The social network Clubhouse became popular suddenly in just a week in February, the application was downloaded by 100 thousand people. Users from all over the world rushed to the Clubhouse to listen to the revelations of dollar billionaires and entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley, who promised to share with mere mortal secrets of success. In reality, the new site was instantly occupied by info-gypsies and people with a lot of free time. Despite the hype surrounding the new social network many users soon began to complain that they were receiving from it not insights and multiple increases in productivity, but anxiety, fatigue, and the fear of missing something important. Digital Anthropologist, Senior Researcher, Laboratory of Theoretical Folklore Studies, RANEPA, Deputy Head of the Center for Urban Anthropology at KB Strelka, Daria Radchenko in a conversation with explained why people who are tired of social networks continue to use them, for which it is sometimes useful just to go down in social networks and how to preserve the psyche in pursuit of current trends on the Internet.
Why did users switch so quickly and massively from old sites to Clubhouse? Daria Radchenko First you need to understand how trendy it really is. Before our conversation, I looked at how people write about Clubhouse in Russian-language social media. As of February 9, there were only 830 such texts. As of February 17, there were already 15 thousand, that is, there was a radical rise in interest. But by February 23, there are already about four and a half thousand of them. If we draw a graph, we will see what happened first, the rapid growth of interest, and then it began to decline. It is too early to say that Clubhouse is some kind of radically new trend aimed at sustainable growth.
During this time, several news agendas have arisen around the Clubhouse, including those related to the appearance of celebrities there as well as several media scandals. Either Sergey Minaev was banned there, then Vladimir Solovyov. This also gives an increase in the number of posts. It should be borne in mind that the Clubhouse is used mainly by residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg. These are the people who use Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, and to a lesser extent Instagram. Therefore, for those who live in the information bubble of Facebook Clubhouse looks like a powerful trend. But to say that this is a new top social network is premature. At least it has not yet become widespread. What are people looking for there?
The obvious, obvious answer to this question is elitism. Like some other social networks before that, Clubhouse starts with invites, creates the impression of a closed club, at least a relatively closed one, because it is not difficult to get such an invite. Nevertheless, there is a feeling that we have a closed club in which the coolest people from all over the world hang out. We get a sense of belonging to this narrow crowd of people from the upper echelon starting with Elon Musk, a sense of belonging, and the possibility of building connections.
The social network Clubhouse immediately attracted attention thanks to the famous speakers who were attracted to it. For example, Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, musician, and actor Jared Leto, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and rapper Kanye West registered there. In mid-February, Musk even invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to chat at the Clubhouse. Blogger Ilya Varlamov, co-founder of Belong Agency Ksenia Dukalis, entrepreneur Oleg Tinkov, head of Yandex.Lavka Ilya Krasilshchik, chief editor of Esquire Sergey Minaev
But is this an illusion?
Inhabitants of the Clubhouse quite often write on social networks that in two hours they received such several connections that it would take six months to build offline. And that brings us to another aspect that describes the Clubhouse phenomenon: dynamism. Everything happens very quickly at Clubhouse, and speed, as well as the ability to be in trend, is a value. Many users say that Clubhouse has dynamics that other venues lack. Facebook, Instagram, and even TikTok are already very slow. But the Clubhouse is what reflects the rhythm of our current life.
This instability has an interesting downside. It would seem that the fact that nothing is recorded there (discussions in the Clubhouse are broadcast live and are not saved – approx is wildly inconvenient. But this is the element of spontaneity and living life. Some of the users contrasted Clubhouse with another audio genre – podcasts. The difference is that the conversations in the Clubhouse are not distorted by any editing, and the podcasts are already edited recordings with different sound effects. broadcasts on Instagram allow you to do the same, everything happens there in the moment, and users can ask questions.
Yes, it really is very similar, the Clubhouse is really not unique. But the important thing is that everything there is created only by voice. Thanks to this, the user can be involved in the process as a speaker or as a listener in a very free mode. Those who speak as speakers in the Clubhouse rooms, for example, say It’s so good that at last I can be judged not by my editing, video filming, make-up or dressing skills, but only by my voice and the thoughts that I I say. I quote from one of the users. We offer the audience a naked brain here. It’s the same story as with radio and Instagram, but it’s just that there are small shifts in the Clubhouse that make it feel more authentic.
