A piece on the joys and pitfalls of Foursquare identifies one of its primary tensions: the fight over mayorships.

For the uninitiated, Foursquare, the app that allows users to check in at locations and locate friends (hopefully), awards badges for regular attendance at venues. If you're the most frequent flyer, you become "Mayor." And these honorary titles can become ...hotly contested. Writing in today's New York Times, Jenna Wortham reports,

"People are very territorial about their mayorships," Mr. Crowley said. "It's almost like bragging rights." Ms. Heckenberger says she once even leapt out of bed to reclaim the title at her local watering hole, the Swift Half Pub, where another player had briefly wrested away the honor. "Foursquare has become like an obsession for me," she said.

Mayorship, when you think about it, doesn't come cheap: essentially you buy it, because it entails more custom than anyone else. In the past, people who dubbed themselves "Mayors" of neighborhoods were generally blowhards who had nothing better to do (think Ossie Davis in Do the Right Thing.) "You need anything, talk to me; I'm the mayor around here!" declared one old man when I moved into a new neighborhood. (He was not, in fact, Mayor; Bloomberg was.) I'd always associated this sort of self-nomination as the provenance of the jackass. But nowadays, it's well-nigh universal. And while I'm happy for my friends to be able to track me down (within limits) I don't need to govern wherever it is I go. I feel like the actual owners might somehow resent it.


I asked three local business-owners how they felt about these putative "mayorships" of their establishments. Of the three, two had not heard of Foursquare. The third, a garrulous Italian, had. "Yeah, this guy come in, he tell me he mayor." He said. "What's he talking about? He just the weird kid who come in every day and get one cup of coffee. It's computer thing? "

Face-To-Face Socializing Starts With A Mobile Post [NY Times]