UPDATED! Confessions of a Shameless Clubhouse Room-Hopper (from a Former Friendster Whore)

Remember Friendster? Aaah, those were the days…

I seem to have a predictable pattern when it comes to new social media and social networks. In Friendster, way, waaay back in the day, I threw caution to the wind and simply began friending strangers with reckless abandon, eventually creating a large, squirming ball of three million interconnected Friendster friends, before getting bored of it all and tossing it aside (you can read my saga here). We called ourselves “Friendster whores”. Gamifying Friendster and undermining Jonathan Abram’s dream of creating a dating site based on three degrees of separation: ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED! (And yes, I am shameless.)

Yes, even Dame Edna was my Friendster friend!

When Flickr hit, I was among the first thousand users, when it was still a tiny little Vancouver startup run by Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield (who went on to found Slack), again recklessly befriending people based on their photos and pictures. And I followed much the same pattern with Tribe and MySpace and Orkut and Facebook and Google+ and Periscope and Ello… (Remember Ello? They were red hot for a full nanosecond. Blink, and you missed it! Obviously, Clubhouse wants to avoid that fate.)

Ello turned into a weird, obscure little cul-de-sac on the Internet for creatives

So, as per my usual inclination, I have been diving into the deep end of Clubhouse, jumping into and out of rooms with alarming alacrity. Rooms about empowerment or expressing gratitude or non-fungible tokens or mental health or attracting venture capital or manifesting your soulmate or crypto investing. Rooms on candle making. Rooms for serial entrepreneurs and serial daters. Rooms created by people who want to practice their interview skills. A room about lullabies to listen to as you fall asleep (a surprisingly popular room!). Rooms stuffed with super-achievers, the kind of high-energy people with firm handshakes and loud voices that make Tony Robbins look like a shrinking violet. Rooms that were tightly controlled by their moderators, and rooms that were absolute chaos. Rooms with thousands of people and rooms that were empty. So, so many rooms. It made my head explode.

Clubhouse Overload!

For example, yesterday evening I spent an hour listening as the author of a forthcoming book about Clubhouse took pitches from people who wanted their stories to be included in the book. Some were shy and somewhat scattered in their speaking, while others spoke in full, forceful, prescripted paragraphs, seemingly without once drawing a breath. Some were cringe-inducing in their naked ambition to find a way to monetize Clubhouse and/or promote their business. After a hour of pitch after pitch after pitch, I felt exhausted and I went to lie down on the sofa.

Basically, in tried and true Ryan Schultz fashion, I became an utterly shameless and brazen room-hopping Clubhouse slut. I have been told that the more time you spend on Clubhouse, the more you are rewarded with free invites to send to other people to add to the social network during their initial, invite-only phase (a tactic used by many predecessor social networks such as Google+, as well as non-social-media apps such as Gmail…and I vividly remember a very lively trade in those highly-coveted early invitations to Gmail, back in 2004!).

In my first week, I spent so many hours on the platform, sampling rooms at various times of day like a fat man at a pre-pandemic-era cruise line buffet, that I earned a total of EIGHT invitations to bring other people onboard! If you choose to support my work on this blog and the (currently on hiatus) Metaverse Newscast, at the bronze level or higher, I will send you an invite to join Clubhouse! Here is my Patreon page.

PLEASE NOTE: You must remain my Patreon supporter for AT LEAST one monthly billing cycle (the first day of each month) before you receive the Clubhouse invitation, in order to avoid people abusing this privilege by signing up, getting an invite, and then promptly unsubscribing from my Patreon a day later, before you get billed. Thank you!

Thank you to all my wonderful Patreon supporters! Your support helps me cover my WordPress hosting fees for this blog, and it means the world to me. (And I, in turn support Voices of VR podcaster Kent Bye and social VR platform NeosVR via Patreon.)

My Patreon page: support me and get an invite to Clubhouse!

