For my 13th birthday in 1995 I requested — and got — my own ‘line’. This meant that I could jabber all night without taking the phone out of service for everyone else. Getting your own line was a rite of passage for teenage girls in America back then, and everybody just sighed and let us get on with it. Talking on the phone all the time was simply something girls did. Women, meanwhile, at least according to film and TV, spent their time sitting by the phone eagerly awaiting calls from men that usually didn’t come.
But then the feminised world of the endless, open-ended voice call dwindled with the arrival of mobile phones and a preference for texting, messaging, tweet-messaging, and the easy WhatsApp voice note. And as phones began to come with us everywhere, we began answering them less. Millennials’ terror about picking up is well documented.
All of which makes the stratospheric success of Clubhouse rather odd. Clubhouse is a social media sensation that essentially lets people have, and listen in on, public phone calls, known as ‘rooms’ — and it’s just as popular with boys. It was launched in March last year by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, hit the big time last month after Elon Musk hosted a phone-in, and is now valued at $1 billion with an exponentially growing userbase of about ten million. It is only accessible to iPhone users (so far), thereby excluding vast swathes of the world, and requires an ‘invite’ to join. It’s not hard to get an invite, but this faux–exclusivity seems to be working. Once in, Clubhouse users chase followers, and, as usual, there’s a pot of gold — power and renown — at the end of the rainbow.