I’ve been talk-on-the-phone-first for the last three years. You can read about some of those explorations over here and there

@ryandawidjan and small plug around for the next thing I’m doing around consumer communication with riff -→

This isn’t intended to be a news piece nor is it a hot take. If you’d like the former, see the NYT, TechCrunch, CNBC, and Wired. If you’d like the latter, please log in to Twitter. Also, #notaproductguy.

A fuller picture

You know about someone. You follow them on Twitter. You watch their videos. You build this idea about them. Then you see them speak. A thrill of excitement comes as you are now meeting them.

They open their mouth and you can’t just wait for them to spit those same thoughts in person. 

Yet as you hear them, you realize it’s different. They are not the same as their online persona…

That’s a regular occurrence in Clubhouse. Why? Because talking (and having to do so within an active conversation for 15 - 60 minutes) is far different than editing videos, tweeting 178 characters, or being on a scripted podcast. It rivals truly meeting someone and perhaps even more pure given you can’t be distracted by body language, aesthetics, and hundreds of other “signals”. 

It’s not Clubhouse-specific; it’s the medium. It would be the same at the beer garden (more on that below). Very quickly you get a fuller picture of who they are. Can they actually listen, how high is their EQ, can they speak to a subject with depth that they so often tweet (or signal) about, are they actually wildly funny, do they ask thoughtful questions, do they keep the beach ball going, etc. 

Some folks certainly treat other social apps as means to build a reputation and yield influence through distinctive tactics. That narrow and well-honed pattern has the potential to get disrupted when you find yourself surrounded by actual voices, jokes, and questions. 

Talking Transforms

That's why you call your mom, go to lunch with friends, tap Houseparty notifications, and open FaceTime. That's why we're all using (or at least open to trying) Zoom, Slack calls, Internet Town, Upstream, Tandem, and Icebreaker for a mix of personal and professional uses.

Talking is actual social. Tweets and stories are just surface area, meant to be talked about.

How do you use Clubhouse? You open your mouth and your ears. That's it. You are off and running and immediately are doing the most important thing: talking. It makes doing the most difficult thing very easy. 

Not every interaction in our day has to be "synchronous" but if social distancing and quarantine have shown us one thing, it's that you can't get by as an Internet citizen, family member, or friend with endless swiping, scrolling, and tapping on feeds. 

You don't truly feel fulfilled emotionally, socially, or mentally without conversation. You need to actively engage and earn the opportunity to get to random topics, nuance, stories, jokes, and depth through dialogue.

Why are folks listening and talking for hours night after night on Clubhouse? Because it’s inherently healthy and normal. You don’t get the same “social” media hangover and thoughts of regret you get by tapping passively on IG stories or TikToks or tweets for hours. 

Why Can’t We Just Talk?

Good ol phone app, FaceTime, Zoom, and Slack calls were all around pre-Clubhouse and pre-COVID. So why weren't people talking through on those at a high rate before? Why are they now flocking to use these every day and night? 

Getting to talking was actually tough. Both from a cultural norms perspective and a practical UX level. Who wants to cold call their friends? Never mind their acquaintances. Who wanted or even thought to schedule regular catch-ups? You couldn’t actually tap your thumbs to start hearing someone’s voice. 

Who actually wanted to be on video for each FaceTime or Houseparty push notif? Why can’t we just talk?

Who was going to go through the thumb tapping and mental effort to mix + match different pockets of groups to get overlapping friends on the same text thread to then group FaceTime audio with no agenda?

Who was going to regularly slide into DMs of modern friends on twitter and ask to hop on the phone call...get their number and set up time with a calendar invite? A non-starter if the ask for conversation wasn't around a “meaningful” topic or an explicit request of their time.