Originally published in MediaPost
Over Memorial Day weekend, I reached one of those coming-of-age milestones that only a Social Media Insider reader could appreciate: I became a Super Mayor.
I'll wager you're in one of three camps right now:
· You're yawning. You became Super Mayor a year ago, and admitting I just did this is like a one-time high school prom king bragging that he lost his virginity… at age 25.
· You're scratching your head, unaware that Super Mayor is a Foursquare badge earned for holding down ten mayorships simultaneously. The mayor, a title earned for the most loyal recent visitor to a given location, earns bragging rights and sometimes additional perks.
· You empathize, recalling your own recent triumph, or you're looking forward to joining that badge holder's club someday.
In light of the achievement, it's a good occasion to reflect on what the badge means beyond the sum of its pixels. Here's one Foursquare user's tell-all.
1) I became much more aggressive about checking in when I knew I was in the running for Super Mayor.
2) I haven't earned a single tangible reward for being the mayor of a location.
3) I tried telling one Indian restaurant staffer how Foursquare worked, secretly hoping for a perk. He then left to work at another restaurant before I could get him on board.
4) The reasons I use Foursquare, in order: finding tips at places I'm visiting, the serendipity of badges, seeing where friends are, earning mayorships, discovering new businesses, and staying current for my job.
5) Leaving home helps earn mayorships. There's much more competition for mayorships in major cities, so I spent a while in New York without any mayorships at all. Vacations to Miami and Atlantic City helped pad my count. Atlantic City was especially interesting. I got a cheap mayorship by adding my grandmother's Boardwalk high-rise in Ventnor and then "owning" the nearby Mento's Ice Cream & Water Ice, but I couldn't snag the Wawa's across the street, nor Tony's Baltimore Grill near the Tropicana.
6) If you're at a doctor's office, especially one where they don't treat highly communicable or embarrassing diseases, that's a great time to check in. By the time I got LASIK in April, I was handily mayor of Dr. Pamel's office.
7) My wife, hooked on Facebook and a casual tweeter, can do without Foursquare entirely. She can also do without me getting so obsessive over it, especially since I'm often checking in with multiple apps.
8) I'm not sure the number of times I've checked in from bathrooms, but I have made several bathroom visits just to check in.
9) I don't like services where you check in to multiple places at once. For the best apps — Foursquare, Gowalla, Whrrl, and SCVNGR among them— there are value propositions unique to each service that span utility, social currency, and fun. I also don't trust geolocation data to be consistent enough across apps.
10) I can't stand Foursquare addicts who auto-post their locations to Facebook and Twitter. I'll do this selectively, as when I visited Sprinkles Cupcakes in Dallas on Saturday.
11) I used to auto-post updates for mayorships and badges to Facebook and Twitter. Then I felt these updates were happening too frequently and I stopped automatically sharing them. Then I got annoyed that I had no way of easily sharing my milestones, including becoming Super Mayor.
12) I'm only somewhat embarrassed about all the thought I've put into auto-posting Foursquare updates.
13) I've never falsely checked in at any location, though I have done so by accident. One social norm on Foursquare I've always wanted to violate but never did was checking into places from which I've had food delivered.
14) On a few occasions, I've picked up food instead of having it delivered just to earn or maintain a mayorship.
15) The coolest place I ever became mayor of was Madison Square Park. I earned it right before I spent a week in Miami and never got it back.
16) I seldom check into Madison Square Park anymore. It's such a beautiful park that I'm trying to make it a gadget-free zone for me.
17) Getting out of the running of mayorships for places like the park and 360i's headquarters made me less inclined to check into those locations.
18) I don't get what happened at 360i. I had dozens of check-ins there before anyone cared, and I became mayor for about a second. Then my colleagues Matt Wurst and Meg Minuskin got into it and had a battle for mayor, and I was forever out of the running. Whenever I see my check-in total for the office, well into the triple digits, I feel a tinge of resentment at Foursquare.
19) The same thing happened to me with my apartment building. Not that I'm bitter or anything.
20) There's an upside to the last two points: it got me out of the habit of checking into my office and home. I know, it's lame.
Maybe all of this is lame. Foursquare's compelling, though, both for the fun and utility, and it can change consumer behavior. Side effects include addiction, competitiveness, serendipity, bitterness, and the potential for it to get inside your head so much that you'll wind up writing your own Foursquare confessions.