Faking Foursquare: A New App That Does Your Clubbing For You

“I can finally be who I want you to think I am” is one of the testimonies emblazoned on the website of a new Foursquare app called CouchCachet–and it’s either the beginning of the end or the spark to lead us into the next stage of social networking.

The brainchild of designer-techies Brian Fountain (@fountain), Harlie Levine (@harlie) and Justin Isaf (@justinisaf), CouchCachet checks you in on Foursquare on your behalf, so you can stay at home and rewatch Downton Abbey while crying into your ice cream because Season 3 ruined your life. Meanwhile according to your Foursquare/Twitter/Facebook, you’re out at Boiler Room and hitting up Crif Dogs at 3 am: “omg jon-jon deraghlonnn besttt! And Jon gave us frejhe PBRssssss!1!1!1″

I tried out the app and found myself humored and concerned. The mechanism is relatively simple: Create a check-in location for your home; now, each time you check in at home, a pop up gives you the option to go to the CouchCachet widget. There, you’ll be given an itinerary for the night–let’s say, first stop Yaffa Cafe, second stop Comedy Cellar, and third stop 1Oak. For each location you can customize a comment, choose to post CouchCachet’s pre-written comment (i.e. “Great vibe!”) or leave the comment out altogether. Tap go, tune to Netflix, and relax as Foursquare autopilots your night and checks you in to your nightly digs at approximately two hour intervals. (They’ll shoot you a text each time to let you know “where you are.”)

Brimming with childlike anticipating, I tried it out first on demo; commenting #demo on your check-in at your home quickens the intervals between the autopilot check-ins so you can see the app in action. Since then I’ve “been to” half a dozen bars and clubs and my wallet is smiling away in my back pocket.

I chatted with one of the founders, Brian Fountain, over email about the conception, reception, and possible repercussions of the app:

“Harlie Levine, Justin Isaf and I built the app at the Foursquare Hackathon that took place on the weekend of January 5th. We built the first version of the app in about 12 hours, then presented it to the judges and other particpants. The hackathon technically lasted the entire weekend, so we put a little more polish on it on Sunday and called it a day. The following afternoon we were invited to present it at NY Tech Meetup as their Hack of the Month. So on Tuesday, when the app was less than 48 hours old, we presented it to the 800+ people packing the Skirball Center. The presentation went really well and we started to grow from there.”

It’s a very clever and humorous idea for an app, but the first thought that came to my head was, “Wow, have we really gotten to the point where we need to fake our social media presence just to keep up with how we want to appear online?” Does the obsession with, I suppose you could call it, curating our internet lives concern you?

“Well, I wouldn’t say we’ve gotten to the point where we need to fake our social media presence, but we certainly now have the technology to do it. We all curate how others see us in one form or another, but perhaps it has become more prevalent in the age of social media.”

I can’t quite tell if it’s meant to be more serious or a joke that even our Foursquare friends would recognize. Like, maybe when we post those premade comments, our friends would know that we’re actually at home and perhaps then the humor would make our social absence more excusable. Was that one of the ways you imagined the app might be used?

“I’ll let the users decide how much of it is a joke and how much of it is serious. If you visit couchcachet.com and it makes you laugh, then it’s a joke. But it works… so if you start to use it, who’s to say? Absolutely let your friends know you are using it. In fact, invite them over, microwave some popcorn and have ‘a night on the town’ together.”

About the two-hour set interval between checkins, Might we eventually be able to set the timers between events ourselves?

“I suppose, but that sounds like a lot of work. Wouldn’t you rather just check in and get back to watching TV?”

Indeed, that’s a great point. When I asked folks over at Foursquare HQ how they came to choose CouchCachet and how they felt about an app whose sole purpose is faking check-ins, they said that “the judges were impressed by the app’s playful and creative spirit, but checking in at a place where you are not does violate the Foursquare House Rules.”

No doubt this app is inventive and somewhat satirical, but the concern still lingers. The “slippery slope” is the conservative’s last refuge and is rarely a fair way to judge novel ideas, but we do wonder what it reveals about ourselves if we embrace this app and apps like it. But hey, all the cool kids are doing it. And you may even find yourself being introduced to new places you can visit on the nights you decide to give Netflix a rest. Fake it ’til you make it [to the party], kids.

[Images via Ava Kiai]

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