Since I am very familiar with the life cycle of social networks, having participated in so many over the years, I recognize well the addictive, giddy honeymoon period which Clubhouse is now in, where everything is bright and shiny and new. Is it gonna stay that way? Hate to break it to you, but probably not.

There are already rumblings in the press about how Clubhouse will struggle to scale, such as this March 2nd, 2021 Bloomberg Businessweek article by Sarah McBride, titled Can Clubhouse Keep the Conversation Going?, which states:

Investment firm Andreessen Horowitz has supplied much of the capital that helped spark the sudden rise of Clubhouse, the audio-based social network that’s become one of the hottest things in Silicon Valley and has drawn in mega-celebrities including Oprah and Drake. In a twist on the standard venture capital model, it also provides a good deal of the talent responsible for the content…

New forms of smartphone-based media consumption that suddenly take off among early adopters don’t always translate well to the wider world. For every Twitter, which first gained prominence as the must-have app of the 2007 South by Southwest conference, there’s a Highlight, a location-based social networking service that was SXSW’s top app in 2012 but was promptly forgotten after everyone went home. That cautionary tale holds special relevance for Clubhouse given that its co-founder and CEO, Paul Davison, created Highlight.

Newsweek went so far as to claim that Clubhouse is dying (Now, I would rather argue that it is Newsweek that is dying, and that this is a click-bait title, but that is the topic for another blogpost…)

It will be fascinating to see Clubhouse grow and evolve over 2021! As I wrote previously about Friendster, a social network which landed up becoming something quite different from what its creators had originally anticipated:

You can’t predict what’s going to happen. People may take social VR spaces and virtual worlds into as-yet-undreamed-of and unanticipated areas. Nobody can predict what the metaverse is going to look like.

UPDATE 7:32 p.m.: If you are interested in learning who the most influential (i.e. most followed) people are on Clubhouse already, well, there’s actually a handy website for that, just for you people with your noses pressed against the window, waiting to get in!

And I also wanted to quote someone’s hilariously snarky opinion of what Clubhouse is currently like, taken directly from the r/ClubhouseApp community on Reddit:

The crowd is

• 25% Venture Capitalists VC-ing
• 25% Founders foundering
• 25% Scammers scamming
• 25% Wannabes wannabe-ing

And somebody else shared this funny picture, which perfectly sums up the current difficulties some people are having in obtaining a highly-desired Clubhouse invitation, in a Reddit thread where some entrepreneurial souls were peddling Clubhouse invitations for up to $50 each:

UPDATED! Pandemic Diary: March 1st, 2021

Today is officially Day 351 since I began working in self-isolation from my apartment for my university library system. And, as many of you who follow me on Twitter or on this blog know, I had a massive emotional meltdown last week as the inadvertent result of a blogpost I had written, landing up in bed for 48 hours, struggling with my chronic clinical depression, and thinking that I would once again have to go on extended sick leave from my paying job (I did land up taking two sick days).

This is what the second half of last week felt like to me:

However, by Sunday evening, I was feeling myself start to bounce back from the destructive, depressive spiral, and start to climb out of the black pit of despair. I have decided—for the time being—to take a step back from Twitter, Reddit, and all the Discord servers I belong to. I have also decided to stop cross-posting new blogposts automatically to my Twitter feed. I figure that by this point, with over 1,000 views per day of my blog according to my WordPress stats, most people already know where to find my content. (And it was somebody’s reaction to one of those cross-posted blogposts which was the spark that ignited the controversy that felled me.)

Reading back, I could see how I had stretched myself to the breaking point, with a number of contributing factors: work, depression, isolation, a bitterly cold stretch of Winnipeg winter, a province-wide pandemic lockdown since early November, etc. And, being stretched so thin, all it would take would be one single straw to break the camel’s back. And break it did, badly and publicly, for all to see. I’m sorry.

