Checking In With The Basics
If you have no idea what a check-in app is, or if you think of them as “those stupid stalker apps,” or you don't see how compulsively checking in everywhere could impact your sex life, this one's for you.
A check-in app is a cellphone program in which the user announces where they are to other users. They gained massive popularity due to the iPhone's geolocation feature, which simplified the process to choosing your location from a list of nearby places sensed by the phone. While there's a lot of fun fluff involved depending on the app—“mayorships” awarded to the person who checks in the most at a location, awards for checking into certain types of places, and even full-on gameplay—the basic purpose is to communicate your location to others. You might display your location to a handful of close friends and family, or you might display it to the entire world.
Why? Because we're social creatures! Someone who gets into an exclusive club on a Saturday night might want the message “I'm at Club Fancypants” to go out to fellow party animals as a brag. Someone attending a concert might want to announce that they're in attendance to other users of the app so that they can chat with other attendees, or people who couldn't get a ticket who want to know what's happening. Someone (who may or may not be me) may ask their boy to use a check-in app that allows private notifications to detail the boy's errands for the day, so that “I'm at Home Depot” might remind me that we need D-rings and I (or, um, whoever this may be) can send a text message to pick some up. As with most things tech—and most things sex, for that matter—there are as many reasons to use check-in apps as there are people using them.
Sexing Up Checking InYes, friends, it's our old pal Rule 34 again: If it exists, there is porn of it. Actually, it's more of a sub-rule: If a service exists, there's a sexual version of it. There is indeed a check-in app for casual encounters, which is really pretty brilliant: You broadcast your location and willingness to only those people also on the app for the same reason, and voilà, a hookup is made. (Note: “Brilliant” refers to the nuts and bolts, so to speak, of casual hook-ups made simple through technology; “brilliant” definitely doesn't refer to the smartness of hooking up with completely random strangers.)
Check-in apps aren't just for casual encounters, though. A creative, geeky couple could create quite the sexy game for date night: The pursued could scamper off to acquire supplies from a variety of locations, attempting to stay fast and random enough that the pursuer can't catch them. Or, a partner might enjoy only announcing through a check-in that they hit the lingerie shop in between the grocery store and the gas station.
Checking Into Trouble
By now, you probably have some idea of how this kind of thing can get you in trouble. If you use your real name on a check-in app, take a sick day off work, and check in at a sex shop, you'd better be using an app with strong privacy settings that you know how to handle!
It's also easy to accidentally expose others' home addresses or those of private institutions. When a location doesn't yet have a name in the app, you have the option to add it. It only takes a moment to fill in your GPS position's name field as “Lee Smith's House” for Lee's home address to be public knowledge. Chances are, Lee won't be too thrilled about that.
Even if you've never heard of a check-in app before, you're at risk for exposure on one if you host a BDSM party, run a swinger's club, or otherwise manage private-location events. Check-ins can be done across the street on the way to the venue in some cases, so the standard “no cellphones” policy behind closed doors won't save you. I will be delighted, as a kinky geek concerned about privacy issues, the first time I see a “no social networking check-ins!” rule on a party invitation.
Checking In With Style
Check-in apps are awesome, and you only have to know a few rules to get your geek on without accidentally telling your Aunt Bertha that you're at Condoms Galore. Here are a few tips for the road:
• Know your app. There are a lot of check-in apps at this point, and all have varying privacy features. While your choice of app is usually determined by what the majority of your contacts use, you should know exactly what your options are within that app. Are all check-ins readable by everyone, including those doing Google searches? Is it possible to “lock” check-ins to a select few contacts? Will others checked in at that location be able to read your profile if they are not one of your contacts? Can you be “browsed” by interest, location, or other criteria?
• Use names and avatars wisely. Unless you want everyone who knows your name to know what you're up to, use some sort of alias as your username. This gives you an additional layer of security, since only the friends you tell your username to will be able to find you. Similarly, beware feeling safe with an alias username, but then uploading a clear photo of yourself as your avatar. If a co-worker's searching for people in their city and “SexyPuppy47” pops up with the smiling mug of the documents specialist they see every day, your cover's blown.
• Always ask before checking in at private residences. Part of what builds the check-in community is the practice of “creating” venues in the program—giving a name to an address, so the program knows that the GPS coordinates of where you are standing is Bob's Kinky Pleasure Hut, and can ask the next person standing there if that's where they'd like to check in. However, telling the check-in app that you are at Jamie Doe's house at 555 Horndog Street may not be what you or Jamie care to tell the world.
• Be aware of application integration. Many check-in programs offer the opportunity to share your check-ins with your other social profiles, like Twitter and Facebook. If your Facebook is for your “day job” life, you may not want all your check-ins going there (“I'm at Bob's House of Smokin' Glass Pipes!”). And your party host may be pretty peeved if you get on Twitter to announce you're about to go to THE hottest, most private kink party in town, and your next tweet is: “I'm at Jamie Doe's Residence at 555 Horndog Street!” D'oh!
• If you're worried about people checking in at a private space, speak up. There's nothing wrong with asking visitors not to check in at your house. It can feel like an awkward thing to request, especially if you're unfamiliar with the technology and afraid to sound like an out-of-touch prude. “Do you use check-in apps? You know this place is private, right?” is an easy way to make sure you're on the same page.