2020 had to be a year that brought us a swarm of new apps. We gladly welcomed the newcomers only to quickly forget about them and leave them in the dust as soon as another one came along—don’t feel bad, we were all bored out of our mind!
You’ve done pretty well if you still haven’t downloaded Zoom yet, or Houseparty, which are two apps that may not survive past the end of the pandemic. Clubhouse however, started without a bang or many downloads at all, and it’s only now that it is beginning to take off. What is this new app exactly? And why are people scrambling to be a part of it?
The app made its debut in March of 2020 when entrepreneurs Paul Davison and Rohan Seth released the first beta version of the app to a select pool of users. Its wake in current global fame took a while to reach simply because of the nature of it—being invite-only (by existing members only), which isn’t easy to score anyway. The fuel behind its unsurprising growth in success was intrigue. Big names in the music, entertainment and tech industry started to create accounts, Oprah, Ashton Kutcher, Drake and Jared Leto representing a few of them.
Some of you may have heard of the app, but due to its absolute exclusivity, most of you may not have actually joined it. Clubhouse is essentially a totally new kind of social media platform, it’s an audio-based app in which the company describes itself as “a new type of social product based on voice [that] allows people everywhere to talk, tell stories, develop ideas, deepen friendships, and meet interesting new people around the world.”
The idea and function of it allow users to basically jump in and out of different chats, on any kind of topics that are being chatted about in a way that can be most likely compared to what is a ‘free-flowing’ podcast or live stream event where you can either just listen or spark up some conversation yourself. Really, it’s kind of like a dinner party where you don’t have to stare at other people’s faces. It’s real-life live interaction but virtually.
Over the first few months of secret chatter among the thousands of ‘elite’ users and very lucky few, one group seemed to be missing: journalists. According to Bloomberg, a Clubhouse spokeswoman said that the company never intentionally excluded journalists, but “many users said the service’s rules—and its name—created a culture of exclusivity and secrecy.” Clubhouse’s terms of service made it clear that what happens on Clubhouse stays on Clubhouse.
Since launching, the app’s founders announced recently that there were now two million users, an enormous growth over the space of a few months. Clubhouse is already valued at $1 billion, having not even reached its one year anniversary.
They wrote that “musicians, scientists, creators, athletes, comedians, parents, entrepreneurs, stock traders, non-profit leaders, authors, artists, real estate agents, sports fans and more—came to Clubhouse to talk, learn, laugh, be entertained, meet and connect.” No matter what your background, your opinion or present situation, you can be in the room with any of these people, and effectively join a conversation, albeit with hundreds of others—which is a part of why the app is so successful, because of the proximity to chats that most may never be able to get anywhere near.
I wonder then, if the app were to abolish its exclusivity and opened up as a free for all of the population, would it still be worth the hype? Probably not.
That being said, the best achievements happen when people from all walks of life come together, don’t you think? Clubhouse hosts daily talk shows, stand up comedy, lectures—you name it, it’s happenin’. In December 2020 “forty strangers who met on Clubhouse auditioned, rehearsed, and hosted a full-blown musical production for thousands of people that made national headlines.”
None of the events thus far have been open to the public, but they also weren’t exactly private. With journalists predominantly being left in the dark, a few editors and reporters of some kind are finding their way through the secret doors. Well, not so secret, because one Clubhouse user, Sarah Szalavtiz, a research development consultant and entertainment attorney, has made it a personal mission to invite as many reporters as possible to the app with the goal of bringing transparency to conversations happening on there. Bloomberg reportedly said that Szalavitz “believes that Clubhouse is designed in a way that fosters hateful speech and radicalisation without enough moderation to mitigate it.” Sounds familiar?
The media attention that this inevitably brought on raised the question as to how much privacy is reasonable to expect on an invitation-only app, especially when speakers are notably well known. One of the reporters that Szalavitz brought in, Tatiana Walk-Morris, wrote an article in Vanity Fair, seconding Szalavitz’s opinion on how the design of the app could be flawed when it comes to allowing socially harming ideas to proliferate. She said that “I get that [Clubhouse’s founders] want it to be more intimate and for people to speak more freely and honestly…but it seems to be creating confusion between who is a public figure and who isn’t.”
Right now, the exclusivity of the app is beginning to crack, but whether we might all be able to join it anytime in the near future or not is still unclear. However, the recent and remarkably fast growth of the app from Silicon Valley, which is now especially exploding in popularity in Europe, because as Sifted nicely put: “the opportunity to eavesdrop on interesting conversations, connect with experts, and potentially run into people you know” is what has drawn many of Europe’s tech community to Clubhouse.
Clubhouse has in fact already collided with European data protection regulations, because one piece of fine print in the joining process is that to invite other people, users have to also share their address book. According to businessman Dragos Novac in his newsletter, this is one of the oldest “growth hacking” tricks in the book.
