breakfast
Finally

Funny: last week I bailed on one of the many social networking groups/tools that I use – one for which I’d signed up maybe just a week prior (a Meetup group for off-road runners & cyclists). I had a plethora of reasons for doing so, most of which don’t apply to that specific group; the two that bear mentioning are a), I’m already using so many other social media that I can’t keep up with them or their unique passwords, and b) maybe I should try more actual social networking. The idea: call an old friend, rather then write on her Facebook wall, or go to a show, rather then read Tweeted reviews of five shows.

Funnier, and ironic, but at least I’m consistent: within minutes I signed up for a new online game (called Health Month). I was seduced into it: it’s structured as a game, and one that is organized around personal improvement goals. I was an easy target: I’ve been looking for a tool to help me track progress toward a few short- and long-term goals, and I enjoy games especially when they can be played in very short, somewhat infrequent (I can do once-daily or weekly) turns. The social component can add a layer of support in my goal-seeking.

Another game that I’ve found to be sticky (i.e., something I keep doing), is related to the photo I’ve posted here. It’s of the tasty (carby!) meal I had a few weeks ago, at Swede Hollow Café, a restaurant I hadn’t visited before (partly because it’s never open on Sundays, hence the “Finally” caption). Once I had made my order and found a table, I pulled out my iPhone and “checked in” to this place using the Four Square app.

There are a variety of strategies to this game; I choose to use it in a way that rewards me for checking out new places in town, by giving me more points for those than for places I’ve already visited. And, now and then, I’m offered a coupon for a discount at various restaurants or retail outlets. With those points I can compete against friends who get their points in similar or different manners. I’ve never been one who always has to win –how convenient that I don’t– but a little bit of friendly competition can inspire me to do something that laziness (or a life filled with way too many to-do lists) may have forced me to skip.

From the perspective of keeping life simple, this can be dangerous. But from the perspective of one of my longer-term goals, it’s good: I really do want to get out and experience local art more often. Checking in to museums or poetry slams every week or month, with the silly little tool on my phone, can provide the tiny bit of motivation that is needed to get me out the door.

Technology, games, other people. Interactions. It’s funny, it’s fascinating, it’s an industry: the constructs we need and build, in order to make ourselves into the people we want to be. It shouldn’t be so hard, to just decide to eat less sugar, balance your checkbook, or go listen to a musician, and do it. This expensive, loving life that rewards some degree of regular practice, it puts so much interference in the way. Sometimes, we need, or at least I need, to be challenged to a simple game, to take the step out of habit and into adventure and growth.

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