I 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?
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!