Why I Checked Out of Foursquare

Foursquare logoAbout a week and a half ago, I removed Foursquare from my iPhone. I then followed up by deleting my account entirely.

This wasn’t some hissy fit move because something in particular outraged me.

I just hit a point where I asked myself, “What’s the point?”

When I first got an iPhone last year and was starry-eyed about everything, I found it very cool to check in just about every place I went, spurred on by incentives like mayoralships and badges.

It was kind of neat to see where friends were checking in, occasionally finding that they were nearby.

Sure, I’d shrug off the good-natured ribbing by my wife and others, calling me a nerd for whipping out the phone upon arrival just about anywhere, to get that check-in entered right away.

I’d get obsessed with trying to attain mayor status for favorite haunts.

Somewhere along the way, it lost its luster.

I started getting requests from “friends” I barely knew, if at all. And I’d ask myself, “are these people that I really want knowing all my moves around town?”

After time and becoming the mayor of places like the bank and oil change places, a question gnawed at me – “Really, I’m checking in when I’m getting a friggin’ oil change?”

It took less than a year for me to find Foursquare both lame and pointless. I’m not about to get sanctimonious and judge others — if people enjoy it, that’s all that should matter to them. If they get value out of it, great.

I just don’t. As its popularity has grown, it gets harder and harder to become mayor of anywhere. Once the easier-to-attain badges are knocked off, the incentives and rewards are few and far between.

It also annoys the hell out of me when a business offers an incentive to becoming the mayor, but an obvious employee of the place holds the title. I’ve noticed that a few times. If you’re a waiter at a restaurant and they give deals to the mayor, it’s bad form to bar actual patrons from it. And good luck ever getting a mayoralship from a place like Starbucks, just to get a pittance off your coffee drink.

I think, in short, Foursquare became a hassle. A routine I put myself through for diminishing, if any, return.

I remember going through a similar mindset with some “world-building” iPhone apps on which I briefly got hooked. They were Tap Fish, We Rule and iFarm. I started the building, be it buying fish, planting crops, whatever. Next thing, every single morning I was feeding those damn virtual fish, cashing in crops, and collecting money. If you missed a day, you’d have dead fish or lost revenue. So it became an obligation to keep at it.

Until one day, I said, “Holy crap…this isn’t even close to fun anymore!” So I up and deleted all three apps and felt an immediate relief.

Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with Foursquare, Tap Fish, We Rule or iFarm. If it’s an app you enjoy, you use it. If it’s a hassle, you do what I did and move on.

But I don’t know…there’s just something about some aspects of social media that, at least to me, feels like a bursted bubble.

There are days I even struggle with Facebook and Twitter. Though I’m nowhere near ready to abandon either, my strategy has changed. I’ve gradually been conducting mass purges of people I follow/friend, in an attempt to push away the noise and get back to a point where I’m getting actual information of interest and value. But that’s for another blog post!

10 thoughts on “Why I Checked Out of Foursquare

  1. bb

    Well said. I really don’t understand why they haven’t figured out proper incentives for using foursquare. They’re so close, but I feel like they’ll never get there. With the sheer volume of users they have, they should have evolved by now. I have an account and can’t find a reason to use it regularly. There’s no payoff. I’ll use it on vacation to remember where I’ve stopped, but that’s the only really good use I’ve found.

  2. Brian Shotola

    I completely agree. I haven’t deleted my 4sq account so that I still have access to the application if I want to check out new features, but I also “retired” from 4sq a few months ago. Personally, I lost interest when I realized I was just one of their monkeys pumping data in for locations that didn’t exist yet and wasn’t getting paid for it. I think it’s interesting that many of us are getting a bit jaded by the service. Most everyone seems to be in agreement that location-based services are the next big thing, and while we are seeing a lot of action in that space it doesn’t seem like anyone is really providing an implementation with much value. This makes me curious, will someone find a legitimate use or will it slowly just disappear as more users “retire?”

