A confession: I’m trying — I’m really trying — to grasp Clubhouse’s appeal. I spend so much of my life thinking about, and being on, social media. I want to understand why some people are obsessed with the audio-only social app.
But, for the most part, I find it so…unlikable. I’ve been actively using it for a couple weeks and every time I’ve logged on it’s been like pulling teeth. Every room I’ve jumped into feels like an unholy mashup of self-promotion, seminar lecturing, and the mind-numbing prattle that typically fills the ballrooms of professional conferences.
How many times can I hear someone say things like, “I think that’s a really great point, to expand further on that concept…” I need to know: How and why do people enjoy that?
OK, let me back up.
Clubhouse, in case you didn’t know, is an invite-only audio app that lets you browse and listen to various chatrooms. It basically feel like a panel discussion. Users can virtually raise their hand and add their two cents, or simply take in the discussion like a free-flowing podcast of sorts. The app is skyrocketing in popularity and reportedly valued at $1 billion.
Clubhouse was, at first, super exclusive and really popular among celebs and Silicon Valley elite. You might’ve run into folks like Oprah, Drake, Kevin Hart, or Ashton Kutcher. Clubhouse remains invite-only but now includes regular jabronis like, let’s say, a blogger/journalist with no real social cache.
Finally joined Clubhouse
But it seems rather boring. People seem to be talking randomly on there just for the sake of talking something 😂
— Dhruv Rathee 🇮🇳 (@dhruv_rathee) February 24, 2021
Clubhouse’s appeal, in an ideal world, might be to something akin to access to a really interesting cocktail party with powerful people.
But in my brief time on the app, I’ve found it to be rife with platitudes, #hustle gospel, and unsubtle self-promotion. And so many meaningless buzzwords. (Clubhouse really can sound like this.)
Part of Clubhouse’s appeal is you can’t share content or view it after the fact— conversations stay on-app — but I took (often-confused) notes during some of my listening sessions.
For instance: I jumped into one chat, a morning show about having a millionaire mindset. I was cooking eggs, because I often pair podcasts with household chores. Perhaps Clubhouse could work in the same fashion, I thought.
Then people started talking. One person seamlessly transition from marketing on Clubhouse to promoting the Keto diet. Another person simply asked a panelist to appear on their Instagram show (after a lengthy description of the merits of said show). And then somehow we ended up on the merits of being physically fit to be better at business?
It felt less like a cocktail party and more like someone selling me a timeshare. I went back to cooking my breakfast, kind of confused.
It felt less like a cocktail party and more like someone selling me a timeshare.
Granted, I’m not exactly Business Guy. I’m a writer. But even if you were a business person, so much of what I heard was either a waste of time or absolute base-level advice. Nothing a quick Google search couldn’t tell you. At most, you could have gleaned a nugget of info buried under a mountain of platitudes and self-promotion.
Everyone talked like they were desperate to network, which isn’t really how good networking functions. You don’t make connections trading “great point” backslaps, you make them, you know, actually connecting over something meaningful.
It’s not that Clubhouse is bad. It’s that I don’t get how anyone liked what I was hearing. I was left confounded, wondering why this is a thing with so much hype.
Do people really want to hear business-speak in their free time?
Bopping around different chats in my short time on Clubhouse I’ve heard:
Someone rail against reporting a page, in any instance, because it’ll hurt that person’s brand.
A person telling someone their newly created fitness brand might benefit from influencer attention like it was a miracle idea.
A CEO basically repeat his elevator pitch for his company as an answer to every single question.
I am not the first to say this but it felt like LinkedIn but delivered straight into my ears and impossible to ignore. At one point, a speaker slipped up and called the panel discussion a “call.” You know, like an obligation, or the thing where you’re selling to a client. Who wants extra work calls? Really, who?
Clubhouse is a disorder in which you start hearing LinkedIn
— Scott Nover (@ScottNover) February 25, 2021
Often, it felt like the more powerful speakers were there to hype themselves up and feel good talking about all their success. Then there were heaps of other folks begging for a dash of affirmation from the successful folks.
Now a big caveat: I’m new to Clubhouse. Paring through the morass of any social site can prove tough when you’re new. Black creators, for instance, are making parts of the app more fun than the tech bro havens. There seem to be some chats based around having fun. And some hilarious folks troll by doing things like making fake rooms promising Joe Rogan and Elon Musk, which I find delightful.
Last night some friends and I ran a huge room on clubhouse called “Elon Musk and Joe Rogan Coming on Clubhouse tonight !”, repeatedly giving an ETA of “thirty minutes” over the span of hours. It organically evolved into a MONSTER (a small thread)
— Chloe Dykstra (@skydart) February 2, 2021
And, like any other online platform, there are spaces for horny people. There’s a room where people moan for one another. Vulture noted that there are some space dedicated to shooting the shit, which could be nice during the pandemic. This all goes to say that I could just be missing out on rooms I’d enjoy.
Clubhouse is an app for young professionals where your colleagues will automatically be notified when you and your friends join rooms like “DOUBLE DARE GONNA GET NASTY JOIN 💦🍑☺️💋” at 2 AM
— Chloe Dykstra (@skydart) January 29, 2021
But the app is also struggling to reel in rampant misogyny and racism. I didn’t happen to cross paths with any of that in my time on Clubhouse, but it’s certainly there.
It also stands to reason that the app’s culture will shift over time as more people are added. When the user base grows, things are bound to change in both good and bad ways. More users may mean more abuse, for instance, but creative folks could also add fun spaces to Clubhouse.
Maybe someday I’ll change my tune, but for now, I think my experiment with Clubhouse is finished. I already spend enough time on social media — the last thing I need is another meeting.
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