Clubhouse is a Haven for Self-Help Content, but With A Toxic Catch

Published on January 7, 2021

Clubhouse is the latest entry onto the rapidly expanding social media scene. It employs a new kind of platform that lands somewhere between podcasting, chat rooms, and traditional social media to share ideas through audio. There are no pictures or videos, and there’s no “content” in the way we’ve come to understand it. It’s all about conversations. On Clubhouse, many of these conversations surround self-help and self-betterment. While that sounds all well and good, there’s a definite catch to the latest social media craze.

What is Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is the latest social media app to hit the scene, and it’s quickly gained popularity as notable celebrities have taken to using the app. The app uses a conversation model. There are different chat rooms you can join, and each chatroom has a general topic. Within the chat, you can either speak with those in the conversation or listen quietly. The conversations come across very similarly to a podcast, especially if you are not actively participating.

The thing about Clubhouse is that in its current beta form, only those who are invited can join. It’s also only available for iPhone users. Without an invite, there is no way to see anything about the app or even view any content. The creators say that they hope to open the app to the public in the near future, but for now, Clubhouse remains an exclusive club.

For users, this exclusivity is part of the appeal. It’s a chance to virtually rub elbows with celebrities and tech big wigs. The app currently has around 600,000 users, which sounds like a lot, but is truly tiny in comparison to the public, more well-established social media apps like TikTok, which currently boasts 800 million users.

First Impressions

I joined the app several days ago, and my first impression was two-fold. The first thing I noticed is how chaotic the interface is. There is a lot going on within the Clubhouse app. There’s a litany of “interests” to choose from, and once those are chosen, you head straight to a screen filled with names of different conversations and the people in them. The experience itself is a little stressful, and it struck me as an introvert’s worst nightmare.

The second thing that struck me immediately is how many of the conversations centered around the idea of self-help. Whether it’s financial, personal, or relationship-based, there are hundreds of conversations on Clubhouse geared toward helping those listening do better in some way.

The Ups and Downs of Self-Help

There are obvious benefits to this culture of self-help that flourishes on Clubhouse. Not only is it a great place to network, but there is a vast collection of advice in any area of life. If you’re seeking help building your real-estate clientele, there’s a conversation for that. For those looking to learn how to assert themselves in relationships, there’s a conversation for that. If you’re looking for tips to lose weight, there’s a conversation for that. Looking to improve your sex life? There’s a conversation for that. Any advice you could possibly care to seek is available on Clubhouse.

The problem with that is an issue that most social media platforms face, misinformation.

There are a great deal of people on Clubhouse leading conversations and projecting that they know what they’re talking about. They might know what they’re talking about. Or they might not.

As social-media strategist, Kristen Ruby noted:

Indeed, the problem is that there is no way to confirm that any of these people — in this case, widely followed Internet celebrity Tai Lopez — have any qualifications or experience in the field they claim. For Clubhouse, the problem is even more acute. The exclusivity creates the illusion that everyone on the app knows what they’re talking about.

Repeating the Sins of Its Predecessors?

The other problem with the self-help culture on Clubhouse is that it reinforces toxic positivity ideals that reign supreme on social media these days. It’s something you’ve likely seen from every blonde woman trying to sell you something from a multi-level marketing scheme on your Instagram. This toxic positivity culture is all about good vibes and the grind. If you work hard enough, you can achieve anything. If you put in the time and energy, life becomes what you make it. All of that is well and good, but when taken too seriously it puts forth a simplistic idea of the world that sets most people up for failure. Not to mention the deeply capitalistic undertones of the whole thing. This attitude is everywhere on Clubhouse.

The platform is inherently strange to report on, since normally I would include receipts with posts on the site demonstrating exactly what I mean, but there is no way to collect evidence here. The only thing I can show is the titles of the conversations, and that only shows so much.

An Accountability Problem

There is an utter lack of accountability on Clubhouse that feeds into the culture the platform provides. The app provides no way to confirm the credentials of those giving advice. There is also no way to record conversations or keep a record of what was said, besides simply taking notes. You can’t save conversations in any way. This gives users near complete freedom to say anything with very little risk of consequence.

Other apps with similar lack of accountability have failed dramatically. Generally, in the social media sphere, this kind of freedom for users comes from anonymity. Apps like Yolo and YikYak allowed users to say pretty much anything because the content was anonymous. Clubhouse dodges that bullet, as every person has a username attached to their identity just like any other social media app.

However, by allowing conversations with no way of recording evidence, it gives users a similar freedom that can easily be abused. On Twitter or Instagram or TikTok, if you say something racist or violent or harmful, someone can screenshot it or report it to moderators. There is no such way to handle Clubhouse content. The app does have moderators, but their role and how they operate is still unclear. It seems to operate on the honor system, and people simply can’t be trusted.

As Ruby notes, “community guidelines prohibit users from recording audio. This can enable rapid fire spread of disinformation.”

And an Exclusivity Problem

There is a problem with Clubhouse long before content even comes into play. As it exists now, the app is incredibly exclusive. You must have an invite to join, and once you’re in, you get one invite to extend to someone else. While the app is still in beta, and this exclusivity may not have been intentional, it nonetheless fosters a sense of elitism.

This sense of elitism is only amplified by the presence of major celebrities, like Oprah and Kevin Hart, on the app. The idea that you could potentially end up having a conversation with Kevin Hart has created a significant hype around the app. This hype further serves the idea of exclusivity on Clubhouse. Part of the draw of traditional social media apps like TikTok and even Twitter and Instagram is the universality of it. Anyone can join, and in theory, anyone can develop a significant platform. People of all walks of live can create and consume content relatively freely.

On Clubhouse, things are different. Those who have “made it” in life proliferate self-help ideas, which would be great, if there was any sense of accountability and those ideas could be heard by those who can’t get an invite.

Olivia Smith is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in San Francisco, she covers events, entertainment, fashion, and technology. She also serves as a Voices contributor at PopSugar.

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