In our week-long series, Now and Then, GOOD writers each choose a beloved piece of pop culture from back in the day and pit it against its modern-day equivalent, with a fresh pair of adult eyes. May the best zeitgeist win.
We all do dumb things when we're 7 years old. I remember once picking my nose and securing a booger so extreme that I wanted to both immediately get it away from me, but also showcase its immensity to someone else in my house. "Oh, I'll just wipe it on the wall! BOOM. Problem solved. Where are the Capri Suns?" I’d like to put pogs in this classification of youthful shame, too. It’s a shame shared, so I feel like I can talk openly about it. Hi, my name's Dylan, and I really loved pogs.
Pogs, for those who resented fun as a kid, was a game wherein you and an opponent stacked little cardboard circles face down (the front of most pogs featured hilariously awful designs, like skulls, 8-balls, dragons, flames, and sometimes all four at once). Then you would take a heavier pog, known as a slammer, and try and strategically hit the stack. Slammers were often made of either a thick plastic, or more infamously, metal, with the end goal being to flip over as many pogs as you could to bolster your collection.
Of course, the collection was meaningless in pretty much every way. None of those pogs were worth money, and none of them were status symbols, save for maybe my still-packaged NFL AFC pogs. But I wanted them! I wanted to swim amongst my pogs, much like Scrooge McDuck did with his gold coins.
Now I realize it wasn't about the collecting. It was about mindlessly informing my day with a low-threshold brain activity. It was a respite from the school day, the smoke break of my youth. Still, it is somewhat alarming to know that this was the beginning of my visual vocabulary, which I eventually turned into a career.
Through all of that, I still know there is a large segment of the world that just doesn't care that much about pogs. And you know what I say to those people? I never really cared about Foursquare. Yeah, I said it.
The point of Foursquare is to check in at businesses, and after doing so many times, you get awarded with badges and mayorships. A badge is usually a little circular graphic that denotes the amount of time and/or effort you put into something. Companies once saw this as a terrific marketing tool, just as they did pogs so many moons ago, but now the bottom is falling out on Foursquare, and that Bravo! TV badge seems to have lost its luster.
Foursquare, in so many ways, is like pogs. A key difference? You don't have the safety of blaming Foursquare on your youth. Just like with pogs, you mindlessly collect poorly designed circular objects in an effort to one-up your friends, even when your friends just don't care.
Foursquare Fan: I'm the mayor of Quiznos!
Friend: My wife is leaving me…
Foursquare Fan: HALF OFF A SANDWICH!
With Foursquare in its twilight of popularity, it's had about the same cultural shelf life as Pogs: about a year or two. Now, whenever I see a tweet roll in that is related to Foursquare, I feel bad. These people have become the last kids toting around their tubes of pogs, a four inch metal slammer in their grubby jam hands, their Starter jackets stained with tears, hoping that someone steps forward for a game.
The big difference between pogs and Foursquare is that the latter lacks any actual competition. Checking into the same movie theater 12 times in a month defines loneliness in a new way, one that somehow makes you…a winner? Your nearest competition is probably someone you've never met (maybe you two should meet!), but I guess it feels great to usurp your own lonesome legacy. Congratulations, you won that theater! You are now the mayor of a large popcorn and soft sobs to yourself!
But let he who is without sin cast the first slammer. Understand, I still have my pogs, a physical manifestation of my participation in this remarkably sad fad. I can't delete my pogs, or just ignore them. They are there, staring me in the face, all the skulls and 8-balls looking more menacing than ever. People who are still clinging to Foursquare will inevitably find their way to checking in on Google+ or Facebook. Or they'll find a new outlet for their need to be noticed. They will probably annoy people on those social networks as well, but at least it won't be as bad as losing all your sick Apollo 13 pogs in one game. Sometimes there is no escaping true pain.