“Black creativity and community made Clubhouse the destination it is.”
Over the past few months, the popularity of Clubhouse, the invite-only, live-audio app, has reached a fever pitch, exploding to 2 million users and reaching a $1 billion valuation in January. The social media platform has proven to be a thriving microcosm for a certain set of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and celebrity influencers, like Elon Musk.
But long before Musk arrived on the scene, as Keith Nelson Jr writes in LEVEL, Black power and influence was at work and held an outsized role in getting Clubhouse off the ground. “Clubhouse is just the newest game in a sport that Black people have long dominated while simultaneously having their contributions ignored or stolen: social media,” Nelson argues.
While the social-chat platform has “spurred Black unity” and created a space that encourages a certain level of candor (room-recording is not allowed), it has also “open[ed] the doors for racist and sexist speech and behavior to ferment virtually unchecked,” Nelson writes. “Combine that with an invite-only system, and you’ve got the makings of a gatekeeper mentality that has been all too common among social media platforms.”
Whether or not the Clubhouse craze will outlive the pandemic remains to be seen, but the future of the company’s long-term success will depend on being an inclusive space that prioritizes user trust and safety—and also giving credit where credit’s due: to the creative Black community that made it cool in the first place.
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