7 min. read
Since last April, Lauren is working from her home in London. At first, she worked from her kitchen table, but she managed to redecorate the never-used baby room into her new home office after few months. Lounging in her yoga pants and snacking on delivery from Uber Eats, Lauren taps in the conversation on Clubhouse almost every day.
For her, it’s not about the FOMO; it’s about feeling connected. “You cannot put a tone, a sigh, or any other expression to words I read on Twitter or Facebook… but with Clubhouse, I can imagine more clearly the speaker’s face when I’m listening to him in the room. I love the immediateness of it, how we can bounce ideas off of each other. It’s almost addictive. I don’t feel alone when I’m in the room with other people – even if the room is virtual. ”
The impact of loneliness
Loneliness was on the rise even before the COVID-19 pandemic smacked us right on the face and forced the majority of the planet to work from home. In the UK, one in seven Brits was often or always lonely before 2020, compelling the UK Government to appoint a Minister for Loneliness in 2018. Unfortunately, the loneliness epidemic does not have a vaccine we can get.
“I managed to settle into some helpful routines that help me cope with bouts of loneliness. However, when it started to get really bad in Germany, I was super-stressed, working overtime and clinging to Slack, Zoom, Messenger to feel connected with my friends and family “, said Nicola, a friend working in the advertising industry. “This feeling of connecting while being disconnected in every meaningful way can get to you. Now, I’m regularly visiting The Mindful Creative club on Clubhouse to get me through the week”.
How did it come to this?
Several likely reasons are to be blamed for loneliness many people are experiencing in the past two decades:
- stable mid-20th century careers have been or are being replaced with flexible employment and gig work;
- relocation, resulting in physical disconnection from the nuclear family and childhood friends, and our tendency to live in
- single-person household is becoming more and more common around the world, while in some countries, it is even prevalent.
We also need to factor in the rise of technology-enabled communication, which led to social media platforms often serving as a replacement for real physical connection.
“Digital relationships have become complicated. Often I found myself musing over someone’s words, but I have also experienced an astounding discrepancy between the person’s written comments on social media channels and the perplexed look when they need to sound similarly eloquent in the real-life environment. It was quite a downer”, said Lauren.
The complexity of digital relationships significantly increases when combined with the inauthentic representation of oneself through written statuses, staged photos or stories, and heavily edited videos where only the good stuff gets presented – status, performance, and exaggeration of qualities favored by the digital circle of acquaintances.
On the other side, we’ve also experienced a steady rise in other digital formats throughout the years. Most recent data shows that audio content comes in the second most preferred, right after the video.
The rise of voice communication
And during the pandemic, voice messages became one of the means for people to stay in touch. With the option of audio messages being already available on most instant messaging apps and generation Z being the ones to use the voice most frequently, the value of voice is continually on the rise. Today’s businesses are heavily relying on audio to reach the consumers. Numbers are supporting this – podcasts are more popular than ever and have significantly increased during 2020. Hearing a voice creates an emotional connection with the listener – a sort of intimacy – and this is a powerful tool for content.
“I love video content too, but with video, I need to stay focused, and with audio, I can just continue with my daily agenda, without the need to watch the screen…” Lauren continued.
Rawness. Immediacy. Authenticity.
Voice is the most natural way for people to interact with each other – we like to speak, and we want to listen. The allure of voice is in its rawness, immediacy, and authenticity, which the written word can rarely provide unless a keyboard warrior is an artist in rhythm and pace.
‘Radio people knew it all along,’ says Lazar Dzamic, ex-Google ZOO head of strategy and a former radio person himself, ‘as radio is “the theatre of the mind”. Voice is the primal channel of communication, it works on a very deep level. Stories around the camp fire were told, that is why we still call it “storytelling”. Voice is the interface of the future – regardless of how strange that may sound in the world of screens – and we see its relentless rise every day.’
Audio is personal and intimate, allowing people to connect on a much deeper level than merely reading. With a prolonged pandemic-fueled social distancing and rise in loneliness around the world, there’s an ever-increasing need for connection not only because we are socially inclined creatures but also because we need to feel like we belong. And this is precisely the sweet spot which Clubhouse managed to savor.
Clubhouse as yesterday’s radio
Clubhouse is an invite-only, new type of social product based on voice, which mimics the real social event and social interactions, so hard to come by during the pandemic. It debuted last spring and has recently seen a massive surge in users, which are flocking to connect with the apps’ cluster of star-level influencers like Ashton Kutcher, Drake, Oprah, and some Hollywood producers.
The platform is fascinating because its content is ephemeral, thus creating the cool urgency to hang around, and it feels like it is yesterday’s radio which you can tune in, but you can also – contribute and create on. The buzzy platform brought back the unedited, raw intimacy of the spoken word, and hearing the voice – a palette of emotions more authentic than written words – is truly a game-changer. Rooms create the feeling like you belong, which taps right into an intrinsic human need for connection – and the upside is – you never know what you’re going to get, but it’s probably going to be good.
Think like there is no box 😉
The Clubhouse has managed – with building audio in core experience and making the voice the way people connect again – to tap into social media’s original promise – a connected society. It took the “media” feel right out of social media and left us with what we’ve always loved (and missed) about social media—the social aspects. The app’s competition is closely watching and applying some of the features – Twitter Spaces started rolling out a few months ago.
Individuals and brands are getting serious about Clubhouse. However, there still isn’t much unique content to consume, which creates an opportunity for creators who can think and deliver on completely another level. Can it be that in 20 years since the emergence of social media we already made a full circle – from phone calls to messaging and back to audio?