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March 17, 2010

How to be cool (and not uncool) on Foursquare

Posted: 10:15 AM ET

Many of you are active users on Foursquare. More of you have at least heard of Foursquare. And the rest of you are probably just annoyed by your friends posting updates from Foursquare.

Foursquare is a very rapidly growing social network allowing users to “check-in” and share their location with their friends. There is also a gameplay component, drawing a page from the original four square game’s book; users collect badges and become “mayors” at spots they frequent. Its been lauded as this year’s Twitter by Mashable’s Pete Cashmore, and was certainly the talk of the town at SXSWi this year, a tech conference in Austin, Texas.

There are several ways you can be cool and more importantly not uncool on Foursquare. Here are a few tips and guidelines for being cool. (Full disclosure, I am an avid badge hound, and am moderately guilty of one or two of these myself.)

1. It’s all about Serendipity, baby
To me, Foursquare is all about serendipity. It’s all about discovering that my friends are at the same place as me … or that I just missed them. Or discovering how much you can learn about a friend by the types of places they frequent (and sometimes wanting to join them). It’s about battling out a friend or a foursquare nemesis for a mayorship of your local bar.

2. Don’t check in if you’re not there
As previously mentioned, Foursquare is about the serendipitous moment of discovering you’re at the same place as your friend. If you check in somewhere you’re not - either to catch up on a place you were earlier in the day or (more nefariously) to try to win a mayorship - that’s just not cool. Just let it happen naturally. You’ll become a mayor soon enough. If it’s a place you hit often, you’ll check in there again.

3. Don’t do drive-bys
Don’t check in when you’re dropping off the dry cleaning or picking up some cash from the ATM. Where’s the fun in that? And who really wants to be mayor of the gas station anyway? Check in at places where you really are and your friends have chances of finding you (see point #1). And while I’m at it, check in when you arrive somewhere, not when you’re leaving so you can increase those chances of serendipity.

4. Don’t check in at work or home
It’s just not cool. Of course you’re the mayor of your house. If you’re not, then you’ve got a real problem. And for work: You’re supposed to be at your job every day; I don’t need Foursquare to tell me you’re there. Reserve Foursquare for the places you can bump into people by happenstance. Its much more fun that way (plus, your boss can’t track how late you are to work).

5. Don’t ignore real people who you’re with
This could have been rule number one. If you’re too busy fiddling with your iPhone when you meet up with your friends for drinks after work, you might have to really start using Foursquare to find new friends. Don’t ignore the people in front of you for the avatars in your pocket. As I’ve discovered, becoming a “mayor” usually does not impress them.

6. Friend your friends
With Foursquare, if you’re doing it right, you’re telling people exactly where you are. I generally like to reserve that for people I actually know. I’m not saying I’m important or interesting enough to have a stalker, but I still don’t really want people I don’t know to know my precise location.

The exception, however, is for the Foursquare users whose paths you keep crossing. You might discover someone new you’ve got something in common with who could be a new (real) friend. But still, at least buy me a drink first.

7. Think twice about broadcasting an activity
Speaking of your friends, before you start tweeting or broadcasting your Foursquare activity to Facebook, think about all your friends who really don’t care you just became the mayor of your grocery store. While you’re earning your overshare badge, you might be losing some followers on Twitter.

8. Add a tip or a to-do
Add a tip for the places you frequent and know a lot about. That could really help the people who might not know your area as well. Plus, it helps built Foursquare street cred and gets you to superstar status faster.

So there you have it: Eight simple tips from some random, opinionated Foursquare user. I might have just set a record for use of the word serendipity. But if everyone followed these rules, the world would be a better place … or at least I would get to enjoy Foursquare a little bit more.

But of course, some of the same rules can also apply across some of the other location-based social networks like Gowalla or Yelp (and maybe even Facebook soon). What do you think? What are your rules for Foursquare?

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Filed under: Foursquare • SXSWi

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Roger   March 17th, 2010 11:28 am ET

Now if we can just get Foursquare and Yelp linked-up somehow, it would be great.

Lee   March 17th, 2010 1:47 pm ET

Yea, thats what I want in my life, everyone knowing where I am all the time.

Leo   March 17th, 2010 1:54 pm ET

What is wrong with people. Why do we need this? Are busy enough already!!!

Shira   March 17th, 2010 2:05 pm ET

I don't ACTUALLY know you...but how do I become YOUR Foursquare friend? 🙂

ann   March 17th, 2010 2:05 pm ET

All of these rules basically reduce down to me not telling people anything. That sounds good to me.

Tom B   March 17th, 2010 2:11 pm ET

And we wonder why we are lagging in productivity....