Talking to other people helps, and I have spent this weekend chatting with real-life friends and family: a FaceTime call with my best friend John, a cellphone chat with my mom, a Zoom meeting with my family in Alberta, etc. And I was also inundated with messages of love, support, and wisdom from my friends and acquaintances online, for which I am grateful! I consider myself a very lucky man. Thank you.

While the daily surge of positive COVID-19 cases and deaths has slowly tapered down, it is still a difficult time here in Manitoba. Canada is lagging woefully behind dozens of other countries (such as the United States, Israel, and the United Kingdom) in vaccinating its citizens, largely because we have no domestic facilities to produce the needed vaccines. The federal opposition Conservative party has been using the situation to take cheap pot shots at the ruling Liberal party, which to my mind is doing the best job they can under very trying circumstances. (Frankly, having the past year’s Trump shitshow south of the border to compare it to would make anybody’s response look good. At least there’s now a responsible adult installed in the White House who actually listens to the scientists.)

So far in Manitoba, only healthcare workers and seniors in long term care homes have received vaccinations. Production and delivery delays have meant that the initial schedule was bolloxed up almost immediately. Even worse, scientists are worried that mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which are more transmissible could lead to a third or fourth wave of cases, even with the current restrictions in place.

I had originally hoped that I might get a shot in my arm by April; now it is looking more like September, or perhaps even December in a worst-case scenario. The situation is profoundly distressing and dispiriting; I am not sure how much longer I can put up with all the face masking, hand disinfecting, and social distancing that I have been doing for almost a whole year now. I am just physically exhausted, and I feel emotionally and mentally battered. But I—we—will prevail.

Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash
Image created by Laura Makaltses. Submitted for United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives – help stop the spread of COVID-19 (via Unpslash)

I have been on the new drop-in audio chat app Clubhouse for a full week now, and I hop from room to room until I find one that fits my needs or interest. For example, last Monday night I participated in a truly wonderful three-hour conversation about social VR, moderated by Shawn Whiting (Rec Room), Noah Robinson (Very Real Help), and Kent Bye (of the Voices of VR podcast). I got to meet and interact with a number of people that I had not met before, and talked about our shared passion and vision of social virtual reality. Even better, we made plans to start up a club within Clubhouse, which would meet regularly!

Afterward, I expressed my enthusiasm with the following (pre-meltdown!) tweet:

In fact, I was so excited about the possibilities that our new Chatroom club could generate, that I lay in bed, my neurons afire! (Which, ironically, was another contributing factor that led to my emotional meltdown later on in the week: insomnia.) The last time I had felt so energized and mentally stimulated by the possibilities of a new social medium was during the early, heady days immediately after Google+ was launched, back in the summer of 2011. (Of course, in the case of Google+, that initial promise failed to materialize.)

And at the moment, I am listening to a regular Mental Health on Monday check-in with 70 people, hosted by Al Tepper from the U.K., with speakers from around the world sharing their wisdom, tips and tactics, strategies, and successes in the area of mental health. The one-hour program is heartwarming and inspiring, and I know that I will become a regular weekly listener (and perhaps, one day, be brave enough to step on stage and share my own story with the audience).

It will be interesting to see how Clubhouse develops over time, whether they will struggle when they move past the initial, exclusive, invite-only phase with all its giddy excitement, and whether they can keep that buzz going. We’ll see, but based on my experience alone, they seem to be off to a rousing start.

By the way, if you are intrigued by Clubhouse, and want to try it out for yourself, I still have two invitations to join! Clubhouse is invite-only, and currently only for iPhone mobile devices. If you are interested, please ping me using the Contact Me page on my blog, or via one of the Discord servers we may share (including the 500-member plus RyanSchultz.com Discord). Thanks!

UPDATE 4:15 p.m.: Here is the announcement of the second meeting of the Virtual Worlds Club, posted by Shawn Whiting to Twitter:

If you are already on Clubhouse, here is the link to join the room tonight.