It wasn’t so long ago that I used to check in on Foursquare everywhere I went, to an almost obsessive-compulsive degree.
The supermarket, the gas station, the post office, my home, every store I shopped at in the mall, T stops, my parents’ apartment, my friends’ houses … if it was on Foursquare, I’d check in there right away. And if it wasn’t, then I’d create a place or find somewhere close by to check in to.
I was a stalker’s dream.
But now, I hardly check in at all. Only when there’s a mayorship I need to maintain, or it’s a particularly interesting place (like a movie or a good restaurant or a special event).
Otherwise, checking in to the same places all the time — whether it’s an office, gym, coffee shop, or whatever — isn’t all that exciting anymore. And more important, no one really needs to know (or, if I’m being honest, cares) where I am at all times.
I know I’m not alone in thinking this way. Even though Foursquare itself claims that, to date, there have been “over 3 billion check-ins, with millions more every day,” there have been multiple reports of check-ins being down. That’s being blamed, at least partly, on Foursquare focusing less on the gaming mechanics of the app and more on the discovery aspects that will make it a stronger competitor for Yelp.
If you ask me, that was the wrong move.
Foursquare has never been the most necessary social app, and there was never any confetti or public recognition if you used it a lot. Actual benefits, like a free dessert or appetizer, have been few and far between. But at least it used to be fun, with its mayorships, badges, points, and other “incentives.”
Nowadays, Foursquare doesn’t even tell you how close you are to being the mayor when you check in somewhere. That missing info makes you feel like it’s silly to keep doing it because the title (as silly as it is) is unattainable.
And because fewer people are using Foursquare, including fewer of my own friends, it’s not as much fun to “compete” over something as minor and truly worthless as points.
When I check in nowadays, it feels like I’m just supporting Foursquare’s data-collection efforts. Quite frankly, Foursquare (and other social sites) already know way too much about me. So why would I want to give them any more info?
So yes, I decided to curb my Pavlovian tendencies when it came to Foursquare check-ins.
Is it time for a social sabbatical?
Foursquare is the only social app or network I’ve eased up in my use of recently, but I know a bunch of people who’ve gone further, opting for “social sabbaticals” in which they’ve hidden their Facebook profiles, deleted the app from their phones, and neither posted, liked, commented, or shared anything. (Some have also done a similar thing with Twitter.)
No surprise, when they come back (and, it should be noted, they eventually do), the response from all these people has been that they didn’t miss it at all.
A couple years ago, I was discussing with some colleagues our predictions for the year ahead. I said then that I predict people will start to rebuff the social networks and refocus on their offline lives. Obviously, that didn’t happen on any grand scale at the time, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen in the very near future either. Some might even say the opposite has happened.
But the more I hear about people taking social sabbaticals and celebrating events like the National Day of Unplugging (which took place this past weekend), read blog posts like this one by Dorie Clark about how we need to spend less time on social media, and feel like using some social networks and apps sometimes is more of a chore than an enjoyable activity, the more I think maybe now that prediction is starting to come true.
I have no plans or desire to step away from Facebook or Twitter anytime soon, but the increasing numbers of those who are choosing to do so shouldn’t be ignored.
If apps like Foursquare, which just released an update today, and networks like Facebook, which is releasing an update tomorrow, want to keep me and millions of other people engaged and active, they need to remember one of the biggest reasons we get involved in the first place: Because it’s fun.
Are you spending less time on social media these days? Would you ever consider a sabbatical? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.