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Find It On Foursquare

1010_howtweetitis_pg10Although I’ve only bothered to “check in” twelve times since last December, I understand the allure of Foursquare. An application for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Palm users, Foursquare uses a smart phone’s global positioning system (GPS) as a navigation tool to explore and find listings of things to do, venues to see and places to eat. As their website states, Foursquare looks “to encourage people to explore their neighbourhoods, and then reward people for doing so.”

Connecting Foursquare to your address book, Twitter and Facebook accounts allows you the opportunity to add your existing friends who use Foursquare to the app’s friends list, providing access to your friends’ recommendations and, equally important, their criticisms. The app provides an active record of where a user has been, rewarding the user with “badges” earned as one “checks in” to various venues and places. The more a user frequents a venue, the better chance of achieving the coveted “mayor” title for that venue. Often participating businesses will provide discounts or freebies for those who achieve “mayor” status.

There seems to be a gaming or competitive spirit with serious Foursquare users: earning badges, gaining mayorships, and hitting the leader board. Toronto photo blogger Rannie Turingan currently has 29 mayorships. For six months earlier this year, he was the mayor of Woody’s gay bar, not to mention the mayor of no less than three local TD banks. “I get interesting tips from friends,” says Turingan. “On occasion when I check, it’s interesting to see where my friends are, or to see who else is at a place with me at the same time.”

Local social media sales and marketing professional Sam Chungyampin agrees. “There is a sense of status, checking in at a location; a sense of cool.” Sam also notes: “There is also the ‘creep factor’ as well. Some actually like the idea of having followers ‘creep on you’.” Is this a new and acceptable form of geo-stalking? For Chungyampin, it’s more about convenience. “Now that many of my friends are on Foursquare, I can see where they are without asking, and vice versa. If I see they are somewhere close, I can text them and we can meet up.”

Orwellian Big Brother? Perhaps. Nevertheless, I still need to figure out how to knock this person out of the “mayor” spot for The Beguiling comics store. I’m only at the “adventurer” level, and I want to continue to delude myself into thinking that all of this really matters.

[Addendum: I deleted my Foursquare profile in the spring of 2013.]

This column originally appeared in IN Toronto Magazine, October 2010 issue.
Editor: Gordon Bowness