So, like any social network, problems are bound to be encountered due to the fact that society has such contrasted values and opinions by nature—and tend to use these platforms differently. Clubhouse is still relying on users to self regulate the app, which introduces an inevitable tug of war. The idea still holds the primary intrigue it first launched with, and it’s probably going to pave the way for an entirely new genre of community-based media platforms. What’s next for Clubhouse, then? Well, Tesla and SpaceX CEO, who probably doesn’t need an introduction any more, has invited the Russian President Vladimir Putin to join him in conversation. I don’t know about you, but if you were holding back on scrounging around for an invitation, now might be a good time to do so.
On Saturday 13 February 2021, Musk tweeted “Would you like to join me for a conversation on Clubhouse?” and tagged the Kremlin’s official Presidential Twitter account. Putin followed up with his own tweet, in Russian (of course he did) saying, “It would be a great honour to speak with you.”
Russia hasn’t ruled out the idea of Putin talking to the billionaire on the social media platform, and according to CNBC, a Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the proposal was “interesting,” but more details were going to be needed. The Russian media outlet RBC reported Peskov saying that “First, we want to figure it out, you know that President Putin does not directly use social networks, he personally does not run them.” While we wait for what Russia assumes Musk is genuinely proposing (what exactly will he ask?), I’m going to nab myself an invite.
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Using dating apps has now become a common part of our dating lives. Most people have used or are still using Tinder, Bumble, Feeld, and the many other ones. And yet, many remain single without wanting to be. We complain about the apps’ features, the way they work, and the people we end up meeting on them. We’re accustomed to matching with the way people look instead of matching with their personality, and maybe that’s the primary reason we can’t seem to find ‘the one’.
That’s exactly what the new dating app Birdy wants to change. Birdy is a personality matching app that understands you first, and then finds your perfect match. How does it do so? By asking new users to fill out an in-depth personality test. This idea might sound quite old-school to some, reminding us of what matchmakers used to do before dating apps became the norm. But Birdy’s concept is, as its website states, based on a 92-year-old theory that is trusted by 89 per cent of the Fortune 100, so why not give it a try?
Look back on your previous relationships—the way you and your partner were behaving with each other, what went wrong in the relationship and whether you had plenty of misunderstandings. Most people end a relationship because of these reasons. Relationships can be filled with misunderstandings, hurt feelings and suppressed emotions, which is why, at some point, we decide to go our own way. My aim is not to categorise all relationships by simply saying that they never work out or that they only end badly because of misunderstandings, but it is clear that most people’s previous relationships ended because of personality differences.
Birdy’s main concept relies on the simple fact that in order to have a healthy and lasting relationship, we first need to get to know ourselves. And how can we achieve that? By taking the app’s personality test, apparently. The theory behind the test is based on Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s own personality classification. 92 years ago, after analysing data about people’s different personalities, Jung came up with 16 different types of personality and their communication preferences.
Referring to the Jungian typology theory, Birdy’s website explains that it “categorizes people’s preferences based on how they interact with the world and how they gather and process information to make decisions.” Most people are familiar with the most common application of that theory, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), but Birdy “goes the extra mile and puts a romantic spin on it.”
The whole concept might sound too complicated to truly work, but the end goal is actually quite simple: to help you fall in love, as cheesy as it sounds. Filling out the test takes more time than your usual Buzzfeed quiz, but the 39 questions do the job. In-depth questions push people filling it out to put themselves back into the mindset they had when they were younger, before they started forming a ‘social self’.
Screen Shot spoke to Juliette Swann, the founder of Birdy, about where the idea came from and what’s next for the app. After spending 5 years in a relationship with someone who she felt never understood her, Swann had a horse accident and broke her spine. It gave her perspective and made her realise “that I was wasting my time with the wrong person and that I needed to start focusing on my own life and what I desired.” That’s why, when Swann founded Birdy, she wanted the app to “go back to the basics, to the things that our parents may not have taught us: first love yourself because people love you for who you are.” That’s where the personality test helps you find out who you are.
The test informs you on which type of bird you are—what personality type you are—in a detailed analysis. On top of that, it also gives you an elaborate profile of your perfect match. What results did I get? ISFJ, aka the weaver bird, aka the introvert that aims to please everyone. Is this description accurate? To a certain extent, yes. The test also revealed my perfect match’s personality, ESFP, aka the budgie. Same here, the personality description of the budgie sounded like every person I dated. Then again, just like with astrology, people always find something to relate to, but the fact that this test is based on Jung’s psychology gives it just a tiny bit more weight than astrology and tarot reading, at least in my mind.
Swann is aware of that, and she is already talking about ways to improve the accuracy of Birdy’s test, “Personality tests are subjective and it’s hard to set every user in the right mood to answer the questions the right way. We will put in place a system of verification. Every time the user makes a verification process, he increases his ‘type certainty percentage’.” The app will also soon feature more filters to ‘classify’ its users.
Birdy might find your perfect match or it might not, but what seems obvious is that it has a strong potential to change the way dating apps push us to look at relationships, as well as changing the dating experience in general. We’re almost in 2020—it is time we date people for their personality, not only for their looks. So if you feel like you’re in the mood for a new approach to dating and want to test the alpha version of Birdy that will be available on 5 January, you can register on the waiting list and will receive your code to access it. Good luck.