The lack of likes and comments also plays a role. Speakers are not fighting to get likes, but to get people to listen to them. Another difference from live broadcasts is that people write about the Clubhouse as a big party. If you have an invitation, you can walk into any room and talk about everything in the world. Like at a party, you can say something, or you can just keep quiet in the corner and listen to what others have to say. It gives a feeling of ease, freedom, relaxation.
Is The Clubhouse Really Positive?
Not at all Some users are already starting to complain about the monotony of these parties. Also, many people do not like the fact that at the Clubhouse everyone does nothing but praise themselves, and it is really impossible to learn anything from these excellent speakers from the upper echelon. But let’s leave this, as they say, on their conscience – it’s hard to say what exactly they are listening to. Similar situations have arisen before, for example, when people all over the world rushed to download TikTok. What is evidenced by the constant readiness for digital migration?
Is its migration? It’s too early to say that users are completely abandoning other social media in favor of Clubhouse. At one time, the famous British digital anthropologist Daniel Miller, in collaboration with his colleague Mirka Madianu, proposed a concept that he called polymedia. According to this concept, each of us builds a media ecology around himself and collects a portfolio of social media that he uses. Since it costs us nothing, we can flexibly use different social networks.
Some time ago, there were such memes four pictures, and captions like I’m on Facebook, I’m on LinkedIn, I’m on Tinder. You can add the I’m in the Clubhouse box here. We go to different social networks to implement different requests. Somewhere we conduct professional communication, somewhere we demonstrate how beautiful, cool, interesting we are, somewhere we are looking for a partner, and somewhere we communicate with our mother. Let’s see what kind of profile the Clubhouse will have.
There is another important feature in migration between social media is the generation gap. It has long been noticed that as soon as middle-aged and older people begin to prevail on the resource, young people, especially adolescents, migrate to another network. Who needs to be on Facebook when there is a mother, a teacher, a cousin? Teenagers are actively exploring other platforms, if only to stay away from their parents, to build their own safe space, a comfortable space where they set the agenda, pace, and rules of communication.
The Clubhouse is called the home for voice messaging lovers. They are actively ridiculed online, but the popularity of Clubhouse is based on the hated by many “golosukhs”. How did it happen? You can hate voicemails as much as you want, but we’re drifting this way. They are beautiful in at least two things. Firstly, it is very difficult to create some kind of archive from them, in which you can search for information. At least for now, while voice recognition is poor. Therefore, everything that we said before, although it does not disappear, is a little blurred. Even Telegram recently introduced the function of automatic archive deletion just for this – so as not to leave unnecessary traces, not to commit itself. Clubhouse still satisfies this one hundred percent, although there have been reports of leaks.
Secondly, voice messages require much less effort from both the speaker and the user, who can simultaneously do anything run, drive, cook, but at the same time consume or create information. Clubhouse responds to this request too. what other trends have been reflected in the Clubhouse in recent years? This is a request for the authenticity of the experience and the undemanding of the platform. For which, in fact, TikTok was praised literally six months ago at least outwardly, it creates the feeling that you can put a camera, jump in front of it for 30 seconds – and that’s it, you bomb social networks. We understand that in fact, behind successful accounts there are many hours of work of large teams of people, nevertheless, there is an illusion that there is no netmask.
It is also a censorship trend. Recently, Facebook and Twitter have often complained about censorship from the sites themselves. Probably the most revealing case in recent memory is Donald Trump, who was blocked on Twitter. Because of this, even much more moderate people who want to communicate freely are considering migration. In the Clubhouse, as many write, you can speak calmly. Of course, the story of the banned Minaev illustrates that mass complaints can literally deprive a person of the right to vote for an opinion that does not coincide with the opinion of the majority in the room. But the very fact that you can discuss just anything in the Clubhouse attracts many there.
Another thing that is connected not so much with social media as with the formats of network communication is a request for expertise, experts, and their knowledge. Consumption of a variety of non-fiction, in general, is quite a trend, and Clubhouse just reflects this. You say people are hungry for an expert opinion. On the other hand, the opposite trend is observed. For example, when a TV star without a special education speaks out about epidemiology – and they listen to it. It was as a result of this request that such a “stirring up of expertise” arose. The media environment offers a wealth of information and it is frustrating.
