Foursquare users leaving their marks with virtual graffiti

College campuses may soon have to start dealing with another form of social networking after the introduction of Foursquare, a virtual graffiti site that allows users to tell others where they are and what they think about the spot.

By “checking-in” to locations, users show where they have been, and they can post detailed comments of their opinion of different spots, including restaurants, bars, or schools. When users check in to a certain spot, they can view what others have posted about that location.

Senior Ellery Luse uses Foursquare to figure out cool things to do in her community.

“It gives you recommendations from other people who have been there what’s cool at different places,” Luse said. “It also links with my Twitter account, so every time I’m out, I can tell everyone in my network where I am.”

For added appeal, Foursquare is also a role-playing game that rewards points for accomplished users. Every time a user checks in somewhere, they earn points. They can also earn bonus points for things like multiple stops in one night. Users can earn different “badges” based on these accomplishments, including being dubbed mayor of a particular spot when one user has checked in at that place the most times.

Foursquare can be downloaded onto iPhones, BlackBerrys, Androids and Palms, allowing users to post directly from the site they’ve checked into. The site looks for honesty from users that they are actually at the place they check into.

For schools like St. Thomas, administrators hope users are honest not only about their location, but honest as well in what they say about the school. Marla Friederichs, associate vice president of admissions and financial aid, said while the school does everything it can to paint a positive image of St. Thomas, there are things online it can’t control.

“We trust, we hope, that [social media Web sites] paint a picture of St. Thomas that is honest and truthful,” Friederichs said. “We know that there will be all kinds of different opinions.”

A search on Foursquare’s Web site currently yields 22 locations for the University of St. Thomas, including O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library, O’Shaughnessy Education Center and the Binz Refectory.

Foursquare encourages users to post comments that will tip others off about different spots. How students at St. Thomas use it to learn about the school remains to be seen. Junior Brian Underkofler said he would be careful with what he read, knowing it’s not necessarily a reliable source.

“There’s good sides and bad sides,” he said. “It could give you an opinion, but it might not be a truthful one.”

Luse thinks the ability to share experiences with buildings at St. Thomas could be beneficial both to students and the university. She believes it could be used by students sharing what they think about different spots on campus and the university could use that information to better understand what needs to be improved.

Jordan Osterman can be reached at