If You Didn’t Check In, Did It Really Happen?

, Another rant from , 3 Comments

Check_InI was at the kitchen bench chatting with my girlfriend about our upcoming trip to the United States the other day. We were discussing all the cool things we were gonna do while we’re over there. Vegas, Disneyland, an NHL game etc. She’s never been to New York so I was telling her about some of the cool stuff to do and see and I thought out loud:

‘I’d really like to go to the DC Comics head office’

All good. I’m happy with that, but it was the next thought that shocked me.

‘How cool would it be to go there and check-in on Facebook!’

Woah! WTF man! You’re in New York; arguably one of the greatest cities on the planet and that’s what would be exciting – checking in on Facebook!

Who the hell thinks like that!?

Well, go out to a restaurant in the city and have a look at all the couples out for a romantic dinner who spend the night staring down at their phones. Or your Facebook newsfeed that is full of ‘selfies’ at this club or that bar. The answer starts to become clear; Lots and lots of people think like that.

Going out to a really cool place is only half the experience now. Having your photo taken next to a glass of wine you’re sipping or checking in is the real fun part! After all, that’s what proves once and for all you were there. Right?

Facebook Checkin Batman

But why? Why do people check in?

I read somewhere a little while ago, that the ‘checking in’ process is an ingrained part of the human psyche. When a human discovers something, they plant a flag. Be it a new continent many centuries ago or the moon. Once we arrive, we feel compelled to state ‘Look. I was here!’.

The Facebook Timeline enhanced this need to tell a story. Now you can travel back in time with one of the most comprehensive diaries ever kept. Within seconds you can see photos, comments, locations, thoughts, friends; and overall snapshot of your life at that time. Checking in is just one more detail in your online diary.

So perhaps Checking In on Facebook or Foursquare is kind of like a new-tech cave drawing or hieroglyphics. We are telling a story. Our story.

Building Your Social Currency

Or perhaps it’s simply about looking cool to your friends. For the same reason you’d want a photo hugging Brad Pitt or punching someone from Jersey Shore in the throat; it gives you social status. Checking into an expensive restaurant, sold-out concert or big sporting event builds social identity, which is a form of currency in these days where fame is regarded as the pinacle of happiness for many.

People don’t check into boring or embarrassing places (Katie has just checked into to The Melbourne STD Clinic) because it does nothing to bolster their social currency.

So maybe it’s all about credibility. The cooler the check-ins, the cooler you are perceived to be…

The Marketing Angle

Or maybe like all good things, the business marketers got a hold of it and convinced you to use it.  Perhaps you’re checking in to become the Mayor of your local coffee shop (Foursquare) or to claim a free upgrade at McDonalds.
This is big overseas, but not something I see widely utilised here in Australia.

Whether or not it’s a cool thing; a way for people to brag to their friends about being somewhere, a story telling thing or a way of redeeming awards, like it or loathe it, it’s become a part of the way a large amount of people experience something.

I’d like to say I’m no longer going buy into this checking-in rubbish, but there’s still that part of me that reckons having evidence that I was at DC Comics – the place where Batman and Superman were created is pretty damm awesome!



Who the hell is Daylan Pearce?

Daylan is a digital strategist for branding agency Principals. Looking after digital and customer experience projects, Daylan has been featured in The New York Times, News.com.au, B&T, ProBlogger and more. He once ate 13 McDonald's cheeseburgers in under 5 minutes, but strongly advises against anyone else ever trying that. He also feels slightly odd when writing about himself in the third person for blog biography summaries.


3 Responses

  1. Alistair Lattimore

    March 27, 2013 11:59 PM

    I used to use Foursquare all the time.

    Back then it was fun, even novel in what the product offered. Ousting friends as a mayor of a venue was in some way enjoyable, not sure why and the badges they provided for funny, quirky actions were entertaining.

    However after a few months I stopped checking into different locations as I wasn’t getting anything out of it. My personal currency in what drives me to do something, take an action on anything isn’t aligned with their core product values – so I simply stopped.

    In hindsight, I might have kept using Foursquare if there were more of my friends using it but a couple years ago it was all but a ghost town for me. I think it’d provide a lot more value to me as a social product or service, not for the gamification aspect of it but as a discovery service if more of my friends/social network connections were using it or if more people in my geographic area were using it. If either of those scenarios were true, it’d be a great way to find amazing coffee shops or a cracking steakhouse recommended by friends, family and social connections.

  2. Alison Lane

    April 5, 2013 9:33 PM

    I am a heavy-user of Facebook (not an addict though, I could give it up any time …) and a frequent checker-in. I think I do it for a variety of the reasons you suggest – certainly telling myself and others my ‘story’ and also recording my life. My father wrote a diary every day stating the weather, where we had been, and this was frequently very useful later to settle family disputes about whether we had been to that holiday location in 1974 or 1975. I do like to review my Facebook page ‘diary’ and so do my children.Memory is imperfect and it is good to have a reference point, but at what point does your Facebook ‘memory’ become more real that your own? If you haven’t checked in, did it happen? is an interesting question.
    One thing you didn’t mention was the ability to link up with friends nearby, which I have done at festivals and in public places – sort of assisted serendipity.