Updated: June 21, 2021 10:45:21 am
Do you like idli? Or, do you prefer masala dosa? If you are an ardent idli or dosa lover and want to know how this popular dish can steer a debate, head to Clubhouse, the audio-only social networking site, which seems to have taken Kerala by storm.With around 500 participants, a spirited yet inconclusive debate is currently underway on the platform on how a typical dosa should look and taste. “Can we all agree to call it dosha and not dosa?” one participant, irritably asks, as the conversation rages on.
Don’t like idli and dosa? Don’t worry, one might even stumble upon discussions on bread, butter, jam, porotta and even a heated discussion on Malabari biryani and its innumerable other variants. Conversations are not limited to food alone. From eccentric break-up stories, people’s paranormal experiences to karaoke nights, Malayalis seem to have found the perfect platform to nurture their love for ‘charchas’ about anything under the sun.
Perhaps it is because of Malayalis’ innate appetite for politicising any topic. Or with work-from-home becoming the norm in most organisations amid the pandemic, maybe they have more time to kill. It’s difficult to point out the exact reason for the app’s popularity, but its Android release on May 20 certainly drew in thousands of users, not only in Kerala but across the country.
The app has reportedly surpassed six million downloads from Android users alone globally, and Clubhouse has confirmed that more than one million of those downloads are from India.
Introduced to iOS by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth of Alpha Exploration Co. back in March 2020, the audio-only application allows users to host live discussions and talks. Chat rooms on Clubhouse can be created by any logged-in user.
When asked about the app’s popularity in India and whether there were plans to introduce any region-specific features to enhance the user experience here, Seth (Co-Founder, CTO) and Davison (Co-Founder, CEO), in an email conversation with indianexpress.com, said that their goal is to continue to roll out language support so that people can enjoy Clubhouse in their native tongue.
“India is such a diverse and dynamic country and we have been astonished by the incredible creativity since we rolled out in the market. We are excited to support creators via the expansion of our Creator First program in India and we look forward to seeing interesting creators coming from all parts of the country,” they said.
We have absolutely loved watching the Indian community flourish on Clubhouse, and now we’re about to make the relationship official with the Indian Creator First accelerator program!
— Clubhouse (@Clubhouse) June 16, 2021
Apart from the hilarious spoof and troll rooms on the application, serious discussions on politics, cinema, feminism and even the opportunities clubhouse provide, find space on the platform.
For instance: Over 350 people were in a chat room called ‘Toxic feminism’, where both men and women engaged in a fierce debate on the advantages of capitalist feminism, and whether it is better than Marxist feminism.
“Capitalism has not contributed much to feminism however, it is the only system that is working, which is unfortunate,” said one speaker.
Another chat room “Daivam indo illayo? Ningalkku enthaanu parayaan ullathu (Does God exist? What you have to say)?” had around 300 people listening in. The discussion seemed to have touched a nerve for many of its listeners, with some choosing to quietly listen in, while others masterfully managed to fade away with its ‘leave quietly’ option.
For Trivandrum-bred Arjun Devadas, the most attractive feature of the application is its simplicity. “Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are similar platforms, providing a space to express opinions, but in Clubhouse, you only do one thing. Talk or listen, with no distraction of messages, posts, stories”.
“Also the live element makes it more real. You say what comes to you at the moment. People get to know what others are like, in real life. And that I believe is the most transparent form of expressing yourself rather than pictures, post and reels,” he added.
Devdas, who is an avid user of the application, feels it is an amazing platform to express yourself and with efficient moderation, it might even be at par with a well-organised in-person debate.
But all things are nice when they are used right?. Some users have pointed out instances of discussions running the wrong way. Post-discussion cyber-bullying is increasing, especially at a time when mental health is at its most vulnerable due to the pandemic and constant lockdowns.
Kochi-based Meghna Murali Kalathungal thinks false information and toxic speech reaching a huge number of people is problematic. “People with fake profiles, those with no professional knowledge, talk about sensitive topics like mental health, rape culture, racism, etc. in a very absurd and toxic manner and it is problematic if not moderated properly”.
However, the app’s creators said that it is no place for racism, hate speech or abuse and that they have appointed a ‘Trust and Safety team’ to investigate every reported violation.
They stressed that “Clubhouse is a platform dedicated to human connections via voice and is built on the passion and power of our community of creators worldwide.”
While they hope that people embrace the application, experience and enjoy the platform as they make connections, there has been an increase in the number of fraudulent and fake profiles.
It was only recently that celebrities from the Malayalam film industry like Nivin Pauly, Dulquer Salmaan, Suresh Gopi and Prithviraj Sukumaran came forward, calling out fake profiles, in their name. The actors on Twitter and Facebook clarified they are not using the app.
And this is exactly how Elizabeth Eldo, A VIT Chennai student and a user, feels. “Along with the fake profile pictures, people even go to the extent of mimicking others, especially celebrities and engage in immoral conversations and debates. This harms the reputation and also creates a lack of authenticity and accountability”.
While talking of the user inflow, Kalathunga attributes it to the lockdown and the people’s initial curiosity. However, the Clubhouse team believes that the audio-based social networking platform is here to stay as long as they remain innovative and user-friendly.
“It’s about focusing on the needs of the community,” they added.
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