Foursquare: The Anti-Green App

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So I've been playing Foursquare for awhile now. Checking in, trying to earn badges, looking at the leaderboard, like that. For those of you who don't know, Foursquare is a location-based social application that allows you to use the GPS on your mobile phone to "check in" when you go somewhere. Headed to the office? Check in! Going to the grocery store? Check in! You can also earn badges, such as the Pizzaiolo badge for visiting 20 different pizza places, or become mayor of a location by checking in more often than other folks. 

The application is social in that you can friend people and then see where they are checking in. Several friends call it "the stalker network," since we can look to see where the gang is at any one time. I am, of course, careful to friend only those I know personally because of this feature. I also don't tweet my location, as you can if you choose to. But this post isn't actually to talk about the pros and cons of Foursquare. Essentially, I think the app is fun and I like the idea of seeing when I first go to a new place. And being "mayor" of somewhere is cool, too.

What I want to talk about here is the point system used by Foursquare, and how that connects to issues of sustainability. You see, the way the points system works is that you get 1 point for your first check-in of the day, 2 points for the second, and so on. If you go to a lot of places in any given day, then, you can actually rack up a lot of points. Which puts you up in the "leaderboard." Which is, in essence, part of the contest--can you get more points than your friends this week?

So lately I started thinking about the kind of behavior Foursquare rewards with points. I get a lot of points on days when I run errands, for example. If I stop at two grocery stores, do a lot of shopping, and am generally out-and-about (and spending money), I get points. Which makes sense from a business model perspective--foursquare encourages people to frequent businesses.

From a green/sustainability perspective, however, I think Foursquare is a bit more insidious. Especially if I'm competitive (which I am--see? I even admit it!). If I forget to check in, do I drive back to the store to do so and get the points? Do I deliberately go to more places than I need to in order to check in more? Does the app, in short, encourage the sort of consumption that I'm not wholly comfortable with? I think in a lot of ways it does. It might be less so in a city where I can walk to a lot of places, but where I live, driving is pretty much the only option. So I'm earning points. But I'm also using more gas, spending more money, and consuming more goods, which I don't necessarily need. 

So from here I think I'm going to take Foursquare casual. Checking in, fine. But if I miss one, so what? And no more checking the leaderboard. I'll never catch up to some of the folks I'm connected with, anyway. :)


rb smail Author Profile Page said:

Congratulations. You've just gotten to the point I reached months ago. It occurred to me that, as my points get wiped out each week and we start over, it's too much effort (and money!) to maintain Foursquare activity in that manner. I think I've probably gotten a bit inured since half the time I tried checking in, Foursquare failed in one way or another and I didn't get the points anyway. This is probably the single biggest factor as to why I'm over points; I haven't even looked at the leaderboard in months (seriously). My interest moved to the badges, because at least I get to retain them; however, we are friends with some incredibly hardcore competitors, and sometimes I have to take a step back, shrug, and say, "Whatever." Otherwise, I think it drives me overly batshit crazy--especially because we aren't in an urban area where the opportunities to collect badges are far greater. It helps there are more badges being offered overall, and it helps to let go a bit. I do like playing in a town where there is a lot of Foursquare activity, though; you get to see people moving around locations, and it is actually useful as a friend/activity locator. I believe it'll take quite a while for that to happen here (if ever). As more people start Foursquaring in our area, it also becomes a lot harder to maintain mayorships, so I'm rather selective as to which ones I'll defend to the death (and now that Irving's is mine again, I'm somewhat content). It will be interesting to see how that changes once more businesses offer incentives here. Let's hope that doesn't ratchet up the Foursquare feeding frenzy a bit more. I'm not sure I can survive it. :)

HANNAH INZKO Author Profile Page said:

I actually had that same thought today while coming in to work...
Its not that I have gone back to a place after forgetting to check in, but I do sometimes find reasons to go out...even if I don't need to.
From now on if I "need" to get out and get my foursquare on....I'll run there! Otherwise, I'm happy to be the one that stays home most nights (to knit).

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This page contains a single entry by Stevie Rocco published on June 15, 2010 7:43 AM.

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