Staking Out a Place in Foursquare
By Judy Bolton- Fasman
Move over Twitter and Facebook, four square is no longer just for kids on the playground. It has been upgraded to Foursquare and dubbed the latest buzz-worthy mobile app (that's new media speak for application) in cyberspace.
While Facebook and Twitter revel in the minutia of teenagers' and babyboomers' lives - homework, yuck, here's pictures from a party you weren't invited to, doing mounds of laundry, broiling salmon for dinner - Foursquare asks, "Where are you?" and "Can I join you?" Those are the burning questions for a social person in her 20s and 30s.
Here's how it works. A Foursquare user "checks in" with his cell phone at a bar, restaurant or museum, alerting friends of his whereabouts so they can come by and join the party. "Planned serendipity" is how one enthusiast described Foursquare. Phone calls? So 20th century. Texting? So yesterday. Fans also like the intimacy of Foursquare - something they find lacking in Facebook and Twitter. Plus users of this latest social networking technology can control who follows them in real time.
As if tracking someone's virtual footprints wasn't fun enough, Foursquare uses elements of gaming and social competition. There are points to be earned and virtual badges to be pinned on players who go out early and often. Users who frequent the same place can be crowned "mayor" of that location.
Foursquare mayors can get very territorial about their municipalities. The New York Times reported that it's not unusual for people to rush down to their favorite watering hole just to hold on to their status as mayor. I'm not so protective of my turf. In fact, I'm happy to be deputy mayor on any given day. But alas sometimes that's just not possible.
Here are some examples of my potential Foursquare locations.
Sidelines. I lovingly refer to the sidelines of a soccer game as Siberia. Who says I don't travel?! Please feel free to join me and don't forget your thermal underwear.
Grocery store. Another place where I enjoy bragging rights is Whole Foods. (I can't wait for the Shaw's to reopen in Chestnut Hill. (Yet another potential Foursquare location of mine.) I could text from the produce aisle at least three or four times a week. Join me amid the cilantro (my new favorite herb for salads and soups) and the organic arugula.
Peet's. My office. The place where I conduct the important business of catching up with friends or networking. I also write at Peet's, but when I have to knuckle down I go to a Starbucks off my grid.
The gym. I'm not exactly a gym rat, but I go a lot. Exercise followed by steam room, sauna and shower clears my head. Usually I can't spare the time to see this luxury routine through. But I always use my time wisely on the floor by reading on the stationary bike. That means anything from research articles to manuscripts by my writing workshop buddies. I also have a pencil lodged in my hair bun just in case a brilliant, or not so brilliant, thought comes to mind. I can't tell you how many times I could have changed the world if I had just remembered to write down my ideas.
Carpool line. If I get the timing right, I can get a choice space in line while fitting in a 20-minute nap. It's so refreshing to catch a few winks at the end of my children's notoriously long school days. If I don't feel like napping, hunkering down in the carpool line is yet another opportunity to read or jot down embryonic ideas that, let's be honest, rarely make it to gestation. But still, it feels productive and important to write them down.
My car. My car is my fiefdom. It serves as a closet, a library and portable restaurant. And now that I have Bluetooth, it's my second office. I'm ready for any situation - cold, boredom, hunger. I have the discarded clothes, the orphaned books and the granola wrappers in my trunk to prove it. No one starves during a 20-minute car ride on my watch.
The mall. Since I'm the personal shopper for my children and husband I go to the mall a lot. I'm always exchanging something until I finally get it right, be it size, color or style. I'm also on a first-name basis with many department store salespeople in the area.
By now you've correctly guessed that I'm not the hippest candidate for mayor of an edgy, urban Foursquare location. I'm more of a caballo de circo - a circus horse - my mother's Spanish expression for someone who has the same routine every day. (I'm also a pack mule.) While my itinerary may be predictable, I'm not in a rut. In fact, my life is as potentially exciting as a rousing game of four square.