Why I Quit Foursquare

***A bit of blogkeeping: First, be sure to enter my giveaway for a chance to win 2 tickets to the L’Amour du Vin fundraiser! Click here to enter. Remember, you can tweet daily for more entries!

Second, because of our travels this weekend, Matthew and I skipped our weekly Fresh Fork delivery. Why? Fresh Fork! will be back next week.***

A few months ago, I went to my gym at basically the same time I went almost every day (I was in bride prep mode, after all). I checked in on Foursquare, which tweeted the check-in as well. About five minutes into my workout I was paged to the front desk and told I had a phone call. The girl at the front desk asked if I went by a different last name, “Jen WhyCLE.”

I picked up the phone.


“Is this Jen?”

“Who is this?”

“Is this Jen WhyCLE?”

“Who is this?”

“I’m (insert first and last name). I’m your Internet stalker.”

I hung up the phone. Maybe I should have tried to get more information, but at that point all I wanted to do was get off the phone. Then, the gym employee told me that when he asked for “Jen WhyCLE,” she told him the only Jen there was “Jen (insert my real last name).”

I’ve been as careful as possible to keep my last name separate from the blog. It’s not a perfect science, but mainly it’s worked. So, now, this guy knew my whereabouts and my last name. He had already taken the time to look up my gym’s phone number and call there. What else might happen?

I made out a police report, more to have a record than to be able to actually find out who it was. My gym voluntarily pulled their phone records, as well as reprimanded the employee. I immediately deleted Foursquare. I never heard from my “Internet stalker” again. And that’s where the story really ends, from a factual standpoint.

I contemplated deleting everything that day – the blog, Facebook, Twitter, all of it. In the end, my decision was to cut off the access of where I was while I was there. Being mayor of my local grocery store couldn’t outweigh that I didn’t feel safe sharing that information anymore.

I also realize that the way in which I chose to share things like my Foursquare check-ins in some way created the situation. What we put on the Internet is largely our choice to share and so I can’t blame Foursquare or Twitter for doing exactly what I told them to do.

All of us put pieces of ourselves out there on the Internet. Some of us, who choose to blog and tweet and Facebook and Foursquare and Instagram put bigger pieces than others. And sometimes what we get back from the Internet isn’t good. That could be in the form of a mean comment or a snarky tweet. Or it could be in the form of something much more serious, something that makes your security feel threatened.

My friend and fellow blogger Amanda from Clue Into Cleveland shared how she modified her Foursquare and Twitter settings to make things a bit more private:

You can check-in as you’re leaving a venue. There is also an available privacy setting so that you choose each time whether or not your check-in is shared on Facebook and Twitter. Finally, there is a security setting so that Foursquare doesn’t show your name/profile as one of the checked-in people if someone searched that location (first box under “location information” in your privacy settings).

The point of sharing this story is to hopefully make you more aware of what you share and how and when you share it. Maybe you’ll choose only to use Foursquare when in a group, not at the gym or the store by yourself. I don’t expect (or even think people should) stop using tools like Foursquare, Yelp, or Facebook check-ins. The Internet is a powerful tool for social connection. I plan to continue using it, just in a way that makes me feel comfortable.

14 Responses

  1. That’s scary. Especially that they took it that far. I agree sharing on social media can be scary. I’ve always kept my foursquare very private and small, out of some fear that something like that would happen.

    I wish more kids realized this type of thing CAN happen. When I teach social media and talk about privacy, they look at me like I’m crazy. Sorry you had to experience that.

  2. The story is scary in itself. Even more scary how that gym employee reacted with just throwing your name out there! I’m glad they were reprimanded. I saw a piece on 20/20 recently where a woman was staying abroad. The hotel clerk just voluntarily gave some guy access to her hotel room after he claimed he was her husband. In turn she was brutally attacked in her own room by a stranger. Employees need to be educated about privacy and security. My goodness.

  3. Wow, that’s incredible! Thanks for sharing your story.
    The world is changing in regards to what information gets out there. But although revealing real-time information may become more common, it’s important to know that it doesn’t make things any safer. People can use it for their benefit…which can unfortunately be someone else’s consequence.

  4. Super creepy. I usually check in when leaving somewhere not while I’m actually there. But I’ve still had the thought that it’s not so great to share SO much of ourselves. SCARY.

  5. That is super creepy. But I deleted my Foursquare right around the time I started to promote my blog more, mostly for the same reason (well, except the stalker part). But the privacy was a big concern as I’ve tried keeping my last name off my blog, too.

  6. Thanks for sharing this story. I’ve always worried about Foursquare and security issues- but more from the standpoint of strangers knowing when I’m out of town or at a function that has a set end time. I was livid when I realized that Foursquare suddenly began tweeting my check-ins. I keep my friends list small and only share with people I know and trust in real life. I’ve since altered that setting and continue to use Foursquare, but only for the social aspect of realizing that a friend and I are unexpectedly in the same place. I’d also forgo that in a heartbeat if it meant I felt uncomfortable in any way. I’m sorry that you felt that, but am glad that you took action to protect yourself!

  7. Yikes!! Another thing I hate is when someone checks me in somewhere (on Facebook). I don’t want that info out there. I put a block on that but it seems like some things still get by the privacy blocks. Thanks for sharing your story. Be safe!!

  8. Yikers. That is the big reason I only check in when I am leaving a place. But I try and be as anonymous as I can as well…I had a blog stalker who followed my twitter feed and waited for hours for me to show up. Thankfully, I never met him. Just goes to show people need to be careful. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Julie

    Thanks for sharing! I shared this on my FB page because while I don’t use foursquare, I get checked in a lot by friends when we are out. We all know social media is fun but can be dangerous (Craigslist Killer and all that horrible stuff) and I think you bring like a significant amount of caution that should be exercised. We’d all like to believe that all the “bad people” don’t live around us, but it’s just not the case. Especially as women, we have to be aware, be smart and be responsible for our own well-being. I’m also a big believer in the adage “If you see something, say something”. Never feel silly to bring something fish to the attention of people (like you did by alerting the police). I’ve walked right up to young kids being dragged by an adult through the mall screaming and said “Are you okay? Is this your Daddy?” It may seem crazy, but I would rather look silly or face backlash from an angry parent than have unknowingly witnessed an abduction and done nothing. So glad everything turned out okay for you!

  10. I heard about this awhile back (maybe it’s a good thing you got a new last name recently). I’m always super careful with social media. I never say when I’ll be out of town or how long I’ll be gone. I check in when with a group of friends or as I am leaving a place. If I frequent a place often I don’t check in so that eople know its not a habit (same with running, I never run the same path. I switch it up everytime. Just in case). My main reason for using foursquare is to get the tips to a place I am at, what to order or not order etc.

  11. When users check into a place, they also can “tag” any Facebook friends who are with them, essentially letting other friends know that the person is there, too. To cut down on the potential for users to falsely tag friends to a place, people can tag friends only if the taggers themselves check in to the location, too.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.