Patty   March 17th, 2010 2:18 pm ET

Why has the very mundane become so important? And why are we becoming more and more narcissistic? Do you really care where I am? Because honestly, unless I ask, I don't care where you are right now.

bb   March 17th, 2010 2:20 pm ET

cool to be uncool

saddened by society   March 17th, 2010 2:21 pm ET

wow this seems like the stupidest thing in the history of the internet.......sounds like something middle schoolers would love!! sad thing is i know adults are doing it too!!!

Jacob S   March 17th, 2010 2:22 pm ET

It's just another way for "the man" to keep tabs on us... Damn the man!

Dan   March 17th, 2010 2:25 pm ET

Hi y'all! I'm sitting in front of my computer, reading about a new stupid website, and a really self-absorbed group of people who think that all their friends want to know where they spend all their time. I think that makes me the mayor of sitting in front of my computer. (Deputy mayor, at least.)

Robert   March 17th, 2010 2:26 pm ET

Yelp already has their own Check In feature. I switched over to Yelp from Foursquare so I could use only one app instead of two. (Yelp Boston btw, not sure about other cities.)

Jeff   March 17th, 2010 2:29 pm ET

It will be very interesting to see which of these things people end up growing out of and which will permeate our culture. I'm 27, and I've sworn off all social internet sites; it's just a waste of time. I'm going outside to see my real friends in person.

Thomas   March 17th, 2010 2:30 pm ET

Honestly, its just a matter of time before some crime is committed and this technology is cited as the reason. Watch.

lol at yous guys   March 17th, 2010 2:37 pm ET

taylor20   March 17th, 2010 2:37 pm ET

It is shocking how narcissistic our society has become, at the very least I think all of this 'technology' has fostered such narcissism amount young people. Do you really feel that you're that important that people want to know everything about you and every little move that you make? Enjoy it while you're young I day you will learn that you're not as special as you think you are and you will get over yourselves.

Michael   March 17th, 2010 2:40 pm ET

Very poor choice to mention being the mayor of one's home. It is incredibly foolish and dangerous to put your residence on Foursquare.

Kevin Cassidy   March 17th, 2010 2:44 pm ET

why can't CNN save this for the techno-geek blogs and report news?

Stygian   March 17th, 2010 2:46 pm ET

Wow. This article does not even include, "Think before you check in."

It seems the mass majority of social networking individuals are unconscious of the threat of revealing your location. Seeing as the mass majority either remove the security or do not change the security of their facebook accounts, it is incredibly easy to get tracked or stalked using foursquare recklessly.

Think about the consequences of your actions. In life.

Mike   March 17th, 2010 2:49 pm ET

In telling Foursquare my private information, three things can happen and two of them are bad: (a) my true friends know where I am, (b) Foursquare sells my information to the highest bidder, who uses the info against me, (c) someone hacks Foursquare and uses the information against me. Make that 3 bad things, if I'm not sure who my true friends are (how many of you think you know?). I'll pass. Anyone who needs to know where I am already does, because I explicitly told them. Safer that way.

mightyfudge   March 17th, 2010 2:49 pm ET

And while you're at it, why not just drive down to the police station and voluntarily give them your fingerprints and DNA? Why not cut out the middle man and have an RFID chip installed directly in your butt cheek? It's insane how willfully we give up our privacy in the name of convenience, safety and good old fashioned vanity. We're Idiots.

Haylcron   March 17th, 2010 2:51 pm ET


Allow me to make a minor edit to your post:

It is shocking how narcissistic our society has become, at the very least I think all of this 'technology' has fostered such narcissism amount young people. Do you really feel that you're that important that people want to read anything you say in the comments of a story? Enjoy it while you're bitter I day you will learn that you're not as special as you think you are and you will get over yourselves.

Much better.

Nemo   March 17th, 2010 2:51 pm ET

Jeez some people have way to much time on their hands with their iPhones! I see them all the time typing away and ignoring the real world around them. I'm all about being conected, but just put the little gizmos down and step away from the internet. It will be there when you finish your drink and ignor the hotty sitting next to you so you can play with avatar madenss.

Chris   March 17th, 2010 2:52 pm ET

All of these comments about Foursquare... (Who cares? Why do I want everyone to know where I am or what I am doing? etc) .... were the same comments that came out when Facebook and Twitter were starting up.. Social Networking is not going away, it is only going to grow in new ways. People do use it and it is obviously successful, so to say "why would anyone want this" is a ridiculous question. My guess is that the negative comments about it being self absorbed, childish, etc. are coming from people who either A) Are not "up" on the "new technologies" B) Never go anywhere but work or home (since you should not check into those places this is worthless to them) C) Dont have any friends.

