Culture Hack

Culture Hack

Conversation Now: Clubhouse and Instant Connection in a Pandemic World

We are living through times of dense uncertainty. Gone are the days where we craved the spontaneous; we now want the stable and we want it ASAP. There is a need for instant goods and services to satisfy our survival mode necessities — instant delivery, download, watch, and interaction seem to be the only ways we know how to live. To study or to meet with others, we hop on video chat. To grocery shop, we scroll through delivery apps. We workout using devices, we binge watch until satisfied, we do our living in the Clouds. While there is something fascinating and impressive about these Jetson-centric fantasies realized, existing like this is only innovative for so long until it feels too robotic and solitary. 


The move towards a fully vaccinated future establishes hope for the days we can live completely again but it’s difficult to look through the bleak present. Just when it seemed like apps were contributing to our isolation and could not function catalysts of immediacy as well as beacons of genuine connectivity, Clubhouse entered the chat. 


In March of 2020, entrepreneurs Paul Davison and Rohan Seth launched Clubhouse: an app that hosts audio-only chat rooms to discuss a number of different topics. Think a constant flow of multiple Instagram Live series but with no visuals and no limit to who can join in. Public figures such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk and rapper-entrepreneur Sean “Diddy” Combs have brought much attention to the new social media. Though Clubhouse is currently operating on an invite-only joining system — an effort to control its first-year user levels — the app went from 600,000 users in December 2020 to nearly 6 million as of February 2021. 

The enthusiasm surrounding this app may have initially been attributed to its exclusivity (which does have consumers fleeing to Ebay to buy invitations to the free-download app), but the heart of its avant-gardism is the users’ power to verbalize their thoughts to others with the instinctual tap of a screen. Not only does Clubhouse somewhat mimic similar exchanges once held in public spaces, but there is also a democratization of entrepreneurial and star-powered insights; it is truly on its way to becoming a space where everyone can talk to anyone. 


With this instant access to keen conversation comes a threat to the societally-conscious and forward-moving safety bubbles produced by moments of isolation in this pandemic. In 2020 alone, we saw a call to societal change in matters of race, police brutality, healthcare, and other issues, led by most Millennials and Gen-Zers. These generations are unafraid to use their platforms in the pursuit of equality and justice against the systemic issues that have been exposed as sources of toxicity. 


One major defect in Clubhouse’s early days is the lack of a filter that aligns with the new communal mindset. Although the platform posted an FAQ post about moderation in October of 2020, not much has changed in terms of excluding and offensive activity on the app. Several upsetting situations on the app have included sexism and bias against women speaking out on the assault accusations of celebrities on the app, the continuation of the racist conversation that fueled MAGA followers, impersonations, and the spread of misinformation about COVID-related issues. And while the argument could be made that staple apps such as Twitter and Facebook have had similar issues in the past, most platforms have taken a stance against the spread of harmful or false statements now more than ever. And, coincidentally, both platforms plan to launch features resembling Clubhouse. 

As it stands, the general image of a full post-pandemic society not only holds high hopes for resumed level of health in all its forms but hopefully a time of slight unity, after years of politically-inflamed conflict. Clubhouse may be host to more than just questionable discussion and meeting spaces for the controversial but, in a world where we will be able to connect and take more steps away from our screen, will we be less mesmerized by detached forms of immediate conversation? And, if staple social media that are implementing similar new ways of connecting on their apps, will this phase out the need for a separate platform that does just one thing?