Tassia Pellegrini

February 25, 2021

Clubhouse is a tourist trap

I joined Clubhouse because I hated it so much without ever using it. iPhone-only? Audio-only? Densely populated by VC-energy? That sounded like a nightmare to me. 

But I noticed I was judging the app and its experience before even installing it, which is the kind of incongruence I don't like to hold for too long. So I joined the club.

I mean, I couldn't actually join it. I had to go to a waiting list, and someone in my network would push me to the top of the list if they had an invite. 

At that point in time, this whole dynamic wasn't clear to me. I thought the app would use my phone number to send me an SMS, a validation link, or whatever when my setup was ready.

Weird.

Well, the exclusivity aspect reminded me of Orkut — you could only join with an invite. So it's not that strange. But at least with Orkut you knew what was going on. With Clubhouse, I was confused.

Then, hours later, I was self-conscious to know that a dear friend had "let me in." How did they know we were friends?! You know the answer. 

Seconds later, I was terrified to realize that it exposed me and my contact list to pretty much our extended networks. And there's no undo or settings to make this less bizarre.

And no, the MVP excuse won't cut here.

I felt scammed. Like I fell for a tourist trap.

And I started blaming myself for not researching that fishy smell before going forward. I try to feel less guilty by telling myself that "I guess no one was writing about it yet!" Now we have Jonas and a couple of others.

What a great start! Don't blame the user.

But since I got the ticket to that horrible double-deck bus hopping around the city anyway, why not enjoy the ride?

Enjoy the ride I did.

With all its horrible practices and shady UX (notification FOMO anyone?!), Clubhouse surprisingly reconnected me with people I didn't talk to for years. Either because they moved far away, they got sick, or they also needed to disappear — or because I failed to reach out to them.

It also allowed me to be in conversations with folks from various backgrounds, industries, and experiences. It got me closer to people from my own country that I knew from afar but never talked to. It's helping me improve my language skills by listening to native speakers talk about themes I care about. I got invited to two podcasts just by sharing what I know casually.

Surprisingly, it's making me way more tolerant of some people I couldn't bear on Twitter because now they need to follow some — mostly unwritten — guidelines and etiquette (or some moderators won't let them play).

And the voice-only, temporary aspect of it is a lower barrier of entry to me. I hate calling people, but chiming in on Clubhouse feels less intimidating because of the dynamic it creates. It's the same, but quite not the same?

I feel more intentional about the things I say while not crafting them too much either. It's a good balance that I cannot always recreate on video or via text. That was the opposite of what I was expecting.

I don't know for how long I will tolerate Clubhouse. The price paid is too high for what you get. But as a skeptical of this platform and its practices, I can still admit that the content — the people! — is what is making the ride really fun.

I guess that's how tourist traps work?