Mike   March 17th, 2010 2:52 pm ET

Who cares!!!

Another toy for the "adults" of the US to waste their time on.

Haylcron   March 17th, 2010 2:54 pm ET

Kevin Cassidy

You do realize you're reading the SciTechBlog, yes? If you don't want to see stories about emerging trends in science and technology, I would suggest you don't come here.

SeeSure   March 17th, 2010 3:00 pm ET

Hmm. I see the fun aspect of this. But I also did have a "friend" start stalking me... And I am not the kind of person you would think would be interesting enough to stalk... so...

Chris   March 17th, 2010 3:01 pm ET

There is no way to be cool on FourSquare.

Nemo   March 17th, 2010 3:01 pm ET

Hey 'lol at yous guys' thank you for posting the best reason to not post your location on every social networking site.

Now I need to buy an iPhone and become more cool.
Seriously people just put down the phones and actually talk to a real human in person.

ADIKOS   March 17th, 2010 3:03 pm ET

I will second the "think before you check in" for 2 reasons.

1. it is a bad idea that strangers know when you arent home.

2. as I found out earlier this week, everyone and their brother on my lists are broadcasting their locations and it's starting to get taxing to look through everyone who dont even live close to me. Spamming locations like target and walmart just dont strike me as interesting and should be stopped.

Jim Straton   March 17th, 2010 3:11 pm ET

foursquare = a stalkers paradise

Kyle   March 17th, 2010 3:26 pm ET

What's four square?

DaveyGee   March 17th, 2010 3:28 pm ET

Just what we need... another complete waste of time – except for the hopelessly vain.

Ryan   March 17th, 2010 3:38 pm ET

I'm not at home. Feel free to rob me.

Ryan   March 17th, 2010 3:43 pm ET

Make sure to broadcast where you are at all times so that I can rob your house

Jessica   March 17th, 2010 3:52 pm ET

Why? Why does anyone think that their life is so important that everyone wants to know where they are. Get a life people!

Jeremy   March 17th, 2010 3:56 pm ET

Wow! Interesting that all the people letting us know they don't care found it necessary to take the time to comment about the fact that they don't care. And we're supposed to think that people who use foursquare are wasting their time and have too much time on their hands?!?

Chris   March 17th, 2010 4:08 pm ET

If you dont care then dont use it. Those of us who do care dont care if you dont care...dont you have better things to do then reading an article you dont care about and brodcasting your pointless comment on the web...speaking of narcissistic tendencies....

Arlene   March 17th, 2010 4:08 pm ET

This is what I hear from some of the posters here: GET OFF MY LAWN!

The Man   March 17th, 2010 4:18 pm ET

I find this to be an invaluable tool – for me to keep tabs on all of you, as Jacob S suggested. That young man has a bright future at The Company.

krouth   March 17th, 2010 4:46 pm ET

I am starting a new social networking site that combines YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, FaceBook and Twitter.
I call it: You flicked my face – Twit!!!

PTizzle   March 17th, 2010 4:49 pm ET

shut up cnn, you are not hip!

hal9thou   March 17th, 2010 4:54 pm ET

What the hell? Sounds completely stupid and annoying. What WILL those kids get into now???

Supplement   March 17th, 2010 4:55 pm ET


Ryan Thompson   March 17th, 2010 4:58 pm ET


Have you heard of the Foursquareoff? The idea is gaining traction.

At any rate, the Foursquare service is promising, but far too vulnerable to foul play. It kinda makes you miss the golden days.

When foursquare was foursquare and grooving was groovin'

CVB   March 17th, 2010 5:03 pm ET

Will everyone just cool it? If you don't like it, don't use it. It's that simple. As for that getting your house robbed crap, you're right, good thing Foursquare has come along to let thieves know that people leave their houses. Because before now, I'm sure no one ever did. By that brilliant piece of reasoning, you had better shut off your answering machines on your landlines, and make sure you have a way to always answer those lines, because otherwise the big bad thieves are coming to rob you!

Jeff   March 17th, 2010 5:05 pm ET

It's just something fun to do. It's a game people! Lighten up!

Anon   March 17th, 2010 5:12 pm ET

Foursquare? Coolest r on 4chan /b/ro!

texasspecial   March 17th, 2010 5:14 pm ET

It seems like nobody gets that all this activity is being tracked by some company somewhere. Information is being gathered on where you go, how often, what you do, what you buy, etc. It's free because they use it to market to you and take more of your money. Wake up, sheeple.

saltybrownricelgirl   March 17th, 2010 5:16 pm ET

WHY the hell would anyone want to do this???

