Over the past few years there has been lots of discussion about whether local check-in services like Foursquare were worthwhile. From a marketing perspective I can see why a business would want to have a profile set up, create some campaigns and generally use it to market their business. But personally I’ve struggled with finding a reason to use it.

A couple years ago I first signed up, added a few friends and started checking in to places. I thought it was interesting to read the tips and fun to see where my friends were, but it also felt a bit creepy. Plus I never wanted to be that chick that checked in at Applebees (or some other horrifying place) and told the whole world about it. You know those folks who feel it necessary to share on Twitter and Facebook every step they take each day. So I never hooked up other social sites to my Foursquare account. As someone who works in social media every day this may seem a bit odd, but for me it just didn’t seem right to scream to the world every place I went.

Then several months ago, I lost my phone (ok, actually it got flushed down the toilet but that’s another story) and never even bothered to add the Foursquare app to my phone. I went on my merry way, living my life just fine without checking in to places. I thought about it a few times and had several occasions where a friend would check in and have a good tip or something along those lines. But I never really saw the point.

Until one day this summer while I was going through the end of my chemo treatments and dealing with a deep depression where I didn’t want to leave the house. Literally I spent weeks inside my house, not even wanting to go outside to get the mail. It depressed me even more to think that I couldn’t go to the grocery store, or to a restaurant without horrible anxiety.

Then I started going on walks each day sometimes to the Ballard Locks close by, other times to the beach. One day my husband, in his infinite wisdom, mentioned that perhaps I should start checking into places on Foursquare. He thought it might help me feel like I’m getting out and doing things if I had a “record” of it. So that’s what I started to do.

It’s not like I was going many places, but if I checked in to one place each day I felt pretty good about it. After a month or so of walking to the Locks every day, I got a notification that I was 9 days away from being the mayor. Woohoo! I wasn’t sure why but that message elated me. So I kept walking, every single day. I didn’t care if it was raining or dark or cold or hot or whatever, I wanted that damn mayorship. I needed to prove to myself that I could get out of the house. Then after those 9 days (I think it actually only took 7 days, which I haven’t quite figured out how) I checked in one morning and VOILA I was mayor. I think I did a little dance right there at the Locks. “Oh yea, I’m the mayor, Oh yea, I’m a baddass” is what I sang to myself.

Again, it still didn’t really mean anything. But to me, it meant everything. It meant I had gotten out of the house 43 days straight. It also meant that I had gotten exercise for 43 days. Woooohawwww!

At some point along the way, I went back to work (after two months out). I slowly started going back to the office, sometimes just one day a week, and now I’m back to full time. Again, I started to check in at the office (when I remembered). And today, I became the mayor of the office as well. :) Which I think is pretty damn good for a gal who was out for two whole months in the summer. :) Of course this probably just means that my coworkers don’t check in, but that’s ok. To me it proves that I’m getting better. That I get out of the house and into the office full time. It means I feel normal again.

So yea… I’m damn proud of my mayorships and now it gives me something to hold on to. It may sound silly, but some days when I don’t want to get up and go for a walk because it’s pitch-fricken-dark out there, I remember my mayorship. And I’ll be damned if someone is going to take that away from me.

11 thoughts on “How Foursquare Helped Me Overcome Depression”

  1. Jen – I love it! I used to be the mayor of moz once too :)
    In all seriousness, I am soooooo happy to hear you are doing better. We all love you like crazy :)

  2. You know Jen, I’ve never really “got” the whole Foursquare thing. The whole idea never really grabbed me on a personal level and the “creepy” part was always a problem for me. Add to that those people who almost seem to check in when they change tables at a restaurant…Let’s just say I’ve never felt the need to sign up. I do eagerly click those links though, hoping you’ve shared another gorgeous glimpse of the beautiful Ballard Locks (I really need to visit that place some day!).

    So you basically just slapped me in the face with a wet phone! ummm… Yuk! :)

    Sometimes believing that I do a fairly good job being a “glass half full” kind of person can actually blind me to my own “glass half empty” tendency when it comes to things that just don’t gel for me.


    Thank you Jen. For reminding me that there’s a whole lot more to the value of something than the way it affects me. For showing me that the personal side of social isn’t always about the fun stuff. For getting up every day and taking that walk to Ballard Locks and for sharing those moments with me.

    You deserve to be the Mayor, both there and at the Office. Of course, the competitive streak in some at the Mozplex may have them plotting ways to wrest the Mayoral robes from your grasp, but I know you’ll do a kickass job of keeping them at bay!

    As for that man of yours, Wow! What a soul. So wise.

    I suppose a simple phone call to SEOmoz won’t do now … I’ll have to request an audience with the Mayor ;)


  3. Hey there mayoress! I’m DAMN proud of you too. You are reaching goals daily. Think of the role model you are being to your little snow white. Perse-freekin-vere. And don’t forget, “I knew you when…” when foursquare comes a knocking’ for you to be their spokesperson!!! :) love you beautiful lady!!! xxx

  4. I work in social media as well and I have struggled with depression and anxiety my whole life. I’ve found that social media has really helped me. Meeting other social media pro’s and connecting with them on Twitter may not seem like much, but at college I don’t have a lot of friends. Some days I felt more appreciated by friends on social networks than people in my everyday life. While that kind of sucks, I’ve definitely been cheered up by my Twitter friends many a time.

  5. a really great story. we always used to say “we’re trying to get people out and about and exploring their cities.” – and this helps our thinking :)

    thank you for sharing!

  6. Great story… now you’re giving me a not-just-marketing-sense to use Foursquare… let see if I can finally become the Mayor of my building (and I created the place!!).
    Love to see you’re getting better every day: it warms my heart.

  7. Hi Jen. First I want to say sorry about my English!
    I always believed that Foursquare can change live style of people, but your history is really amazing. I’m happy with this change in your life. I hope you can get more and more mayors! Best wishes from Brazil.

  8. Jen! I love your story and how you’re sharing it. Thanks for inspiring us to look at things differently. Your last two blogs have made me want to take long walks! So glad you’re feeling better :)

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