Whether you are moderating your own room or you have just seen some Clubhouse-inspired memes in your feed, you have probably heard about it by now. Why is everyone so obsessed with it? Is exclusivity the only source of the hype, or does the new platform have some legitimate merits? Yours truly is here to investigate and update you on this latest social media sensation.
What Is Clubhouse?
Clubhouse is not exactly a novelty app. It's been on the radar since last fall, but it has recently started creating a buzz since more people join in. It is still invitation-only and is restricted to the iOS platform. This exclusivity did spark enough agitation, whether it's developers' wariness with their beta-version or a cunning marketing strategy. After all, invites to Clubhouse are a sought-after commodity being sold on eBay and other marketplaces.
However, the main distinguishing feature of Clubhouse isn't its exclusivity, but instead its non-visual nature. No images (apart from profile pictures), no texts, no links – just talking. Open, unbridled, fluent discussion.
The app is like a hallway of rooms. In each room, a conversation is going, and you can drop in to listen, stay if you are interested, or leave quietly if you're not. If you have something to say, you can "raise your hand" and, hopefully, be promoted from the audience to a speaker. Anyone can start their own room and tag people they want to chat with.
Many users describe the experience as a podcast being recorded live, with anyone being able to take the mic. Only nothing is recorded. It's even expressly forbidden by the app's rules.
Okay, I must give the medium its due – it has its charm. However, would it be as popular as this if it weren't for the fact that we are starved for genuine conversation under quarantine restrictions?
"The coming together of COVID and Clubhouse was like a perfect storm for the app," says Lauren McKenzie, an educator, and an early Clubhouse adopter. She actively engages in professional discussions in The Teacher's Lounge – one of the biggest rooms educators created on the app with several thousand participating.
Educators are one of the significant demographics actively engaging with Clubhouse. They praise it for creating a space to share knowledge and ideas with other professionals worldwide with the added benefit of fluency and without the inconvenience of backlash. There are no recordings or transcripts, so detractors cannot come and criticize your thread after the fact, as it often happens on Twitter and Facebook. However, not everyone has embraced the flux of a spoken conversation. Some users mix Clubhouse with Slack, Twitter, and other apps to share links and notes.
How Students May Benefit from Clubhouse?
Educators see Clubhouse not only as an alternative for professional conferences, though. They believe that once the app becomes widely available to anyone older than 18 (according to the app's policy), it may benefit students in ways no other collaboration tool could before.
Possibility to learn from the best
So far, Clubhouse seems to appeal the most to professionals looking to extend their discussion globally and create a community of like-minded visionaries spearheading changes in their industries. As a student, you could hardly just walk in on a high-profile conference where such discussion would be going, but you now can enter a Clubhouse room and soak in the cutting-edge ideas and learn about the latest developments in the profession you are about to join.
Great networking opportunities
Perhaps the biggest boon that Clubhouse can offer students is access to influential people. Not only celebrities like Elon Musk, but all Silicon Valley elite: executives and managers from companies like Tesla, Google, Facebook, Reddit, Snap, and Electric Capital – all are among early adopters and famous for engaging in industry discussions with anyone interested. That's quite a company to rub shoulders with. Who knows, maybe your tech dream job is just one raised hand away. Before Clubhouse, the only place you could get an opportunity like this were prestigious universities, like MIT. Now everyone has a shot.
If your study group creates a room and decides to meet, you HAVE to be there or miss out on everything since there is no written history, notes, or takeaways. The same goes for lectures, workshops, and discussion clubs.
Voice-only medium is a great way to practice focus and analysis. You have to really listen, actively process and comprehend information – as you do during the lecture. You may even want to begin taking notes since writing help benefits your memory and ensures better retention.
For someone who is learning a language but has no one to talk to, Clubhouse is heaven-sent. Not only can you actively engage in genuine conversation with native speakers – you also are exposed to a variety of accents. If you yet shy away from speaking up, just listening is an exercise enough.
For creative majors, possibilities are endless: impromptu jam sessions with professional musicians, rap battles, live musical productions, practicing acting in amateur audio plays, book clubs, and so on and so forth. All that for collaborating with people around the world – and with the potential to attract a global audience.
Issues to Consider Before Joining In
Although Clubhouse has much to offer, you should still be cautious and make an informed decision about whether to join or not. Some users and online security experts have voiced their concerns about Clubhouse's lax regulation policies. For example, many have found Clubhouse's handling of their contact data invasive: combing through the contact list, suggestions to invite their contacts, creating shadow accounts for contacts who aren't yet on the app, exposing unique user IDs, etc.
Also, the developers say that they keep an encrypted recording of the room discussions for some time in case a participant files a complaint and they will need to investigate. However, some specialists point out that not all of the recordings are adequately encrypted. Plus, there were incidents when users could eavesdrop on discussions unseen by other participants or even broadcast the room discussion to another service.
All these issues, however, are fixable. In contrast, some more serious ones might be inherent to the very thing that makes Clubhouse so enticing – immediacy and fluency. With a medium that is so dynamic, moderation can be very difficult to enforce. There have already been instances of reported racism, sexism, xenophobia, and fake news, even though the platform's rules unequivocally forbid those.
Still, users find their experience overwhelmingly positive and their fellow Clubhouse-mates to be valuable discussion partners. However, as the audience keeps growing, Clubhouse might face the same problems as other platforms did in their time. Linnette Attai, global data privacy consultant and TEDx speaker, warns, "We know how this movie ends. People are on a platform they enjoy, that they feel they cannot live without, and yet the platform is doing them some harm, and it's so big that it has the ability to impact world events. That is the Facebook story."
Whether Clubhouse is the next Facebook or it will share a place in obscurity with Vine and other failed startups, experts warn users not to get too invested in the app that can prove to be problematic in the future. Use it to your advantage, but don't build your life around it.