When frustration arises due to the loss of control over the situation, you want to rely on some kind of authority. How do I find it? You can turn to literature, professional magazines, but you also need to be able to read them. It takes time, attention, certain qualifications. If I start reading Pubmed now, I’m unlikely to get any meaningful information simply because I’m not a medical expert. There is a request for a guide to the world of some specific information. And this request is reflected in the proposal, including inflated bubbles and a lack of expertise.
In the Clubhouse, it is important to designate your regalia as if it were such a new LinkedIn: who you are, what diplomas you have, why you have the right to speak out on a certain topic. There is a request for professional expertise, but expertise is not always easy to confirm. In the mid-90s, there was such a caricature: two dogs are sitting in front of the monitor, and one says to the other What is the beauty of the Internet? Nobody here knows that you are a dog. Here, unfortunately, the situation is still the same.
A whole industry has formed around the Clubhouse at lightning speed: some sell invitations, others help in filling out a profile, and still, others moderate rooms for money. Why are people willing to spend resources from the real world to look presentable on social networks? If we consider Clubhouse as a platform for establishing relationships, including business relationships, for selling or advertising our personal brand (for example, for representatives of consulting professions), then this is not a waste of a real resource for some imaginary picture, it is an investment of a real resource into a specific business strategy. This is important for those whose work is built on their personal brand.
On the other hand, some people spend money on the same, not being representatives of this circle of professions. This can be compared to buying gifts or postcards at Odnoklassniki. It seems that this is an investment in a castle in the air, but in reality, it is not entirely true. By paying money for this virtual postcard (just like for a real one, which, in essence, is also a piece of cardboard with a picture), we pay for a tool for creating and maintaining relationships with other people. We invest in communications.
The very presence of these connections increases self-esteem, a sense of self-worth, and being in demand. Whatever one may say, we are social animals: this is an absolute commonplace, but sometimes we forget about it. We as a species, forgive me this neologization, are arranged in such a way that our survival for hundreds of thousands of years depended on cooperation with other members of our species – on the fact that we are seen, accepted, supported. Therefore, the mere presence of these connections, even if we do not use them in any way, is perceived on the one hand as a resource, and on the other hand, as a confirmation of our status and turns into social capital. When we buy the “imaginary,” we are actually paying to feel confident, secure, in-demand, and valuable.
Social networks “for the elite” existed before, but they did not generate such interest. Why did the “elitism” bet made at the Clubhouse work? Clubhouse managed to deliver on its promises. To confirm that you are a social network for the elite, you need to present this elite. The clubhouse did it. The social network has attracted exactly those people who are trendsetters and the embodiment of elitism for their target audience.
Many years ago LiveJournal followed exactly this path. There were also invitations, and at that time it was a social network that really bombed. There were no millions of users, simply because 20 years ago there were, in principle, much fewer of them. At the same time, all the creative intelligentsia of Russia at that time was present in LiveJournal. Then she began to migrate from there, different business processes took place, but this is another question. At first, it worked very well precisely because the way of communication (LiveJournal is long sheets of text, preferably well-written, which provokes dialogue, dispute, discussion in the comments) coincided with the target audience and with the elite that could be offered there, with people who really know how to put letters together. Something very similar is happening at the Clubhouse.
One of the most popular rooms in the Russian-speaking Clubhouse is the room in which everyone is silent. It is intended for those who are tired of talking. Why do people prefer to remain silent when surrounded by strangers, rather than close the application? Social media users talk about social media fatigue. The very concept of digital detox temporary deliberate abandonment of phones, computers, and other devices to relieve stress approx. was not invented here and not yesterday.
What can be done about this fatigue? You can turn everything off and go into radio silence mode. But how do you make it clear to those around you that you are still in context? I think this room is such a collective digital retreat. Its members get the feeling that they are not alone in their tiredness, that they have a support group. Again, we are social animals, we need to be with other people, even if we do nothing together. It turns out that we are still online, but we have a space in which we can take a break from the endless sound. There are no likes and dislikes in Clubhouse, the only reaction available to the user is a complaint, because of which a person can be banned. There have already been several high-profile bans in the Russian-speaking Clubhouse. Why is it so important for people to express their dissatisfaction on social media?
