Thursday, November 04, 2010

Why I'm Quitting Foursquare (you might want to think about it too....)

Update 11/13/10: Jon Evans @TechCrunch writes similar sentiments in
Dear Foursquare, Gowalla: Please Let's Stop Pretending This is Fun Um, yeah--because it's not...

By the time Foursquare came out, geo-location apps weren't news to me. I'd already heard of BriteKite and Gowalla. Friends (predominantly male) were using both to regularly inform me of their whereabouts. It was all rather ho-hum, and I wasn't necessarily interested in revealing my every whereabout to the people I follow on Twitter and Facebook. One of the reasons for that is that I, like most women, have been taught to be *very* careful about to whom we reveal our locations (so it's no real surprise that Pew reports they're not catching on.) Even folks we supposedly know and trust--whether Internet acquaintance or casual f2f acquaintance--wasn't to be naively trusted with all our regular location-based comings and goings.

But then, everyone started to get all freaky about Foursquare. "I'm the Mayor of Starbucks in Cambridge!" "I'm the Mayor of Dunkin' Donuts in Silver Springs!" "I'm the Insert the badge du jour here of the Roger Williams Hotel Cocktail Lounge!" Foursquare, you see, was more than just a way to let your "friends" know your location--it was also a game! The most super-fun game in the world! Because you could earn badges that told everybody how often you were at that location!

Oh, great. Now it's not just that I'm revealing my location, but I'm also revealing how many times I go to that particular location. That's not the smartest thing in the world for a woman to do.....and need I say why??

When I told some of my male acquaintances who regularly used geo-location apps, I was told how "square" I was, how I had to get with it, and I was being over-cautious. Yet rarely did I ever see their spouses or girlfriends giving away their whereabouts on a regular basis. Hmm...can anyone say "double standard"????

Given that what I do for a living often requires that I advise clients on the latest and greatest social networking sites, I felt it necessary to go in and check it out at least. Ever since Ann Landers lashed out at the Cure's "Let's Go to Bed," I'd vowed never to vehemently criticise something unless I really knew what it was about. So, I got me a Foursquare account....

At the beginning it seemed to be a time-sink. Whenever I was at a location, if the location wasn't in Foursquare, I got the privilege to be the first one to laboriously enter all the location information. If I wanted to use Foursquare effectively, I had to download the Foursquare app to my iPod Touch (didn't want to sacrifice good cell reception for a shiny, expensive iPhone.) Given that wifi's kind of spotty where I live, I never really used the app. And after the initial pain-in-the-ass location upload, I felt I simply didn't have time for it.

So, I stopped using it. To me, if I have to spend time with something, I just can't be bothered. There has to be a significant and compelling reason for me to be bothered.

Foursquare then started to come up with ways beyond its badge-earning game that might make it appealing to me. They started to form partnerships with retailers and to offer coupons based on my geo-location. So, if it knew I was at, oh, the Gap or something, it could give me a coupon for the Gap (when this was tried, even many Gap employees had no idea about Foursquare and no idea about the coupon. So much for corporate communications.)

Women are supposed to be all about the coupons and saving money, aren't we? As far as I'm concerned, not if it takes giving away my location information....and, contrary to what some acquaintances think, many people (not just women) are concerned about a loss of privacy due to the use of geo-location apps....

This brings me to the status of my Foursquare account, which has been dormant since that first use. Foursquare often reminds us that the info we put there is private, and that we shouldn't be friends with anyone we do not know personally (when it comes to those who might do women harm, sometimes it's not strangers--but I digress...) Odd thing is, though, with my dormant account, I seem to get a whole lot of requests to be "friends" from people I don't know. Which drives me up the wall....

And it's been all those people I don't know--be they network marketers, real estate agents, virtual stalkers, or anyone in between--that's contributed to my desire to delete my Foursquare account.

Which I just did.

Do I feel any remorse? Absolutely not.

But what about potential clients? How can I advise them properly if I don't personally use Foursquare???

Simple answer to this: I've used it--I know the upsides and the downsides, esp. if it's not maintained. Find out who the customer base is, and the most recent intelligence on the demographic represented in that customer base. Consider recent surveys on attitudes towards this particular form of social networking. Once this info is known, a determination can be made as to whether Foursquare might help or if maintaining it will be a time-sink. If the client's customers aren't there, then what's the point?

Further reading: check The Foursquare Conundrum on Bitches Get Stuff Done which gives another good p.o.v. on why neither women nor men should feel so darned comfortable giving away their locations.


Denise said...

Good post, Tish. I know a lot of women worry about their safety when using geo-location services. I'm not one of those women. I use it all of the time.

One thing I would like to point out, you can still use foursquare, get the discounts that might be available (and tips from others who've checked in to those locations) without disclosing your whereabouts on Facebook and Twitter. Yes, you'll still be slightly visible to others who are there at the same time you are but if you use a generic icon (or no icon) it would be more difficult for people to pick you out of a crowd at the venue.

Tish Grier said...

Thanks for that tip on the coupons Denise! I like the coupons, but most of the brands that I'm loyal to are "luxury" brands (like Chanel.) No coupons there! I'm just happier not giving away my location. (and I hope that Facebook doesn't start sneaking that location stuff in. It creeps me out.)

Tom said...

If it makes you feel any better, Tish, disillusionment with Foursquare seems to be cutting across genders. My good friend and fellow librarian Justin Hoenke recently had a post about this on his blog.