Words By Dr Tanushka Melwani Mansukhani

Technology conveniences almost every minute habits of our daily lives that are eventually changing the way we live. We no longer need directions to locate a new address, memorizing phone numbers is obsolete and even the daily reminder notifications to ‘call mom’!  

So, of course when humankind was most isolated during a global lockdown, technology stepped into the rescue. As time stretched interminably and experiences ranged from anxiety to self-growth, we all really have a lot to talk about! Silicon Valley’s solution? The much-buzzed-about voice-based social app Clubhouse, which launched (along with COVID in the US) in March 2020. It is fascinating to hear an excited Paul Davison (co-founder) who has just left a chat room on Clubhouse after initiating new users. “In the world of social media, voice is a relatively new medium. But in the real world, it’s the oldest. We were talking and hearing long before we were writing and reading,” he responded to the obvious why-no-video question. 

Aligning the stars like anything good, Clubhouse is a product of need. When Davison found himself not having enough time to read, he turned to audio and then to podcasts.  He elaborates on the problem he was trying to solve. “For images, we have Instagram, for text Twitter, for video Youtube and TikTok. But for spoken audio content its difficult, and honestly a bit of a mess.”  That’s when he and Rohan (cofounders) had a eureka moment and said, “Dude we gotta build a consumer social app!” 

The partners dove in deep into the audio space to work on revolutionizing it. “With audio, you have all the intimation, inflection, fidelity and asks without any of the anxiety of video. People tend to be much more authentic – they can talk about all sorts of different topics and close the app at the end of the day feeling better because they have deeper friendships. It is just something really rewarding to work on,” Davison is thrilled.  It is social in more ways than one as America witnessed a historical election campaign and the Black Lives Movement took a life of its own, Clubhouse amped it up. 

“There were lots of meaningful conversations that happened where people talked to others with different life experiences. The diversity of Clubhouse is the single greatest thing about it. It is part of our life mission to build an app for those kinds of conversations,” says Davison. While it has been proven beyond doubt that we are at the mercy of algorithms that keep us scrolling mindlessly, but really at the heart of it, most applications really promote connectivity. But do all social media apps have what it takes to last? While conversations run the gamut from what color is your voice, to early morning meditations, your favorite kind of coffee to Bitcoin, I find myself in a chatroom ‘Clubhouse, Fad Or Not?’  Though the FOMO (the-fear-of-missing-out) aspect is hyped through the ‘invite-only model, I wonder if it is enough to anchor the millennials and gen-z without the ‘social’ aspect of shareability? The founders assure that the capability of giving moderators the freedom to record (and raise revenue) conversations to be shared outside the app will be offered in the future. 

WONDER WHO IS LISTENING? The initial charm of the app was that it had a relatively small community of content creators and moderators. Now, however, it has grown exponentially to over 100 million users. 

Rohan (co-founder) explains, “We are trying to grow the community in a measured way and to make sure the experience scales. The room is a flexible container. It is like going to a conference and choosing between interacting with the speakers or those in attendance, and to do that is having the right network structure, privacy controls, and settings. You can power moderators to create clubs to have conversations with those they want to, allowing all sorts of experiences to thrive. From that, you grow from a single community of beta testers to many communities.” This is fundamentally why the app is only open to iOs users as of this time as there are many more users on the android platform. This feature is coming soon though. It has been established that Big Tech knows us intimately and using technology to promote further human interaction, freedom of speech and thought is indeed noble. 

What happens when the obvious monetization aspects seep in? Profitability over privacy? At this time Clubhouse does not plan to raise it through ad revenue and targeting but by offering direct monetary benefits to moderators and ‘tipping’ from happy listeners. WILL YOU OR WON’T YOU

Joining Clubhouse is much like being a member of a real world-club with an invite-only exclusivity membership albeit a virtual one, where here you are listening in to some of the most creative minds in the world without it just being lucky or having to pay an admission fee. It is so cool. All you need to do is talk or listen. While Clubhouse won’t feed the dopamine hit in the same way as a ‘like’, follow or retweet might, but if it makes you feel like you are part of a larger conversation that is worth having, then it is for you! 

We each have a story on how technology has impacted our lives, for the good and not so. Which side does Clubhouse belong to? I guess you will find out for yourself when the invite is in!