Clubhouse Conflict: Tempest in a Teacup, Or a Sign of More Serious Problems?

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.

Clubhouse is not a happy place today
(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

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?

Pandemic Diary, May 11th, 2021: Bored Bored BORED

Ladies and gentlemen, I am bored.

You know you’re bored when you take a Second Life avatar and park her in front of the lucky boards at Scandalize and just sit there, waiting for your letter to show up:

I mean, yes, it is minimally productive in that I am adding to that particular alt’s inventory, but I already endlessly shop for fabulous freebies for all my alts, so it’s not like they’re going to be running around the grid naked. (Although there are sims where that is perfectly acceptable. This is Second Life; you do you, boo.)

Lately I have been hanging out at three different (virtual) places in much the same way as bored, pre-pandemic teenagers used to hang out in front of my local Seven-Eleven convenience store:

  • Second Life (my old reliable standby);
  • Clubhouse (the hot new drop-in audio app); and
  • Twitter (another old reliable standby).

I’m not sure what I think I am going to find by constantly going online and checking these three places. I have the attention span of a gerbil on benzedrine; I pop in and out of rooms on Clubhouse with alarming alacrity lately, barely listening to a sentence or two before I decide to bail and move on to the next room. What am I searching for? God knows. But I am certainly not finding it lately.

I have no shortage of practical tasks that need doing: a kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom that need cleaning; pharmacy receipts to enter into my insurance portal; a workbook with cognitive behavioural therapy exercises to complete (one of the many tools in my ever-expanding arsenal to combat my chronic clinical depression).

Speaking of depression, yes, I am going to lose my psychiatrist, who is leaving Winnipeg to accept a position in British Columbia. I am happy for her, but I am going to miss her, and it will be extremely difficult to find a new psychiatrist to take me on as a patient. She promises to try and find me somebody, but she is going to have to call in all her favours, and use every bit of her persuasion. The pandemic has caused a tsunami of mental health issues in Manitoba, as it has globally, which has led to a shortage of professionals to diagnose and treat people who are struggling and suffering, It is the worst possible time to lose a psychiatrist. It wasn’t good before, but now the situation is even worse. If all else fails, I will have to rely on my family doctor for treatment, a prospect neither of us particularly relishes.

I am restless. I putter around the apartment, go sit out on the patio next to the woods behind my apartment, and watch the budding trees and listen to the birds, but then I get restless again and park myself in front of my computer, reload Second Life for the umpteenth time, restyle an avatar for the umpteenth time. Then I log off, and go lie on the sofa with my trusty iPhone, scrolling through my hallway on Clubhouse to find an interesting room. Sometimes I even listen to a room on Clubhouse while scrolling through my Twitter feed!

People, I am stuck in a well-worn rut. I am bored, bored, BORED.

Photo by Magnet.me on Unsplash

And yes, I know that I could put on my Valve Index VR headset, crank up Tilt Brush or load NeosVR, and get creative, but I don’t feel creative.

God, I wish this pandemic were over already.

UPDATE 9:13 p.m.: Well, I did land this wonderful outfit from one of the lucky boards at Scandalize, however, while listening to a Clubhouse room about unconditional love and gratitude which is lifting my spirits this evening:

White Spessiha outfit from Scandalize

So, I might be bored, but I can still find some peace, grace, beauty, and solace in the middle of a pandemic, in my rather unconventional virtual spaces and my rather quirky Ryan Schultz ways! May you also find your moments during this pandemic.

Clubhouse Launches Beta for Android Users

Clubhouse, the hot new drop-in social audio app, which until now has been iOS only, dropped the following announcement today via their official blog:

Today, we are thrilled to share that Clubhouse for Android will start rolling out in beta immediately. We will begin gradually, with the U.S. today, followed by other English-speaking countries and then the rest of the world. Our plan over the next few weeks is to collect feedback from the community, fix any issues we see and work to add a few final features like payments and club creation before rolling it out more broadly. If you are an Android user, you can download Clubhouse for Android and sign up now to be alerted once it’s available in your area, and read the FAQ here.

If you’re intrigued and want to check it out for yourself, I do have 200 invitations for two clubs that I have created, which will allow you to join Clubhouse and join that particular club. It sounds as though Canada will very shortly follow the United States in allowing Android users in!

Pandemic Diary, May 1st, 2021: Yearning for a Crystal Ball

The view of the woods behind my apartment

Today is officially Day 412 since I began working from home in self-isolation for my university library system, since my world was upended. I’m sitting on my patio in my apartment, looking at the newly-budding trees in the woods behind me, and it feels as if Spring has finally arrived here in Winnipeg. I hear the birds chirping, and smell that one of my neighbors is barbecuing.

While I am enjoying the sunshine, maskless, a neighbour barrels around the corner of my building, also maskless, taking a shortcut around the building to find me sitting here. She briefly passes within six feet of me on her way to the garbage dumpster. Shit. It just goes to show how you can never be too careful. (My neighbor gives me a wide berth by following the sidewalk on her return trip. I would wave, but she resolutely refuses to make eye contact.)

My neighbourhood was recently added to the list of provincial COVID-19 hot spots, and therefore anyone over 17 who lives or works in the neighborhood can now go get vaccinated. I got my first shot (Oxford/AstraZeneca) on March 18th, and I am due to get my second shot in July. I take some comfort from the fact that even just the first shot will be enough to protect me from serious illness or death (at least, according to the scientific research published about the current variants of the coronavirus), but I still worry whenever there’s a slip up, such as my neighborhood getting within 2 meters, as brief as it was. I still worry. I find it hard to shut off the worry sometimes.

Last night I text chatted with my brother in Alberta, two provinces to the west, which had recently reported a worrying increase in cases (in fact, they now have the highest per-capita rate of positive COVID cases by far). I was greatly relieved to hear that both he and my sister-in-law, who are in their fifties, received their first COVID-19 vaccinations yesterday at a local pharmacy.

I find that often lately, I am anxious and distracted, having to force myself time and again to quit doomscrolling on social media and the news media, go sit outside, and relax. I listen in on countless Clubhouse rooms about the catastrophe currently happening in India, and I feel so helpless. I read about anti-mask rallies in cities all across Canada, and I get enraged.

This pandemic is taking an emotional toll on me, at a time when I should be feeling more optimistic about the summer to come. I pray that we will not see anything like the crisis and chaos erupting in south-east Asia. I hope that the increasing pace of vaccination will protect us all, and that our lives can return to normal.

Oh, what I would give for a crystal ball, to be able to see the future!

Photo by Arthur Ogleznev on Unsplash