CVB   March 17th, 2010 5:24 pm ET


The same thing happens every time you use a debit card, or a credit card, or one of those grocery discount cards. It's impossible to avoid in today's society, and it's naive to think that you can, save for living on a mountain somewhere.

robbing my ex...   March 17th, 2010 5:31 pm ET

Thanks to Foursquare I could now keep track of my ex and get into his apartment when his is not at home. Thanks so much F***Square.

neeshy   March 17th, 2010 5:43 pm ET

Why do people take everything so seriously and are such haters? It's a just for fun! The same comments are made about any new social tool/app/networking etc. and it's ridiculous. What is so wrong about facebook, twitter, foursquare? It just adds to the already existing social life – there is nothing bad about it. Lighten the EFF up.

Robbing?   March 17th, 2010 5:43 pm ET

robbing my ex . . .

I'm assuming you know when/where your ex works. So you could break into his home whenever you wanted. Don't need 4square to know when people aren't home. I'm out of my house every Mon-Fri 7:30 – 6:30 with or without using 4square.

Sami   March 17th, 2010 5:46 pm ET

Cry me a river!

You guys and gals need to simmer down a bit. Foursquare is just like Facebook or Twitter when it 1st started. A great tool to connect with people. What YOU do with that tool is up to you. If you're stupid enough to check-in inside your own home then blame your lack of reasoning abilities.

Fool-Not   March 17th, 2010 6:25 pm ET

Fool's Names and Fool's Faces are often seen in public places

hypersocial   March 17th, 2010 7:07 pm ET

CNN = national broadcast paradigm
Foursquare = micro, personalized targetting paradigm


#1 – duh
#2 – you can't
#3 – true for Foursquare but totally legit for Gowalla
#4 – agree home is lame, but work is fine
#5 – totally disagree and strongly resent people who don't adapt to technology and feel the need to police your behavior
#6, #7 & #8 – totally agree

Randy   March 17th, 2010 7:20 pm ET

Great App, but I really think it should be called H-Town....just my two cents...

cb   March 17th, 2010 7:36 pm ET

this is the most entertaining thread, i have stumbled upon in a long time!!
Btw, i live with my dad.he's the bossman! Can I check-into my home till I become 'mayor',is it legit?? Same at work.. 😀

Jason   March 17th, 2010 8:07 pm ET

To be perfectly honest, if I'm not hanging out with my friends, I don't give a crap where they are, and I sure hope they don't give a crap where I am.

This is a waste of time.

haters?   March 17th, 2010 8:32 pm ET

Haha...maybe all the hate is just reflecting a lack of forward thinking in the CNN reading population.

Or just bias comment moderators...

Dave   March 17th, 2010 9:26 pm ET

I love the assumption we all know what Foursquare is, or know people using it all the time. I never had heard of it, and considering there appears to be all of 3-4 users in my neighborhood (in a fairly large city), I have to wonder why that assumption would be made.

I guess if you want to have your house robbed while you're out it sounds fun though.

yenimedia   March 17th, 2010 9:57 pm ET

If you are interested in a post that contains some positive thoughts on Foursquare, especially on how it shows that social media will never replace real-life interactions, check out this post:

yenimedia   March 17th, 2010 9:58 pm ET

If you are interested in a post that contains some positive thoughts on Foursquare, especially on how it shows that social media will never replace real-life interactions, check out this post:

Dave   March 18th, 2010 10:31 am ET

Don't cheat like this guy:

Athlone   March 18th, 2010 2:00 pm ET

People who don't need to know where I am: 1) Creditors 2) Ex-wives 3) Current wives 4) Tax assessor 5) Boss 6) Repo-men 7) Repo-women 8) Center for Disease Control 9) Deputies 10) Bounty hunters 11) Bounty huntresses 12) Mother ("Are you so busy you can't call or visit once in a while?") 13) Father ("You're the only one whose liver matches my old one") 14) Acquaintances who are so self-absorbed that they think I want to know where they are at any given moment ("Now I'm in the bathroom at Wal-Mart!") 15) Acquaintances who need something ("I'm moving next weekend and I need to know if you still have that truck and are doing anything that Saturday?") 16) Burglars 17) Robbers 18) Politicians 19) Priests, Pastors, Rabbis, Imams, shamans, etcetera 20) Jehovahs Witlesses 21) Mormons 22) Girl Scouts 23) Boy Scouts 24) You. 25) Especially you.

Ed   March 18th, 2010 4:56 pm ET

Wouldn't you have to know where I live in order to rob my house when I'm checked in someplace? If you know me well enough to have been to my home, you could probably tell if I'm home or not by looking for my car in the driveway.

