For those unfamiliar with Foursquare, it is a social networking service come game that launched in March 2009.  The idea is that you can earn badges by “checking-in” to locations when you arrive at them.  Say you go to a location that has been tagged as a gym, once you’ve checked-in there ten times you’ll earn the “Gym Rat” badge.  Go to a bar a few too many times and you could earn the “Bender” badge.  If you check in to a location more than anyone else, you become the “Mayor” of that location, and some businesses are now even offering discounts to the Mayor as a way to promote people to come into their locations more often.

Beyond the game aspects, it is a social network at the heart of everything.  Say you go to a sports bar to watch a game, you check-in and you’ll be presented with a list of other Foursquare players that are in the same bar.  Now you have a way to break the ice with them and you can hang out together.

When the service first launched it was only for major cities such as New York around the United States.  It later expanded out to some international cities, and in Jan. 2010, it expanded to any place you wanted to play in the world.

Well, being the little social networking junkie I am, I immediately jumped on to play when it opened to any location.  I live in a small town in Northern Missouri named Kirksville.  Population year round is about 17,000, and during the school year we have about 6,000 additional students at the university and medical school.  I thought for sure I’d be seeing some of the college students playing the game in town.

Boy was I wrong.

To date I am the only person in my town that is playing, and that kind of defeats the purpose.  Here are some of the issues I’ve run in to.

Discovery Bonuses

foursquarebadgesIf you are the first person to “discover” a location, i.e. being the first to visit, you earn bonus points.  Well, since I’m the only person in town, every place I go for the first time since playing earns me that bonus.  Yay me?

The biggest pain to this is that it means it’s left up to me to enter all the information about a location such as an address, phone number and so on.


I’ve discovered it only takes me two visits to any given location to be named “Mayor”.  So far I’m the Mayor of four locations (I whited one out as I have a financial tie to it and didn’t want to be accused of self-promotion), and I will probably hit Super Mayor — holding ten mayorships at once — in the next week or two.

From what I know of people playing in larger cities, becoming the Mayor of some locations is like a hard fought battle, but for me, two visits and I’m done.

It Feels Very Lonely

Imagine you were the only member of a social network.

That is essentially my situation.  Someone threw a social network, and only I showed up.  I don’t find any one else at the locations I go to, and there is no “competition” in getting the Mayorships.  I keep asking myself why I’m even bothering to check-in, but then the idea of one other person starting to play and giving me that competition makes me think I should keep racking up points and check-ins so they would have no hope of catching up with me!

Darn my competitive nature!


None of this is to say I’m not having fun with it, but boy does it give you a different perspective on social networking.

With Yelp having already added check-ins, and rumors that Facebook is working on something similar, I could soon by a very lonely person on three networks! Triple the fun!