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L ike many old people desperate to stay relevant, I made a Millennial friend. Only I hit the Millennial jackpot, which is the kind of jackpot that, instead of money, spits out excuses for why it doesn’t make enough money.
So when Igor Hiller — who was an Instagram comedy star , acted in the show Dear White People , started a podcast , and is now a life coach — told me early this year that we needed to join Clubhouse right away so we could monetize our influence there, I did it.
We were the lucky early adopters, joining right after the live, audio-only social media app was seeded to the music and tech industries. Other people were paying up to $77 for the free invites we got. It was so elite that, in a demographically genius move the Soho House would envy, Clubhouse was only available on the iPhone.
We’d have access to hundreds of simultaneous rooms of live chat, each a cross between a TED talk and a call-in radio show. Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Tiffany Haddish, Mark Cuban, Mark Zuckerberg, Drake, and Jack Dorsey were hosting rooms, talking to randos. We, Igor said, could be the Clubhouse randos who become the Clubhouse somebodies. Millennials don’t merely fantasize about becoming famous. They fantasize about becoming famous on a medium that then becomes famous.
By April, Twitter entered talks to buy Clubhouse for $4 billion, which is more than the value of Air France, Six Flags, Sunoco, Shake Shack, or Fannie Mae. It turned Twitter down, instead raising a round of funding that also valued it at $4 billion.
Clubhouse is now a sad, empty MySpace shell of social media. It’s sixtieth in the App Store’s “social networking” category, right behind Chispa, Skout, and Hit on Me!, which is an app that describes itself as a “video platform for people who look for new friends especially hot singles and get more followers” and I’m guessing is “for prostitutes.”
To find out how this happened, Igor and I hosted a Clubhouse room titled “What Happened to Clubhouse?” Did the app’s functionality not keep up? Did it get infested with political arguments? Did Clubhouse say something racist and get canceled?
Only three people showed up to our “What Happened to Clubhouse?” room. One was my lovely wife Cassandra, and one left as soon as we asked him a question.
But Mark Simmons stayed with us the whole hour, even though he was very busy driving to a one-year-old’s birthday party.
He’d only been on Clubhouse a few times and was disappointed with the level of conversation. We added to that disappointment. Within minutes, instead of talking about Clubhouse, Igor was explaining crypto and I was talking about my new Tesla. There was some magnet in Clubhouse drawing us toward douchedom.
After our room ended, I scrolled through the other rooms again. None of them interested me, and none were hosted by anyone I’d heard of.
Until then, I’d assumed Clubhouse withered because it was the Tiger King of apps, a pandemic lockdown fad for the bored and isolated. But the bored and isolated didn’t bail on TikTok.
Clubhouse died because populism has its limits. If you’re going to fight the time-shifting culture and try to congregate a live audience, you need to limit your community. The currency isn’t content. It’s status.
Only they were worse than financial hucksters. They were status hucksters.
What happened to Clubhouse is what’s happening to all our institutions. When you remove the barriers for entry politics, business, and media, you get less a culture than a nightclub scene, where the Drakes and Mark Cubans sprint from hot new location to hot new location, trying to outrun the cryptopunk brokers. they bump into each other and collaborate on projects. When the trusted and untrustworthy mix, you reach a point where you avoid all institutions because you can’t trust anyone. Especially not a guy who hosts a Clubhouse room called ‘What Happened to Clubhouse?’ and talks about his car.
❤️🩹 𝙱𝙰𝚈 𝙰𝚁𝙴𝙰 𝙵𝙸𝚁𝚂𝚃 𝙰𝙸𝙳ᵗᵐ 🧝🏼♀️ Druid 😴 Naps 🎮 Games 📚 Books 🐾 Catfam ☕️ Tea 🧘🏻♀️ RYT 🍄 BSc-Psy 🩺 MSN-Ed, RN 👩🏻🏫 EdTech 🌉 San Francisco Bay Area
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