Checking out facebook's check in: a malarkey of new considerations

I acquired an iPhone 4 a few months ago, and it has pretty much changed my life. It has caused me to do away with bag mainstays I’ve habitually collected since highschool: ratty, dog eared notebooks full of lines from other people’s books, and visual diaries, pens that loose their caps and get ink everywhere etc… and replace them with the million applications that do exactly the same thing in a digital format, all sorted out tidy-like in my sexy, shiny black phone. I’ve even, to my own astonishment, set aside my $2000 digital SLR for some time to embrace this new phase of photography; iPhoneography! Fuck yeah! I am very, very excited about all this shit, which is obvious to all my Facebook friends- they bear the brunt of the iPhone excitement.

Facebook and iPhone are completely intertwined now. Connected at all times thanks to the Facebook App, one of the world’s most popular applications, free to download, Facebook everywhere! So to keep up with this hyper-connectivity, the brilliant minds at Facebook HQ invented the “Places” function, which allows the user to let everybody know where they are and tag who they are with separately from a status update, all tied together with GPS so one can see if they are near their friends without having to bother with researching a location yourself. Check-in! Revolutionary! Easy!

Checking in has been designed to reward users for sharing more information, whether it be a real life deal, or simply a perceived boost in hipster cred. Businesses especially have a lot to gain from the system, with customer loyalty deals, tagging a group of people with you for group deals etc. It can pay off to be a regular check-er-in-er-er, as well as being a vaguely enjoyable game to play with yourself, and the people around you, especially if you’re all using Foursquare and are competing for mayorships and such. Generally speaking, Foursquare has more immediate benefits than Facebook checkin, but this does not appear to stop anyone from the Facebook function.

So you’re out at a gig, and you decide to have a look at your Facebook while you’re smoking a cigarette, for example. You go to “places”, “check in” to the venue, and now your friends and work colleagues and internet savvy family members and old high school stoner buddies know that you’re there. You might have a quick check for any specials advertised by the venue’s Facebook page, if they have it tied to the check in location… and then you go back to watching the band. It is easy to assume there is very little else to it, that the checkin ends there, but this just ain’t the case. Allow me to open your mind to the world of new social considerations, a new form of etiquette if you will, based on a developed understanding of social networking as a whole, a concept that has grown into something far beyond the social practises of even 15 years ago.

The first question to ask is: But really… Why? I suppose it is quicker and easier than writing a status update, as iPhones are notorious for automatically correcting spelling due to the stubbiness of fingers on their tiny screen letters. It is easier to tag friends who may be with you. There is also the added interest of showing the location of the place on a map, which can put it into context a little more for the friend looking at it, and can sometimes generate more humour/intrigue/whatever… But I think, most importantly, that as an even more detached communication tool, it is easier for a person to provide social clues without being overtly obvious in your intentions. Everyone loves a little mystery, and one can draw any depth of meaning they like from a check in, an important fact to remember if you’re going to become an avid user of check in, or an avid reader of check in (ie; creep/stalker).

With a new form of communication within the existing social networking web we find ourselves in, it is necessary to understand the subtleties of the medium that allow you to best utilise it. The deals and rewards are an obvious one, but complex social things happen that need some bringing to attention. It’s common sense, but worth mentioning all the same.

For example! If some one you know is avoiding you, and they check in to somewhere social (like a bar etc) near you, it should be perceived as a blatant warning to stay away. If you guys are chummy as hell, however, it should be perceived as an open invitation to join them, especially if a group of mutual friends are tagged. Based on the information displayed on your news feed during the day, it is possible to gauge what mood your friends are in, and pre-empt the kind of night to be expected, thus making your decision to join them a more informed one. If you check in at the hospital, expect to be asked if everything is okay. If you don’t want people to know why you’re there, don’t let them know in the first place.

Currently, I use check in to let people know that I’m at the bar while I’m working, in an attempt to encourage visitors. It is yet to work on anyone other than a bar regular or two, who find this whole smart-phone/Facebook mash up just as entertaining as I do. Which leads me to think, perhaps other people haven’t considered the potential of this thing. Or I’m an asshole with no friends. I’m pretty sure it’s not the latter… So hopefully I have encouraged a little more thought on it all in your mind, to help all the lonely day-shift bar girls of the western world.

I’ll leave you now with a quote from Louis Gray, a technology nerd blogger from the Silicone Valley, about the potentials of Facebook social interaction, the inclusion of check ins to this sphere, and the individual construction of your online persona.

“If you become real, and share who you really are, you can get real-world connections with real people who really care, so stop hiding and stop filtering.”

Yeah. So stop hiding and start fucking visiting me at work guyyyyyz.