  3. Steve Post author

    It’s funny – one of the last things that I told myself was “practical” about Foursquare was the example you gave – we went to Seattle in July and I checked in everywhere, thinking that it’d be nice to have a log of where we stopped. But since then, it’s dawned on me that memory of the great places, coupled with photos, has preserved that far more effectively. The stores we stopped that I don’t recall probably aren’t all that worthwhile.

  4. Steve Post author

    They always say that something is the next big thing, and maybe Foursquare, Facebook Places, or something else will evolve into something really interesting and relevant.

    And maybe not!

    Time will tell, but I’m just not seeing Foursquare re-inventing itself into something I find useful. Incentives for mayoralships, as I mentioned, has fallen flat. I don’t really get value out of knowing where people are at a given time. And I can’t say that Foursquare has enticed me to try some place that otherwise I wouldn’t have noticed (Yelp has been modestly useful in that regard).

    I did at first leave my account alive to keep options open, but deep down I just didn’t see any evolution of Foursquare that would change my mind. So I deleted it.

  5. Katie Barnes

    I never signed up for Fourquare (mostly for the same reasons you recently deleted it) but I can totally relate to eliminating “noise” on Facebook and Twitter. Especially from an advertising perspective. I went through a phase where I was liking and following every company I could think of, and now when I read my Facebook wall, I find myself skipping right over posts from companies, and only read posts from close friends. It’s getting to the point where I’m thinking about “un-liking” a lot of the businesses just to clean up my wall a bit.

  6. Steve Post author

    I’ve gone through an un-liking like that recently, Katie. To me, Facebook and Twitter are most effective when I’m actually getting information that I want. Whether it’s a family member, an accessibility voice, a UX’er, it’s information I’m interested in. The more of noise around that, the less able I am to easily get that info.

    In Twitter, lists have helped, but still, the easiest way to get to that happy place, for me, is to start cutting out the stuff that gets in the way.

  7. Mike Rohde

    Steve, thanks for sharing your perspective.

    I’ve also found location based applications to eventually become a tedious chore for me. I start out checkin in and pretty quickly forget or it’s just a pain to have to keep checking in all the time. Like doing timesheets.

    Two uses do interest me though:

    1. Finding others in a city during a conference. It’s often difficult to find people in another city (like Austin TX) so having a way to see where people are could be helpful. Of course, I could also send a message to people I want to meet, so this is maybe not so critical of a feature.

    2. Creating new places with services was pretty fun for me but that was about it. Once I’d found the place, checking in there just became a pain for which little brag badges were not enough long-term payoff for the tedium of checking in.

    Maybe an auto-checkin option would help with the tedious part of checking in. Better promotions for check-ins might help too.

    For now I’ll pass on adding another tedious task from my life, thanks. πŸ™‚

  8. Tom Snyder

    It’s a topic that’s coming up more often. Valid points.

    But it’s up to businesses to create the value for people to remain on the platform by offering specials that motivate the masses to come. I know I’ll never be the mayor of AJ Bombers, but I also know I’m getting a discount on my drinks at the Iron Horse Hotel just for checking in. So I know exactly where I’m going to go when I go downtown. That’s totally worth it to me.

    I was told that Foursquare doesn’t allow employees to be mayor… that’s why you can add them as employees. They have to get that working as well. But until then, businesses running mayoral promotions need to take control of their staff and let them know they shouldn’t be checking in.

    It;s still in it’s infancy. Facebook which isn’t now what it was when it was just a year and half old. And look at all the people who have threatened to quit Facebook. The market will continue to evolve. Foursquare, yes. But also the users and the venue owners who will continue to adopt and adapt. With users just passing 3 million, and about to hit 4, apparently nobody is missing the skeptics that say adios as it does.

  9. Karen Mardahl

    Interesting to read your experience. I have not signed up for foursquare because it never interested me. I also don’t want to tell the world – or even a small section of the world – all my movements.

    However, finding friends at conferences or large events is nice. Is so-and-so really here and where. In steps http://lanyrd.com/ (@lanyrd on Twitter). Now you know that so-and-so is here and you can send a DM or @ on Twitter to get in touch. I don’t want points, mayorships, or coffee discounts for that. I just want the people. That’s bonus enough for me! πŸ™‚

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