Clubhouse, Dive … do audio social networks really offer more peaceful debates?

It’s a calm and peaceful meeting that Cyril offers every weekday lunchtime on the new fashionable social network: Clubhouse. In this period of massive teleworking due to the pandemic, this enthusiast of new technologies is organizing an audio walk during the lunch break, between 1 and 1:30 p.m., during which participants in his “room”, the places of discussion on Clubhouse, walk virtually together while discussing various topics.

“It’s a little time to take a breather at noon. We walk and talk. All subjects are discussed, serious things, others more fun, the future of Clubhouse …”, smiles Cyril Bauchais-Allamel, social manager in a large telecommunications company. According to him, 80% of people who join the date actually walk around their home or workplace. But why did you organize this club of “walkers”? “We perceive more things by voice. This confidence side allows a more fluid exchange than writing. We are less confronted with trolls than on traditional social networks”, he judges. On Clubhouse, his club has 240 members and between 10 and 15 they meet at each lunch break.

In recent years, historical social networks such as Twitter or Facebook have been increasingly singled out for the “clash culture” that has developed there and the great difficulty in holding a peaceful and in-depth debate. In his book I saw the monster born, published in February 2021, the journalist Samuel Laurent tells in the first person how he saw the microblogging site become a platform overrun by trolls.

For Tommaso Venturini, researcher specializing in social networks at the CNRS and the Médialab of Sciences Po Paris, the evolution of the web since the beginning of the 2000s has shaped this permanent gladiatorial fight that certain digital platforms have become. “The web created by Tim Berner-Lee was really based on the idea of ​​creating a giant library. It was less a communication network than an archive system. Around the 2000s, it switched to a model based on advertising where you had to succeed in capturing the attention of Internet users. No one is going to read content that is two years old on Facebook or Twitter. What matters for these platforms is that there is as much flow as possible to create new attention. Twitch is also totally in this format “, underlines the Italian researcher.

“If you want to be an influencer, you have to attract attention. Being vehement is a very effective way to do that.”

Tommaso Venturini

CNRS researcher

According to Tommaso Venturini, it is not anonymity that creates the animosity present on social networks, but the permanent competition for attention. “Trump is a prime example. His tweets did not touch on substantive issues, but were simply a distraction from internet users.”, he continues.

On Clubhouse or Dive, the European competitor of the American start-up, the founders often praise more voluptuous exchanges, than on the historical networks. A value that is also claimed by the booming Twitch streaming platform.

Clubhouse, which already has several million users, emphasizes being able to converse with celebrities. Tesla boss Elon Musk, for example, hosted a session there. Whistleblower Edward Snowden also chatted about the app. “Wow, I’m really listening to Edward Snowden in a Clubhouse room”, tweeted on April 7 an American academic. On Clubhouse, the “rooms” where we chat are limited to 5,000 people. Anyone can ask to speak by clicking on “raise your hand”, and a moderator is sometimes appointed to distribute the floor. There are various and varied “rooms” on many themes.

The former presenter of the sports show Stage 2, Céline Géraud thus participates every morning of the week between 9 am and 10 am in Clubhouse debates in the “rooms” of the “Le café rugby” club. “It’s 100% audio and it feels good because we are at a time when we are on videoconferencing all the time. There, we do not have to pay attention to our posture, our image. There is a very good quality of sound and speech circulate enormously. You can bring up strangers. It reminds me of free radios “, says the one who will be the flagship figure of the Eurosport channel for the 2021 Olympics.

Falling somewhat by chance into the pot after a friend from Bordeaux encouraged her to join their club of rugby enthusiasts, she fell in love with the audio social network. “There is no such thing as” store-bought coffee “where everyone rides on top of the others. I put on my earphones, I have a coffee, I sit down. It’s a moment of relaxation”. Around a hundred people log on every day to listen to and participate in the discussions at the “Rugby Café”, where news from the Ovalie also leaves room for other disciplines.

Like sports fans, politicians also find an ideal space to debate, away from controversies about Clubhouse. Lformer socialist minister Arnaud Montebourg got caught up in the game, with a conversation lasting over an hour around the recovery plan, the debt, and the 2022 presidential election. The exchange was organized by “Pol House“, a dematerialized debate club.

More generally, Clubhouse appeals to people from all walks of life. “What I like is that I discover people who gravitate in my sphere of work, but whose talent I did not know”, continues Céline Géraud. “There is authenticity in the words thanks to the voice. We know if someone is sincere when they speak. And then, there is really an exchange in the moment. We talk to each other. We do not answer. to someone with a comment two hours after their post. I’m a social media junkie and for me Clubhouse it’s a level above what we had before “, adds Cyril Bauchais-Allamel.

However, there is a strong limit around this audio medium. You must be sponsored by another user to enter Clubhouse. This co-optation makes it a “select” club, even if it is less and less so as new entrants arrive. The application is also only available on iPhone. Frustrated Internet users therefore join competing models like Dive, or more often the audio services launched in response by the giants of the sector like Facebook with “Hotline”.

In several countries, Clubhouse has thus left the podium of the most downloaded applications, as relayed by Chloé Woitier, journalist at the Figaro, April 8.

“I have been on Clubhouse since the beginning of February and it is true that we have felt a decrease in the volume of people per room for about a month. I don’t know if it is because there are more rooms and therefore a dilution users or just a drop, but it is visible. I am also on Dive, but it is more empty because much less known “, note Cyril Bauchais-Allamel.

But it is perhaps by keeping a confidential side that audio social networks will keep their peace. “Facebook or Twitter have done everything to speed up the debate on their platform, because the more debate there is, the more content there is and therefore the advertising. Now, they are going back a bit, because it is so empty that it becomes less pleasant to participate in this type of debate “, concludes researcher Tommaso Venturini.

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