I ran across the blog post quoted below when I was newly addicted to Foursquare.  I love how the author outlines the stages of Foursquare usage.  I am still somewhat addicted but I’m slipping from “Stage Three: Socialization” into “Stage Four: Greed”.  I WANT my badges, I’m fighting for my Mayorship of places I frequent and I DARE you to steal a Mayorship away from me.  Oh, and let me fess up right now, I worked for my Overshare badge and I am very proud of that.  But, what I find even more interesting than playing the game to earn points and unlock badges for discovering new things and interesting places, is how Foursquare is actually impacting behavior.

I know people who are going to multiple Starbucks locations just for the Barista Badge.  I know one person, peeved that her Mayorship was taken at a local D.C. restaurant, went to said location and checked in twice without ever leaving the establishment.  Her reasoning, she had been there for seven hours and felt she was due two check-ins.  Oh, then she went back because she forgot something and checked in again.  If she was there eating, drinking, socializing then how great for the restaurant.  Oh, by the way, she got her mayorship back.

As for me, I know I’m going to the gym more often (1) Because I’m getting ready for summer and need to get back in shape but also (2) I want my Foursquare Gym Rat Badge. So, it’s not just that we are checking in on Foursquare at places we were going to be anyway… the competition of the Foursquare game has caused us to modify our behavior and actually go places we may have not frequented otherwise.  This is fascinating to me and I’m sure totally unexpected by the Foursquare creators.

Oh, and finally, there is cheating.  Yes, people are cheating at Foursquare and I don’t understand this mentality at all.  Folks are checking in at places they are actually just passing by.  They have broken the code for how to earn badges and again, have modified their behavior because they are now going to these locations to earn a badge.  I’ll admit, if it weren’t for the fact you have to go to TEN different pizza places to get the Pizzaiolo Badge, I’d be eating a lot more pizza… which sort of defeats the purpose of going to they gym but that’s a whole other story.

I have to go… I just remembered I haven’t checked in at work and I have a co-worker who thinks she is going to take my Mayorship from me… NOT gonna happen.

From Addiction to Apathy: The Five Stages of Foursquare Use

BY Dan MacsaiWed Mar 31, 2010

Foursquare

Foursquare, the smartphone app that gives you points and badges for “checking in” at clubs and convenience stores, is about to reach the one-million-user mark. That’s a big deal. But it’s also a reminder that, try as we might to cover its every move, most of you haven’t tried Foursquare yet. (Or you’re using its scrappy archrival, Gowalla.) Here’s what to expect when you do:

Foursquare curiosityStage One: Curiosity
So you’ve gotten 27 emails about this Foursquare thing, and stupid blogs won’t shut up about it, and its always clogging your Twitter feed, and ugh, fine. You’ll try it, okay?! “That one guy from Jersey Shore has an account,” you think, “so it can’t be that complex.” As you toy with the app, you realize you can get virtual status symbols for, well, living your life the same way you always have. Suddenly, buying sponges isn’t just shopping. It’s a quest! For points! And badges! Ditto that trip to the dry cleaners. “Hmm,” you think. “This is actually kind of fun…”

Foursquare addictionStage Two: Addiction
Once you grasp the basic premise–which usually takes about a day or two–it gets harder and harder to imagine a time when you didn’t have an incentive to run everyday errands. You start checking in everywhere: your apartment, your apartment building, your subway stop, your office, your favorite lunch spot, your dentist’s office, etc. “It’s not oversharing,” you tell yourself, “it’s the ethos of Foursquare.” Eventually, you stumble across a venue that’s not in the database, which you can add to receive bonus points. “Jackpot!” you squeal, fist-pumping your iPhone. Everyone arond you glares. They just don’t understand.

Foursquare socializationStage Three: Socialization
By this point, you’ve become “friends” with actual people on Foursquare, and you can keep tabs on their whereabouts. In all seriousness, this feature is pretty useful: You can use it to surprise friends/significant others (“Can’t believe I ran into you at this obscure nail salon!”), exploit roommates (“I know you’re at the grocery store. Don’t forget to replace those Pringles you stole.”), and even see which bars are buzzin’ on Google Maps. “This is way more fun than getting points and badges,” you think. And then you discover the Leaderboard.

Foursquare greedStage Four: Greed
Because Foursquare is meant to be a game, of sorts, there are winners (people who check in all over the place) and losers (people who don’t). And as soon as you figure this out–generally after a week of just-for-fun use–the novelty wears off, and the competition kicks in. You start guarding venues at which you’ve been anointed “mayor” (more check-ins than anyone else), just so you can brag about the title. You start frequenting off-the-beaten-path lunch spots, hoping to find a restaurant that hasn’t been added (+5 points). You start shopping at different convenience stores, just so you can reap rewards for charting new territory (+3 points). You start checking in as often as possible, hoping to earn those coveted Superstar and Overshare badges. And you may even start cheating, just so you can make outrageous claims like, “I’m the mayor of the North Pole.” The whole time, you’ve also got one eye on the Leaderboard, so you can prove, once and for all, that you are the busiest, most adventurous, most Fouresquare-savvy person in…well, your immediate vicinity.

Foursquare apathyStage Five: Apathy
And then, just as suddenly as your Foursquare obsession began, it grinds to a halt. You’ve checked in at all your usual haunts, explored some new ones, added some others, and scored at least one week atop the Leaderboard. But since the charts reset every week, and you don’t get as many points for re-visiting the same places, your moment of glory is fleeting. “Well,” you say, sighing, “at least I have my badges.” And that’s true. You get to keep those forever. But now that you’ve gotten the basics–Adventurer (10 check-ins), Explorer (25 check-ins), Superstar (50 check-ins)–and maybe a few oddballs, such as “I’m on a Boat!” (checking in on a boat) and Gym Rat (10 check-ins at the gym during one month), you kind of stop caring. What initially excited you about Foursquare–apart from being able to keep tabs on people you know, which you still may want to do–was getting “rewards” for living your everyday life. Once you have to start working for them (spending more money, traveling greater distances), you realize they’re not actually worth it.

That, or you start appreciating Foursquare for what it really is: a simple(r) way to stalk your friends.