Why I am obsessed with Clubhouse
By now, it is very likely that you have heard of Clubhouse, either in your friendship circles or you have at least read a few articles on the subject. Loved by some, hated by others, the platform has split the world in two and I am in the supporters’ tribe. If, however, you find yourself in neutral-land and are considering joining the “experiment”, here is a review from someone who has literally become obsessed with it.
We know it is a social networking app based on audio-chat, with the extra layer of exclusivity due to its invitation-only model. Despite negative reviews from sceptical ex-users who claim privacy horrors lurk behind the buzz, I, for one, say this is nothing new in this space when it comes to social media. Sure, Clubhouse might want to access your contact list on the pretence you will invite a few more friends to the platform, but for now that is the only information you might give away (plus the obvious interests in clubs and rooms you engage in). But that’s not to say things will remain the same, considering the start-up is only in its Beta version, and the future possibility of monetising content through a reward system, possibly token-based, would imply access to more information.
Guardian writer John Naughton is keen to remind us of Facebook in its early days: “starting out as an exclusive network and then gathering the masses into its giant data-hoovering machine before morphing into a threat to democracy.” Perhaps the real threat to anything is to see things in black and white.
He also mentions how a new discovery has been made by the Stanford Internet Observatory, who claim that Agora (based in Shanghai), the company supplying the back-end infrastructure to the Clubhouse app, would likely have access to users’ raw audio, and that they could potentially provide access to the Chinese government. Again, not the first social media app to win this race.
I received an invitation to Clubhouse a few months ago and it has taken quite a big chunk out of my life ever since, especially during evenings as the majority of active rooms are based in the USA. Most of the room chats I join are created on the spur of the moment, on topics ranging from human performance, meditation and silent rooms (yes, that is a thing), to sustainability and green solutions — insights come in abundance and from many directions. All the public negativity aside, it is not an overstatement to say I am OBSESSED with Clubhouse, and here are four reasons why:
Decentralised social media networks are springing up, with apps like Mastodon, Publish0X, and Trodl, to name a few, are re-framing the way we protect from censorship, making space for more open conversations and putting the control in the hands of the users. Not to say Clubhouse is a decentralised network, or a block chain technology however it certainly carries a few of its ambitions. Without getting into it too much, I love how accessible it is; everyone is invited to start their own rooms, share their voice in pre-scheduled or ad-hoc conversations with like-minded people, whilst also putting accountability in their hands. Freedom of speech is welcomed, bullying on the other hand is not, as bad behaviours result not only in your removal, but also the removal of the person who invited you.
Especially during lockdown, one of the things I have missed the most has been going to events, festivals, conferences, talks. I miss the unfamiliar spaces, exchanging ideas with strangers and having heart-opening conversations.
Clubhouse is an awe-capsule where I retreat to reset, connect, get inspired and educate myself in endless topics. Regardless of the day and time, there’s always something to listen to. When you spontaneously join a chat on Clubhouse, you might find yourself in a room full of strangers who can share different perspectives to one another. Taking part in the conversation is optional, allowing yourself to be open and listen without judgement is key. Clubhouse is like a never-ending festival of ideas where strangers can become some of the greatest teachers and thinkers you might ever stumble upon.
Although the notifications are there to give us all a quick reminder, or to briefly describe the topics that are about to be covered, in many cases, the conversations unravel and lead up to unexpected avenues. That is the beauty of like-minded people coming together from all backgrounds, geographies and languages yet on a similar wave-length, the connection enriches and creativity blooms even more, making space for further reflection.
Not only can you not hide from anonymous profiles, you get a real sense of who these people really are.
It is a fact, the social media of today relies heavily on curated content. We spend so much time posting for both personal or professional purposes, and twice the time to prepare the content. In the chase for the perfect video, picture or text, we get side-tracked and risk losing our true intentions or remaining personable, we lose ourselves in translation.
Over the last few years, I’ve lost count of the number of “influencers” I started to follow, only to be deeply disappointed shortly after. Trends are what makes or breaks the “influencing” space in the digital world, and many would go to great lengths to maintain the status. Trend-washing is spreading, and there is nothing like an open room where real-time conversation flows and engagement is welcomed, to help you find your community quickly.
Whether Clubhouse’s popularity will fade after the pandemic or it will expand furthermore and deploy an event ticketing and subscriptions model, only time will tell.
For someone who values growth and connection, this could be a place of opportunities where the negative aspects are by far overshadowed by the positive. Beside its current exclusivity, once joined, it is a place of rich potential — as it lends a voice to everyone so they can speak freely, tackle societal dysfunctions in a safe space, encouraging spontaneity and fostering connection and collaboration — perhaps the right “prescription” for our current times.