Today I deleted Swarm from my phone. I’d been using it frequently since Foursquare decided to split its functionality between two different apps, and it was fun for a while. Competing with your friends in categories was a neat twist on the old Mayor game, and Plans are a pretty cool idea if you have a large enough network. But I noticed that I had slowly decreased my usage, forgetting (and caring less) to check in at every single location. I haven’t deleted my account or anything, but I suspect I’ll leave it unattended if I make it a week without re-downloading.
I’m not against location-centric social networks. I’m not worried about internet boogeymen like the elusive “burglar who sees that you’re not at home on social media” (but seriously, though – I’m super interested if there are real stories about this that don’t involve stalkers/creepy exes who’d be watching your every move anyway). But I’ve always struggled with the point. I used Gowalla (rest in peace) when it hit the scene because it was fun to keep a log of where I’d been. When that folded, I made my way – late to the party as usual – to a Foursquare that had already seen mass account stagnation even amidst claims of continued, rapid user sign-ups. Most of the people in my social graph hadn’t used Foursquare in months. But I still had a lot of fun. Mayor of both (at the time) Lamplighter coffee shops? You know it.
Earlier this year, Foursquare split its service between two apps. Swarm came first, focusing on friend-spotting and the personal side of location awareness. In August, Foursquare’s main app relaunched primarily as a discovery service. They had reasons for this, but it completely disrupted the way many old-school users worked with the service. There were complaints (as always with these sort of changes), but folks still using Foursquare at that point stuck around with Swarm as well. And really, did you need Foursquare to recommend a taco joint for you? Don’t most people just check that God-forsaken Sarlacc Pit they call Yelp these days anyway?
I think I left mostly because Swarm hit that “what next?” moment for me. I joined. I added friends. Friends added me. I checked in and built a sizable lead at coffee shops. In the end it was just another clicky-pen to click. I show up, I open my phone, I check in. My friend checks in somewhere “nearby” and I get a notification. I don’t need that. If I want coffee or lunch with my friend Sam, we can text each other. My wife doesn’t need to see a notification that I check in at Kroger to know that I’m really at the grocery store. If I want to post a geotagged photo, I’m probably going to put that on Instagram anyway.
If you need me, you know where to find me.