Pandemic nights are a drag. Days of the week feel indistinguishable from each other. Six p.m. feels like midnight. No matter how much you run the clock down with activities, the specter of the old life—of house parties, bar nights, and concerts—lingers, reminding us that we are, to varying degrees, profoundly and indefinitely alone. Social media has been something of a balm. Twitter is a trip now that we all “have time.” Twitch is crucial. TikTok is a vast network of rabbit holes if you play your cards correctly. It’s much easier to be in the mix when the event is digital, but you still have to be quick on the draw to get the most from the internet. You can catch the good Twitch clips on LiveStreamFails, but that kills the element of surprise. Verzuz comments sections are priceless, but watching a replay is not as fun as following the night as it unfolds.
Fear of missing out went digital in 2020, and there’s no better illustration of this than the nights I’ve spent over the past month and a half on Clubhouse, the (currently) invite-only voice-chat app now drawing celebrities, professionals, and those in the know out of seclusion and onto virtual meeting grounds. Clubhouse lets users interact in themed chat rooms where speakers run the floor and moderators call on listeners to give their input on the issue of the day, like a ted Talk with a Q&A session in the middle. It’s only in beta testing for now, but it’s clear that there’s value in the concept. Venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz invested $10 million in the app; Twitter has rolled out Spaces, its own audio-chat-room feature. But if Clubhouse’s name—and the mods’ ability to control who gets to speak—suggests a reprieve from the noise and unruliness elsewhere on the internet, what’s true of any social-media endeavor remains so here: Give people the space to talk, and they will say too much.
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