Friday, September 23, 2011

Points are Never Pointless

My battery never has that much of a charge left at 5:02.

It has recently come to my attention that I'm incredibly easy to manipulate. A brief(ish) illustration.

 When someone first explained Foursquare to me I was underwhelmed:
"You check in to places. Your friends can see it, and you can see where your friends are."
It seems needy and invasive. It's asking me to change my life: it wants me to do something every time I arrive somewhere. Like some spoiled child that’s always demanding attention. Apps are supposed make some part of my life easier or more fun, and this comes along and demands that my routine yield for it instead… what's that you say? It gives me points? And achievements? Do I just go to and sign up there or what?

Those first few weeks were a whirlwind. I'd tell her where I was ("CVS Pharmacy") and she'd lavish me with praise ("+5 points, your first pharmacy", "+5 points, first of your friends to check in here"). When I became the mayor of a location for the first time I could sense the pride in those glowing liquid crystals. She was just so damn happy for me ("+20 points", achievement).

Maybe she's been a bit of an enabler at times.

Like any healthy relationship (screw you, it's healthy) I had to establish boundaries. She wanted to write in my book of faces about all the exciting places I've been (work, home, Stop & Shop!) and I had to stand firm and say no. I want to emphasize that I'm not ashamed of her. Years of indiscriminate Facebook friend-request-accepting means my friend list has developed a few barnacles (but not you, of course, never you).

Venn Diagrams are the unsung heroes of the graphing world.

After a few weeks things began to go downhill. She was consistently underwhelmed by the lack of diversity in the places I checked into. She started getting stingy with points ("you're the mayor here, +3points"). She wanted us to go out more, but I got that out of my system in college. Just when I would think our differences were irreconcilable an achievement pops up: "You've checked in here 100 times!" and I remember why we fell in love in the first place. You're probably thinking that this software is exploiting my overwhelming need for positive reinforcement, but… shut up, just… shut up (sniffle).
I still check-in places. By the time I'd grown bored of it, it had developed inertia. I no longer need a reason to use it, I need a reason to stop using it. It's living under the crawlspace in my mind and hisses at me when I poke it with a broom-handle

The take-home here is how easy I am to manipulate. Something seem boring/stupid/silly? Define for me the criteria for winning it and I'm on board.

Which brings me to the point of today's post. Earlier this week Lifehacker introduced me to Fitocracy. I'm not a stranger to harnessing competitive drive to motivate myself to work out: I use races as a motivator for working out. Fitocracy, however, introduces into the equation something far more powerful, my sweet nectar: points. Not only do I get points but I can use these points to gain levels. Need more points? Try this quest ("Run 3 miles outside"). This all may seem a little nerdy to most of you, and well, yea, okay, it is.

Requires level 15 to equip.
Ideally, this will leverage my deep seeded inadequacies to help me become healthier. I think Foursquare is getting suspicious ("You got the gym-rat badge: 5 days here this week!") but I don’t have the heart to tell it.

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