The Dark Side of Clubhouse
Monday morning. 10 am. I’m several hundred words into an article I’m working on.
I receive a notification. It’s a ping from a friend on Clubhouse informing me that superstar VCs Marc Andreesen and Ben Horowitz are hosting a one-on-one chat for an audience of several thousand. It would be rude of me not to acknowledge the ping and pop in, right?
Before you know it, it’s almost midday and I’m still only several hundred words into that article.
The Social Dilemma
The hit Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma shone the spotlight on big tech and social media in particular, and how tech platforms are incentivized to hijack and monetize our attention, something that not only leaves us as hyperresponsive as Pavlov’s dog and compromises our ability to focus and do great work, but also sets up myriad downstream consequences — a pessimistic world outlook, political polarization, self-esteem issues, and so on.
And just when you thought you didn’t need another social media app, along comes Clubhouse — an invite-only drop-in audio platform that’s a mish-mash of podcasting and Meetups, and currently boasts more than 2 million weekly users.
But it’s not all bad.
Benefits of Clubhouse
Clubhouse is actually…pretty damned good, and here’s why.
Unlike most social media platforms that optimize for short attention spans, substance-less motivational quotes, surface-level ideas, and booty pics, Clubhouse creates the space for speakers to go deep, with many conversations spanning several hours.
Clubhouse affords us the ability to ask questions of high caliber personalities from a wide range of domains.
Audience Building (without a booty)
It enables us to build our brands through our ideas and our voice instead of through pretty pictures and painstaking videos. Oh yeah, follow me on Clubhouse at @steveglaveski 😂
And we can network and meet like-minded and not-so like-minded people from across the globe, whether for business or pleasure. It’s almost like attending a global conference from your own living room.
More importantly for some, it empowers us to be a fly on the wall in conversations about matters might usually not explore. For example, I found myself in a room listening to Black Americans and Africans unpack some of the curious dynamics in play between the two groups. Doing so helps me build empathy and develop a more nuanced understanding of these communities and what matters to them.
Last of all…it’s fun!
However, there are pros and cons to most things.
As eluded to above, Clubhouse has been designed in a way that if we’re not intentional about how we use it, can become a serious distraction in our lives.
The app appeals to our innate desire to be distracted from difficult sensations, to learn, and to connect with other human beings — particularly with so much of the world in COVID-19 enforced lockdowns, and with ever-increasing rates of loneliness.
Not only that but the in-app ‘ping’ function — which could have not been more aptly named — is what Nir Eyal would call an external trigger, sending us push notifications of new events we might be interested in popping in to.
When you consider the fact that conversations are ephemeral and not recorded, a sense of urgency is created.
At least with Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, you can check on your DMs or check out other people’s posts later. But with Clubhouse, unless a friend of yours is willing to record the conversation for you or somebody posts it on YouTube (a gray area insofar as copyright is concerned), then you’ll miss out on not only listening but potentially asking some persons of interest a question.
All of the above factors coalesce to make Clubhouse a very distractible social media app.
How to avoid it becoming a distraction:
- Define what matters to you right now, and what you want to learn more of via the app
- Set yourself a weekly limit for events, much like you might with, say, local Meetup events
- Schedule events you’d like to attend in your calendar up-front, rather than being at mercy of pop-up events, and events you’re pinged to by peers
- Consider turning off the in-app notifications
- Be vigilant with your time — when you’re working, work, and when you’re with your family, be with your family
The Commodification of Conversation
As I wrote for Brag Media, it doesn’t take us long to go from appreciation to expectation. Previously, if I wanted to access a real-time conversation with the likes of Tim Urban, or Tim Ferriss, I might have to pay top dollar to catch them speak at a conference or industry event, or I might opt-in to a paid online course.
Within two days of getting onto Clubhouse, I’ve listened to conversations featuring the likes of Tim Urban, Kevin Rose, Kim Dotcom, Eric Weinstein, Shane Parrish, Brendon Buchard, Eric Siu, Lewis Howes, and many other notable names.
If all of these names spoke at a conference, you can bet your bottom dollar it would set you back at least several hundred dollars to attend, yet here I was, listening to all of them from the comfort of my living room, the relative comfort of the gym, or in my car.
A worthwhile parallel might be music.
As a teenager, I’d count my pennies to buy the latest album from my favorite band. I’d lock myself in my room, slide the CD into my stereo and listen to the album on repeat, reading all of the liner notes as I went.
Nowadays, I rarely listen to an entire album. I use Spotify like a gambling addict might use a slot machine, and jump from artist to artist, and track to track. I’ve already found myself doing this on Clubhouse, despite the caliber of talent in the room I was ‘quietly leaving’.
When something becomes abundant, naturally, we value it less.
How to avoid de-valuing conversations:
Notice yourself jumping in and out of conversations. Why are you doing it? Are you actually listening to the conversations and taking anything out of them, or are you merely distracted and bored? If the latter, consider doing something else a little more fulfilling.
Beware the Sage on the Stage
As I wrote for NoFilter Media, we should be wary of the sage on the stage.
Just because somebody is hosting an event and there just so happen to be hundreds or several thousand people in the audience, this doesn’t mean that everything said host says is correct.
Out of curiosity, I’ve jumped into rooms with hosts and speakers that were unrecognizable to me on several occasions, and couldn’t really vouch for or connect with the content and ideas that were being shared. Some of it appeared misguided, while other ideas were downright false and had the potential to be dangerous.
Now, ever since the printing press, media of all forms can and has been used to misinform people — either intentionally or otherwise, so this is essentially, nothing new, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be intentional about our consumption.
How to call bullshit:
As a free speech advocate, I am not suggesting that we censor people — one of the beauties of Clubhouse is that it gives everyone a voice.
However, be wary. If the speaker is talking about marketing, check out their profile.
Do they look like they have the accolades to speak to the subject?
Not only that but what do they say that might be wrong?
Whenever you’re looking to navigate uncertain or ambiguous territory, you’re better off casting a wide net insofar as information goes, and then playing the patterns and themes that come up time and time again.
For further guidance, read Critical Listening: How to Cut Through the Bullshit on Podcasts and Audiobooks. It applies to Clubhouse as much as it does to podcasts.
Tools are wonderful, but they are only as good as how you use them.
As you set off on your own Clubhouse journey, keep this in mind and do your best to use it to fuel your growth rather than sabotage it.