I’m not old, but not that not-old either. I still retain a passing interest in any new manifestations of social media, but sometimes I have to wait for an article in the Daily Telegraph to explain them to me, which is why I’m now an expert on this Foursquare thingumajig that you young persons are getting so excited about, daddio.
And although I think I get it, I’m not really tempted to get into it. When I joined Twitter and Facebook, when I started blogging even, there was a certain leap-in-the-dark element to the whole thing. Quite clearly, a bare-bones description of the products couldn’t communicate why people found them so addictive, so useful, so much fun. You had to get involved to understand them. Fundamentally, they offered things I already liked doing (sharing thoughts and ideas and dreams and fears, getting to know those of others) but on a rather larger scale than was previously possible, with the opportunity to get new and unexpected voices involved in the conversation.
Foursquare, however, doesn’t appear to revolve around people’s thoughts, or even their words. Like one of those dire TV shows about buying houses, it’s all about location. When you tweet, you tell us where your head is at; when you check in on Foursquare, you tell us where the rest of you is, which frankly isn’t as interesting to me, unless I’ve arranged to meet you for lunch.
So to add a little pizazz to the banausic details of users’ daily peregrinations, Foursquare adds a gaming element to the whole thing. The more you check in, the more badges of honour you attain. If you’ve checked in at a specific location more than any other user, you become “Mayor” of it. There are elements of loyalty cards and frequent flyer programmes to all this, and it’s not unexpected that commercial partners, such as Starbucks, have got in on the act, offering privileges to those whose loyalty can be measured by GPS.
And none of this really appeals. I don’t care that you're in the Starbucks on Goodge Street; I might have a passing interest in the combination of happenstance, fatigue, thirst, hangover, boredom and inertia that brought you there; I’m far more likely to pay attention to what thoughts are popping between your synapses as you wait for your Deep-Fat Burberry Pendolino; all of which can be communicated to me by other means. Maybe I’m just being like the dinosaurs who claim to have no use for this newfangled internetty nonsense, because I’ve got real friends, thank you very much, and when I want to talk to them I can talk to them properly, face to face, and sometimes there are biscuits, nice ones too. But I think I’ve had enough experience of other social packages to understand the various components of Foursquare. What it seems to offer is a combination of the most annoying bits of 21st-century information technology. There’s the people who have no qualms about their every move being tracked and recorded, because “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide”; the persistent intrusion of advertising; the inane games, Farmville and their ilk, that pollute Facebook; the people who don’t understand that Twitter is not a monologue; and above all, the dreary monotone from three seats back, announcing: “I’m on the train.”
Unless someone can convince me otherwise...
PS: And the Telegraph can’t stop with the Foursquare lovin’. Hey, you guys, get a room.