Social networks, in principle, offer a rather limited set of ways to influence what is happening. There are no dislikes in most social networks. But you can write a comment there. Yes, you can write an angry comment. But in the auditory space, we may simply not get the opportunity to speak. When there is no other way to influence what is happening, other than asking to close and ban it all forever, such an impulse arises. Another point is related to the spatial metaphor of the Clubhouse as a house with many rooms. This is not just a metaphor. The user perceives the room as a place where he is relatively safe and can predict to some extent what will happen. Roughly speaking, we are unlikely to be happy if the room about vintage wines suddenly starts talking about politics – and vice versa. When the sense of predictability disappears, to protect their psychological well-being, a person may show this type of aggression if they are denied the opportunity to write comments.
Is this a manifestation of a culture of cancellation? Cancel culture is a phenomenon that pervaded the social media era. The person being canceled is ostracized and publicly criticized for actions or statements that are not approved by those who conduct such campaigns. This concept is closely related to the institution of the reputation it is understood that in this way a person who committed an ethical violation is held accountable. Critics of the cancel culture see it as a form of censorship that prevents people from openly expressing their point of view. Its supporters believe that attempts to boycott those who made discriminatory statements are beneficial for society. This trend really affects here. Lack of consensus is mostly treated by “closing” the opposite viewpoint. We are trying now not so much to agree, to look for common ground or to argue, but to simply close and forget. It’s hard to say if this is good or bad. On the one hand, it provides comfort and reduces trauma in the public space. On the other hand, the problem and the conflict never go away from this. They just shove their feet under the bed.
The network is now arguing about whether Clubhouse is useful. Some say it helps you be more productive, while others say it’s a waste of time. Should you measure your online activity for productivity reasons? Any tool, any social network can be useful or useless for a particular person, depending on what tasks he sets for himself. Productivity in this case is the correspondence of our results to our tasks. If you need to relax and, as they say, go down in social networks, and this task will be completed, why not call it productive? Another thing is that Clubhouse positions itself as a social network of professional people who can directly benefit from what they communicate there – knowledge, contacts, connections.
Clubhouse users are constantly reminded that they are in danger of missing something important, special catalogs of the most important rooms appear on the web, and the number of sources of information is constantly growing. How does this affect the psychological state of people? I am not a psychologist to judge how this affects a person’s condition, but the format itself seems to be absolutely normal. A kind of guidebook to different sites was also not born yesterday. If we recall the early Internet, we will see that both on the Internet itself, and even offline in the form of books, there were guides to sites: where to go and what to look for. Now, if we jump over 30 years, we will see very similar guidebooks that create Telegram channels. It’s more of a form of navigation.
Another thing is that in the Clubhouse there is a huge selection of interesting events, but you can only get to a few, the rest will be lost forever. For residents of large cities, this is a familiar situation. We will open any site that talks about entertainment in the city. There is so much going on every day, but we are missing almost everything. We cannot get to hundreds of exhibitions, thousands of film screenings, dozens of concerts, theatrical performances, and so on. Well, that’s okay The clubhouse provides opportunities that were previously unavailable for example, to talk to Elon Musk, and we attribute some overvalue to this, raise the status of what we miss. Of course, this can lead someone to additional nervousness, and then as a result to apathy. But the situation will level out over time.
How to properly consume information to get rid of the fear of being out of trend? I am in the same situation as absolutely everyone, with the only amendment that my situation is even worse. I’m a digital anthropologist and I have to watch all of this! The only advice I can give is on the surface. It makes sense to always ask yourself the question: why do I need this? Why do I need to be here, why do I need to monitor this, why do I need this information specifically?
I will give a small example of the fear of omission from the life of the same Clubhouse. Its users are terribly complaining that all the movement in Silicon Valley (and many people are interested in it) happens when it’s two in the morning in Moscow. And you have to choose – either sleep or join in these conversations. We are already used to the fact that social media is cross-border, that people can communicate with anyone, anytime, that you can listen to the tape if you missed something. But suddenly it turns out that some countries in the era of the global Internet are in the position of a digital province. It turns out that locality is important, that we can really miss something because we live in the wrong place. In this situation, you just need to ask yourself how important and valuable these events are for you personally.