Checking Into Addiction: I Have a Bad Foursquare Habit

by: Jessica Neria 

Hi, my name is Jessica and I’m addicted to checking into things.  I’m not sure how this all started. One day, I was casually checking myself and some friends into a location on Facebook, and the next I was fighting to become mayor of the Western Brown Line station with April K, a middle aged woman from Evanston. For a long time, I publicly voiced my strong opposition to foursquare. Why would anyone want use an app that just helps robbers know you’re not home, and gives stalkers the coordinates to where you are in a given moment? That position was all fun and logical until the day I found out that your check-ins can be private, and your history is only available for yourself. I curse the day I made foursquare seem safer because that’s the day I told myself it’s okay to be dependent of a phone app, and that’s the day it all went downhill.

At the height of my foursquare usage, I tried to check into train stations as I passed them on the El. That’s when I learned that I can only check into 4 different places within 15 minutes, and that then led me to start planning out my check-ins effectively. If you don’t know about foursquare, you gain a certain number of points per check-in. You can earn one point per check-in, UNLESS you are checking into a fifth place within 15 minutes, are the mayor of a place, or some random reasoning set by foursquare. Following these rules, I planned a concrete schedule for check-ins during dog walks.

1. Check in at the bus stops, both heading to the house and upon arrival. +4 points

2. Check into the playground at the entrance of the park. +3 points for mayorship

3. Check into the park itself, +3 points for mayorship

This time factor is crucial. As my dog walks were each 20 minutes, that gave me enough time to space out the following check-ins:

4. Mystery bridge, a bridge connecting the park and the rest of the neighborhood

5. The condo that the dog resides in

6. Bus stop heading home, which is technically listed as separate to the bus stops in the initial check-ins.

If this process doesn’t seem too bad, multiply it times 2 for each dog walk in a week and then times a countless number of times for the other check-in schedules I had for my daily travels. This pattern went on for a year, slowly killing more and more of my phone’s battery time with each use of the app. My dependency of the app pushed me to give up foursquare for Lent this past February. I’m not very religious, but I choose to participate in Lenten fasts for personal benefits, like dieting or avoiding certain people. This year I used it to challenge myself. I wanted to see how long it would take me before I cracked. After two weeks and the loss of 5 mayorships, I knew it would be okay to break up with foursquare on Easter. It was then that I could give myself access to the site without the weight of Catholic guilt resting on my shoulders.

So I waited, and to the surprise of a few close friends, made it through the 40 days without foursquare. And technically I didn’t break my fast. GetGlue is totally different from foursquare. GetGlue, which I discovered halfway through my foursquare fast, allows you to check into different media (movies, tv, etc.), and if you check in at certain times or frequently enough, you can earn stickers. STICKERS. Glossy, tangible stickers that I can have mailed to me in sets of 20. On foursquare, you can earn badges that only exist on the site.

These days, foursquare and I have a damaged relationship beyond repair, and I’m feeding my need to check in with GetGlue. Even after really thinking about it, I’m still not certain about what makes me want to check into these apps so frequently. Maybe I have a compulsive need to document my life or am truly destined to be one of those people addicted to their phones. Whatever the reason, I’m happy with my phone addiction, and I have tons of time to figure things out. Until then, I have 40 new stickers, and you don’t.

Jessica Neria is the Technology and Social Media Coordinator for In Our Words, and a third year undergraduate student in DePaul University’s Psychology program. Neria is a co-president of the DePaul A.V. Club and the Social Media Chair for Spectrum DePaul. She is also currently a freelance photographer, an enthusiastic dog-walker and an avid lover of mustaches. Follow Jessica on Twitter @yehika15 or on tumblr at yehika.tumblr.com.

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