Last night I had a conversation with a group of friends, who don’t really ‘get’ social media. They’re all on Facebook, and one uses LinkedIn, but apart from that they don’t really understand or see the benefit of using anything else.
In my work life, I’m surrounded by people who are avid users and advocates of social media, so it was quite refreshing to talk about it with people coming from a different perspective and they rose one point in particular which I think is worth discussion:
“Why on earth would you want to tell the world where you are?”
Or in other words, why do people use geo-location sites like Foursquare and Facebook Places to document their daily movements by ‘checking-in’ to every place they visit?
There are A LOT of things that irritate me when I see people checking-in, and a lot of really sensible reasons why you shouldn’t want to, so I can certainly see where my friends are coming on.
Firstly, checking-in can be just plain annoying. Top of the list of check-ins that annoy me are people who do it every day when they arrive at work. Lets be honest – who cares?! Congratulations, you’ve become the ‘mayor’ of your own office! You’re at the place you’re expected to be! What an achievement, you really should be proud.
Next up, check-ins which are just plain embarrassing. I think the worst I’ve seen so far is “Joe Bloggs has just checked in to X-Town Magistrates Court”. Seriously?! You want the world to know you’re in court?! For as long as I work in social media, that’s one that I don’t think I’ll ever get my head around…
My final entry for the irritating category of check-ins is the show-off. You know, the one that has no tangible benefit to it, which no one will be interested in, and clearly has just been done as a location-based boast. A great example of this is people who check-in at the gym every day (or more). Why do that? Do you think that I’ll subconsciously remember all those check-ins next time I see you and complement you on how buff you’re looking? I think not.
Aside from making you look rather foolish, there are actually some serious reasons why it might be better not to check-in.
One of the most obvious is the “Jane Smith is at Heathrow Terminal 5”. I absolutely get that you’re excited about your holiday, and want to make you’re friends jealous, but telling the world that you’re off on holiday for a fortnight is like sending an open letter to opportunistic criminals telling them they have a two-week window to break into your house. And if you’ve also recently checked-in at “Jane and Jim’s love nest”, giving everyone your full address… well, really you only have yourself to blame.
You should also think about who is going to see your check-ins, and whether or not it’s appropriate to be telling them where you are. For example, my colleagues, employers and clients all have access to my Facebook updates and Tweets, so I’m always cautious about my work and social lives crossing paths.
Imagine you check-in to a bar at 1am on a Sunday night. Then on Monday morning, your car won’t start so you’re late for a 9am meeting with your boss. If your boss saw your late night check-in, it’s easy to see how, even if you do have a genuine reason for being late, they might still put two and two together to make six…
So with all these reasons not to check-in, why should you use sites like Foursquare?
Well, if you’re somewhere that will be of genuine interest to your friends, I say go for it. If I ever get an invite to Buckingham Palace, I think that would be worth a check-in. Yes, that does slightly fall into the boast category, but I think it’s an acceptable one.
Then of course there are the places that reward you for checking in. If your local pizza takeaway wants to give away a free pizza to whoever has visited the most that week, it’s definitely worth risking your friends thinking you’re a bit of a porker to keep checking-in and get the freebie.
It’s also great if you want to recommend somewhere where you’ve just had a really good meal, or offer future visitors a tip about the best table to sit at or where you can get free wi-fi. If you’re at an interesting event or conference, by all means let people know about it, or if you’re out at the weekend you can let your friends know where to find you.
What does everyone else think? Do you like the world to know what you’re up to and where you’re going, or do you prefer to keep things private?
Posted by @natblachford