love/hate relationship with foursquare. I've also been questioning my use of it since I can't think of any real benefits besides knowing where a couple friends [with relationships formed and continued mostly in person] are at a given time, knowing where a person or 2 that I've professionally networked with are at, and whether or not other network users are at the location.

    There needs to be other "new ways to explore the city" besides the incentives of earning points and badges.

    That is an interesting use of foursquare that I never thought about before. Even , I find it interesting to use social networks in different ways than the creators anticipated.

    On August 04, 2010 Anonymous said...

    Totally agree! Foursquare is not a "journal." Everyone knows you go home and to work.