Stupid isn't telling people where you are. Stupid is telling people you don't trust, where you live.

Good luck figuring out my address from the information I've got on my Foursquare account.

This "please rob me" thing is a non-issue if you've got an ounce of brains.

Xian   March 19th, 2010 7:38 am ET

Exactly, Ed. I don't get this whole "please rob me" aspect that people are complaining about. I would think that it would be easier for a thief to just hang around a house until he sees someone leave than to try to do "research" on the internets about who's not home. And Stark's right, too. Not everyone lives alone so someone not being home doesn't mean squat.

It's been said before ... it's a game, people. Lighten up. If you think it's stupid, don't use it. Worry about how you conduct your own lives rather than what everyone else should be doing and thinking.

douggross   March 19th, 2010 9:24 am ET

Not sure I agree with my colleague's take on checking in at work. Feels like an easy way to, say, let your significant other know you made it in OK. Or, if you work a funky schedule, co-workers can know you're around.

On privacy concerns, at the recent South By Southwest conference, lots of speakers talked about this. In the end, most of them said, the technology's there to let you decide who sees what. It's up to the user to be careful about which networks your sending to, they say.

Pete   March 19th, 2010 3:35 pm ET

I'm waiting for the "wall ball" app to come out. That game was more fun than foursquare.

Chris Scott   March 19th, 2010 5:17 pm ET

Yes, perfect social networking site...and just the place i'd love to check if I were a burglar looking for an easy target...broadcast where you are at all times people, and eventually it's gonna screw you in the end.

links for 2010-03-19 : The ChipCast || by Chip Mahaney   March 19th, 2010 11:04 pm ET

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NěcoNové | Foursquare a Twitter: Spojit? Odpojit?   March 20th, 2010 11:04 am ET

[...] podnik nebo vůbec jít ven. Tak ho vidím já – a můžete se podívat na hezky popsaná pravidla Foursquare, se kterýma se v téhle souvislosti plně [...]

Paola   March 22nd, 2010 11:02 am ET


Definitely picked up a couple of things I had not heard before. Thanks! Paola with

rocklobster   March 22nd, 2010 3:53 pm ET

I have been reading about Four Square for some time, it's my job. I find ways to turn these sites into either marketing paths or the dissemination of information about a company or product.

This one has been talked to death in Advertising and other media outlet magazines and Web sites. It is not so much this particular program, but what may follow.

What I found odd after doing my job by reading the article is why so many people who hate it read the article and then had to tell everyone why they are better than others.

It reminds me of the first real cell phones, my first was a true car phone, with a massive amount of equipment in the trunk to make it work. Then come along real cell phones and I would hear from all sorts of people how they felt that those people using cell phones were egotistical. How would they know? But, more, why do the care, what was it that made having a cell phone make people think you were a phony (no pun intended)? Why get worked up about the few people, back then, who had cell phones – it didn't hurt any of us. They were just speaking on a phone while walking on the sidewalk.

I just never understood the almost hatred that I would hear from those who did not use a cell phone. We can be odd people now, for almost every one of those associates who got worked up by someone being on a cell phone, not live by texting.

Ilan Ben Menachem   March 25th, 2010 3:20 pm ET

Good luck figuring out my address from the information I've got on my Foursquare account.

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[...] this, this morning, on Laughing Squid. Someone opened a Twitter account as Ferris Bueller, and a Foursquare account as well (clever), and started tweeting the movie. Take a look at the image, it's [...]

Foursquare, More Square, We Square, Your Square « Thumann Resources   July 11th, 2010 8:33 pm ET

[...] How to be cool (and not uncool) on Foursquare is something every foursquare user should read after they've earned their first few badges. As I've already pointed out, there are some guidelines to follow. [...]

Foursquare, More Square, We Square, Your Square | November Learning   July 11th, 2010 8:48 pm ET

[...] How to be cool (and not uncool) on foursquare is something every foursquare user should read after they've earned their first few badges. As I've already pointed out, there are some guidelines to follow. [...]

inTheKnow   August 4th, 2010 6:18 pm ET

Meeting someone in foursquare is about as cool as shaking hands beneath a bathroom stall on a interstate rest stop.

The only cool foursquare user is the one who doesn't join, doesn't check-in and otherwise avoids the service.

With this in mind I humbly suggest this bullet point

To be cool on foursquare don't read articles on being cool on foursquare. If you have to read about you probably aren't cool.

ash   August 5th, 2010 6:07 am ET

Funny – they noticed too =)

good   October 17th, 2010 2:53 pm ET

i cant do eny thing

FourSquare | tashaeve   February 28th, 2012 7:16 pm ET

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