In an effort to combat my isolation and depression, which is being made worse by a third pandemic lockdown largely caused by my provincial government’s bumbling, bungling and inaction, I often turn to Clubhouse for company. I like to have it nearby, running on my cellphone, and I often listen to it throughout my workday.
I consider Clubhouse a much more accessible version of talk radio, one where I can easily join in, if I feel I have something to contribute to the conversation. Listening makes me less lonely, and less likely to ruminate about my situation. Since I started in mid-February, listening to Clubhouse has very quickly become a part of my daily routine.
But frankly, Clubhouse is not a very happy place lately. The stresses and strains of unprecedented growth have all too readily shown the weaknesses of the platform.
Today, the users are in a collective uproar, with room after room after room of complaints about recent updates to the platform, which (among other things) led to the loss of keyword searching in personal bios. People are upset because they have spent time and energy build profiles which are no longer searchable, and therefore, like-minded users can no longer find each other as easily.
More and more, it feels as if the Clubhouse community is getting smaller and more insular, despite the recent rollout to Android users (many of whom are also complaining, lacking features such as the ability to add Twitter and Instagram links to their bios). The overall mood among the remaining and (seemingly) dwindling number of Clubhouse users is angry, divisive, quarrelsome, and frankly somewhat off-putting to newcomers. And it’s unclear what is the best way to fix these problems.
Lightning may have struck once, with Clubhouse’s initial buzz and sizzle, but I think that it is unlikely to strike in the same place a second time. Clubhouse is now facing stiff, strong competition from platforms with much larger social graphs off of which they can leverage, such as Twitter, Facebook, and even Discord. Clubhouse is now far from the only game in town, and their front-runner advantage dwindles by the day.
And it’s not just single users that are giving up and leaving Clubhouse. Whole communities have moved away from Clubhouse, seeking greener pastures. For example, some Black users have left Clubhouse for the crowdfunded, Black-owned Fanbase, feeling more at home there. I expect this trend to continue as competitor social audio platforms proliferate, and create submarkets within the marketplace.
And there still seems to be a great deal of upset about the awarding of the sixty finalists in Clubhouse’s recent Creator First program. Worse, many content creators feel that their hard work is not being acknowledged or rewarded with larger numbers of followers due to recent changes to the discoverability algorithms, so why bother?
In short, Clubhouse, my bulwark against isolation and depression, is springing leaks, It will be interesting to see how Clubhouse rises to the new challenges it faces. Is this just a tempest in a teacup, or a sign of more serious problems that will spell the end of Clubhouse? Was it all just a passing fad, fed by the pandemic?