Do You Really Need to 'Check In'?

Jolie O'Dell posted the article "Why You & Your Girlfriends Should Stop Checking In" last week on VentureBeat. As an avid user of FourSquare & Facebook Places check-in (with many girlfriends who are just as geeky as I am), this article was long-overdue wake-up call.

Why the hell do we use LBS (location-based services) like FourSquare & Facebook Places so freely? Why am I using it?

My friends and I checking in while waiting for dinner. Typical

I started "checking in" a few months after FourSquare's launch at SXSW just over three years ago, drawn by the appeal of learning about places in the city and competing with my friends for points, badges and mayorships. The game factor is fun, and for a long while it's kept all of my friends and I checking in wherever and whenever we can. I've left a lot of tips at various venues, held my share of mayorships, and collected my fair share of badges.

Over time, though, I've cut my check-ins down significantly by stopping to ask myself what I'm gaining out of sharing my location with others. I'm not sure how much longer it'll be before I lose interest in FourSquare altogether. More than anything, I just try to be smart about how I'm checking in. I am thankful nothing has threatened my livelihood, although I've had my share of creepy "I saw you check in here on FourSquare" introductions.

I know this doesn't even apply to most of you since just over a tenth of the U.S. population even uses location-based services. Jolie's article sheds light on creeper apps like Girls Around Me (though FourSquare has since pulled that app's API access.) We are incredibly lucky to live in a country and culture where we have the freedom to say and go where we want, but maybe we take our safety and security for granted.

If you're 'checking in' constantly (especially you, lovely ladies!), I offer a couple of tips to keep in mind: 

Choose your friends wisely.

Like any other social media network, you approve friend requests and have the option of adding them or not. Do you know who you're friending? Take a look at who your mutual friends are, where the person is located and why you'd want to share check-in information with that person. If any of that makes you feel unsure - it's best not to friend them at all.

Never check in alone!

This might sound like a no-brainer, but it has to be said. I only check in at events where I'm with a bunch of people I know, or with my boyfriend.

Hide your check-in location.

FourSquare has the option of making your location public or not. If you absolutely must check in everywhere, use that option when you are checking in places alone.

Think twice.

Ask yourself if checking in is worth the awkward or even scary encounter. Because it's really not.

Do you check in on FourSquare, Facebook or Yelp? What are your thoughts?