This week, I was able to get my hands on an invite to Clubhouse – a new social media platform still in private beta. After four days on the app, I find myself… excited. Giddy, even. I didn’t think it was possible to feel inspired by a social media platform anymore. Yet, here I am. And what excites me the most about Clubhouse is its potential for the watch community.
First, let’s go over what Clubhouse is. Clubhouse is a “drop-in audio chat” app. It allows people to enter into a “room” where a live discussion is ongoing, and join “clubs” focused on discussing specific topics – anything from philosophy to music.
When a club starts a discussion on the app, you get a notification and can hop into the room. Whereas radio and podcasts are uni-directional media, Clubhouse allows listeners in each room to raise their hands and join conversations. And this is the product’s greatest appeal to many: it is a well-managed and seamless experience to participate – by speaking or merely listening – in real-time discussions at scale.
What excites me particularly about this product is that it provides a novel solution to many of the watch community’s cultural issues on social media. In short, the best part of the watch community is lost on Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit. Think how phenomenal meetups are, when we chat (with our actual voice!), compared to your average social media experience.
I’ve spoken in the past about how shallow watch discussions often are on social media. But the truth is, “real-talk” and critical thinking is not absent. It’s simply hidden away in DM’s and private group chats.
As a radically different form of social media, Clubhouse does not rely on images, text, or newsfeeds as the primary fuel for their platform. Voice-first social media has huge potential for the watch community precisely because it seamlessly simulates the environment of a IRL watch meetup in ways Instagram, Facebook, and Reddit can not.
Sociologist and technology theorist, Nathan Jurgenson is critical of what he identifies as “digital dualism.” A digital dualist worldview lends one to believe that life online and “real life” are totally different. As he sees it, this dichotomy between virtual and actual is collapsing, or rather, that our life as a whole is composed of both online and physical experiences without contradiction. In Clubhouse, we see this from the vantage point of our niche in the watch community. Clubhouse’s form of social media no longer forces our online experiences and our meetup experiences to be worlds apart.
Especially for people who enjoy the dialogue surrounding The Open Caseback, there is a future on the horizon where great dialogue doesn’t require typing out 400-word comments on Instagram. Two hours of back-and-forth typing could be condensed into a 15-minute interaction in a Clubhouse room.
Obviously, Clubhouse will not fully replace Instagram for the watch community, as aesthetics play major role in our appreciation of timepieces. That said, it feels like fostering profound discussion on Instagram is mission impossible, akin to jamming a square peg through a circular hole. The image-centric nature of Instagram simply does not support the dialogue we crave.
Maybe the key to reinvigorating the watch community is not encouraging new or different content, but a new way of interacting altogether.
Another day with the beast,