Clubhouse: Is It Safe To Use?

As we are all trying to do our best to continue communicating with each other while social distancing, the new app Clubhouse has gathered remarkable attraction from entrepreneurs and influencers around the world who are adapting to the circumstances of the pandemic. 

Unlike other networking platforms that you might know such as LinkedIn, Clubhouse is an invite-only platform that offers a space for both professional and informal conversations. Clubhouse provides an audio-chat application through which users can communicate and listen with one another during interviews, discussions, and panels about topics such as books, business, and social marketing. 

Founded by technology investors Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, Clubhouse has set records in recent months, raising more than $100 million in January, as well as reaching a company value of $1 billion. Unlike other competitors such as Viber, Line, Twitch, and WeChat, Clubhouse has set itself apart by attracting a list of well-known celebrities and entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Jared Leto, Sheel Mohnot and even Oprah. But what are the downsides to the app?

Similar to Facebook and Twitter, Clubhouse has run into several issues in terms of privacy and harassment. As Clubhouse has increased its popularity, there have been numerous reports of racism, homophobia, and misogyny on the app. For example, Porsha Belle, who works as a Clubhouse influencer in Houston, Texas, received several hateful and misogynistic messages on the social media app. When she tried to defend herself, users banded together to continue to harass Belle. The ongoing hatred and negativity eventually caused Belle’s account to be suspended. In an interview, Belle responded to the situation and the people attacking her by saying, “My page is suspended while the bullies get to roam free.” 

Clubhouse user Kimberly Ellis, who works as an American and Africana scholar at Carnegie Mellon University, reported an incident in which people on Clubhouse were falsely providing financial advice and instead were performing “multi-level marketing,” or promoting their own businesses. There have been also other incidents such as the presence of anti-Semitism, ableism, and racism within this social media app. But should we completely abandon the application?

As I said before, while Clubhouse has a unique setup and is a great platform to build a network, it has unfortunately also served as a vehicle for harassment. Clubhouse was recommended to me by a mentor who has amassed thousands of followers, but there are many who are not as supported by that same following. There needs to be more regulations and overwatch on social media in general to protect those who are victims of harassment and bullying. While I have enjoyed my time at Clubhouse, there is a cause for concern that there are already signs of unprofessionalism and controversy. Even though Clubhouse was founded on the hope that people would connect professionally, this professionalism seems to be non-existent. However, there is a silver lining.

The fact that Clubhouse was founded last April leaves a lot of room for improvement and growth. Personally, it would be great if Clubhouse could put more of an emphasis on the role of user content within the application. Specifically, designers of Clubhouse should make it clear what people can and cannot do. One of the many great parts about this application is how innovative and creative many people are. Particularly, when it comes to professional connection, Clubhouse has shown how upcoming entrepreneurs can share ideas and products to a wider audience. 

However, there is also the argument of exclusivity. Despite Clubhouse having accumulated a strong following, the application isn’t open to everyone. In response to this, Bethan Vincent, who works as a marketing director, explains the audio-chat environment as, “Only a selected number of people can speak, usually the panel, but people can virtually raise their hand to ask to talk. These conversations aren’t recorded or available for playback later, so you have to catch everything as it happens.” 

I would argue that there definitely should be some type of setting to record a conversation if you are unavailable to attend. Especially if it’s hearing from an upcoming entrepreneur or from someone who you might know, there should be a way to hear a portion of the conversation that happened for those who missed it. However, Clubhouse is only in its early stages of development, and there is a lot of optimism for what is to come.