I have 264 Foursquare friends. That means if I check in on Foursquare, 264 people know exactly where I am. If I push this through to my Twitter followers, 1,775 people know where I am. Add Facebook to the mix and that’s another 779 people. This means, if I want to, I can have a minimum of 2,818 people aware that I am…say, drinking a glass of bourbon at my favorite neighborhood bar or getting a quick workout in at the gym or catching up with a friend over coffee. It’s me telling nearly 3,000 people where I am under the assumption that anyone cares. Which they probably don’t.
What I love about Foursquare is the ability to know where my friends are and what the busiest bars are without having to text every single one of my contacts with the generic Friday night “hey, what are you up to?” text. Instead, I can simply pull up the Foursquare map and see where my friends are checked in. At that moment, I can see if someone is trying a new bar that I’ve been dying to go to and shoot them a text. Is it an invasion of their privacy? No. They checked in. You don’t check in unless you want people to know where you are. Dozens of times, friends or acquaintances or followers have seen where I’m checked in and shot me a simple “I’m right next door! Come by for a drink!” message and then we meet up and have the best impromptu night ever.
The issue with this is the lack of control over who is aware of my location. Yes, it’s great that my friends can see that I’m just a couple blocks away from them and we can meet up. I want this to happen. What I don’t want is the random followers, who easily could be stalkers or serial killers that just want to pull a Patrick Bateman and put my head in their freezer, to know where I am. I have a public Twitter account and a habit of wanting the entire world to come hang out and be my friend. I have no idea who is seeing these check-ins. I can prevent the creeps of the world from knowing my location by not checking in, but then how will I let everyone else I’ve ever met know just by clicking a tiny blue “check in” button? This is incredibly efficient, and arguably less annoying, than text messaging every single one of my friends to see if they’d like to join me for a drink or coffee or cardio session. Rather than asking them to opt-in and forcing them to give me a yes or no to an invitation, they can just view my check-in as an open-invite or ignore it. No harm, no foul.
As with any social media tool, there are rules. I don’t check in on dates for fear that someone will pop in and ruin it. I don’t check in if I am with my family so that we can have a bit of privacy. I don’t check in at metro stations, because…well, that’s just annoying. Who cares if I’m at L’Enfant waiting to switch trains? No one. I don’t even care that I’m there. I am a strict follower of these rules, but still use and abuse Foursquare with reckless abandon.
Therein lies the dilemma. Delete my Foursquare account and embrace anonymity or continue checking in and have little-to-no control over who is following my every move? For now, I’ll continue to let addiction spiral wildly out of control and probably end up tied to a chair in a basement somewhere with a creepy internet weirdo that figured out my every move based on my use of a stupid app that should’ve never been created.
- Suzie Robb