As I sit here in Starbucks, having ordered my skinny cappuccino and muffin, the first thing i do is check-in on Foursquare and Yelp. This is a couple of minutes of my life that I will not get back, so I ask myself, why do I do this? Do I just want people to know where I am? By sharing my check-ins on Facebook and Twitter, is this my way of trying to get people to interact with me? Am I simply embracing my human instinct to share information with others? Or is it the gamification aspect that is feeding my competitive nature to get points and ultimately become the mayor/duchess?

Geolocation networks have always had me torn. On one hand it is very social as the intention is to find who is near you so you can meet up (in real life!) but on the other hand, if you are very competitive and use it purely to strive to become the mayor of everywhere and ultimately WIN the game, then this can become somewhat antisocial.

So, I explore my theories further…

I’m here!

To be honest, I’m not sure if I have ever checked-in somewhere with the intention of hoping that someone would see and come and join me. For example, I would not be amused if someone turned up at Starbucks right now and interrupted my writing and coffee drinking. So, maybe it is the case that I misunderstand the purpose and shouldn’t have checked in. Why would anyone care where I was unless they wanted to join me? If I wanted some company the I would have text a friend.

Talk to me

I am currently reading Grouped by Paul Adams (Anyone who has access to my Facebook page might have seen this when I ‘checked-in’ using Get Glue to inform my friends that i’m reading this). One chapter of the book explores ‘Why we talk’ and provides the following answers:

  • We talk to survive
  • We talk to form social bonds
  • We talk to help others
  • We talk to manage how people perceive us
As the ‘social web’ has grown, a huge amount of our day-to-day talking and interacting is done online. So back to my point, why do I check in? I don’t think it is to survive, I could probably survive without telling you all that I’m at Starbucks. However, the other three points most definitely apply.
When i check in, sometimes I leave a tip to share information with others such as advice or recommendations. I sometimes also post my check ins to other social platforms, this can reinforce social bonds by provoking interaction. We all have opinions and the urge to build relationships. As for the final point, depending on where i check-in this alters how likely I am to share on Facebook and Twitter. I also don’t check in everywhere. If I was in a pound shop I would be far less likely to check in than if i was visiting a fancy restaurant. I’m unsure whether this is to do with my worry of how people would perceive me, or if it is an educated decision as to which location would provoke interaction, therefore possibly strengthening social bonds.
Share and share alike

It is human instinct to share information. This is a huge part of how we’ve evolved, we need information to learn and improve our skills and knowledge. We aren’t solitary creatures, we love to be loved and feel part of groups and society. By offering up information we are in effect holding out our hands for others to hold.

Checking in on Yelp

With the rapid expansion of social media, it is easier than ever before to share information with anyone and everyone, all over the world. The review site, Yelp, not only offers the Foursquare style check-in feature, but also by sharing my experiences and writing reviews then I am sharing my opinions with people all over the world. If someone was coming to visit Edinburgh and they read one of my reviews of a restaurant and decided to visit it as a result then this makes me feel good, their visited in enriched, and the restaurant makes money. This is empowering online word of mouth.

Playing games

When Foursquare recently improved the aesthetics of their Facebook integration, I slowly fell back in love with it. But has the social network had its day? Checking in using Yelp offers more than Foursquare. I wonder if the competitive nature of Foursquare is unhealthy? Yelp seems to offer more of a social aspect; checking in places then reviewing them has more of a social edge as I can recommend places to other people or warn them away or even offer the establishment advice on how to improve. I am not sying I am a saint and I’m only doing this to help others, of course I get the benefit of making friends, going to Yelp events, and sometimes receiving offers when I check in.

Granted not everyone has this competitive streak, but for those who do, like myself, it can be quite addictive. Every morning when I get into work I check-in. In this case this is purely because I am the mayor and don’t want to give it up. This side of myself I do not like so much, but I am too competitive to give in.

It is addictive, and very demoralising when you get that email/tweet to let you know you’ve been ousted as the mayor of your hairdressers. If you get complacent and this happens then it can reignite the spark to check in EVERYWHERE, just in case.

What do your badges say about you?

As I am writing this, I went to check out my badge situation on Foursquare.

Could the badges you earn affect your reputation? Is earning the ‘Crunked’ (4+ stops in one night) or ‘Bender’ (4+ nights in a row) badge as damaging to your professional reputation as posting drunk photos on your Facebook page?

So how can you find the balance between using the appropriate platform to check-in, not taking twice as long by checking in using Foursquare, Yelp, and Facebook. Should we all take a step back and reassess why we check in each time. Is it to share information and help others? Or is it just to show off to others in the hope of inciting jealousy and beating them on the leader-board?