Clubhouse is nine months old and is the hottest social media platform to emerge from 2020. Media attention surrounding celebrities and controversies on the app, as well as its new $1 billion valuation are plentiful.
A less publicized Clubhouse phenomenon: its dating culture and the couples who are meeting in its chat rooms. Personal discussions of every type are a constant on Clubhouse, therefore it comes as no surprise that users are capitalizing on the chance to connect romantically. Behavioral scientist and Clubhouse user Clarissa Silva observes “[a]ll social media platforms eventually become dating platforms. Clubhouse is no exception. It’s solving for our desire to find love when other options have failed.”
(Full disclosure—I’ve been on Clubhouse since September and run several clubs on the platform.)
All of the conversations on Clubhouse happen live without being recorded, so you’re either in the room where it happens or not. On her very first day on the app, Carolyn Penner, 35, popped into a room where she met her now-boyfriend. “He was asking thoughtful questions and seemed to be friends with everyone in the room,” she says of Ryan Dawidjan, 28. Penner never anticipated dating on Clubhouse, but within three days they were talking on the phone, and now they’re in a relationship. “On Clubhouse, you can get a sense of someone’s vibe and character much faster than via written communication,” she says. Dawidjan even bought the domain clubhousecouple.com to commemorate their pairing.
As more people flock to the app, unofficial figures put the user base at more than three million. On any given day on Clubhouse, it’s easy to encounter multiple discussions focused on dating, relationships, and sex. Speed dating and dating games are common as well (I myself have hosted a public matchmaking game), with couples pairing off for 1-on-1 conversations in private rooms. (Side note: you can’t send messages on Clubhouse; conversations happen inside of public or private rooms, though many use Twitter and Instagram DMs as a backchannel.)
Pauleanna Reid, 33, met her partner on Clubhouse, and told their love story via Twitter thread. Reid doesn’t believe they would have met on any other platform. “My partner is very low-key and has never used a dating site/app. Clubhouse connects like-minded individuals. We were in a shared space because we are energetic, curious, outgoing and outspoken. This wouldn’t have happened any other way.”
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29-year-old Tevi Brown has given some of the dating rooms a try, including acting as a contestant for “Clubhouse Bachelor” a regular dating game on the app. While an audience of over 200 people listened in, Brown was playfully direct about her interest in Bomani X, 27, the current face of the Clubhouse icon. A number of audience members changed their profile photos to Brown’s to show their support. Bomani X described his experience as the Clubhouse Bachelor as “more parody than love search” but adds “while rooted in humor, I do believe this format can work.” As for Brown, she says her participation was mostly for fun, but also that she was open to Bomani X “sliding into her [Instagram] DMs.”
Brown says “I’m typically social media-averse, but Clubhouse has changed that.” While she’s enjoyed her attempts at making a match on Clubhouse, she’s also borne witness to the flipside. “I know quite a few people who have started ‘situationships’ and have been [flown] out already by people they’ve met on Clubhouse. I’ve also nursed a couple of friends through serious Clubhouse heartbreaks.”
So far, Clubhouse dating has been positive for 22-year-old Flossy Brand, who hosts several rooms on the topic. “My experience with dating through Clubhouse has been amazing.” Not limited to dating themed rooms, she enjoys connecting in various ways on the platform. “From meeting people in rooms that interest me and us having that commonality established right away, to being able to have conversations surrounding what we are both looking for, it’s all been a great time and I’m happy to be able to add this new way of dating to my roster.”
While some users are actively looking for love on Clubhouse, others are focused on talking about it. Suezette Yasmin Robotham, co-founder of the Clubhouse club Black Love, isn’t currently dating on the platform, although she’s open to the idea. She regularly shares her personal dating experiences and facilitates supportive rooms where others can do the same. “Clubhouse still allows for enough anonymity to be who you are. There’s a freedom that makes it feel like a relatively judgment-free space. We’re all coming as we are—deeply human and deeply connected.”
Clubhouse co-founder Paul Davidson has a theory about why the platform is conducive to personal connections in ways that text and image-based platforms are not. “Voice adds texture and fidelity to conversations that can be lacking in other venues. The intonation, inflection, and emotion that are conveyed through voice allow people to pick up on nuance and empathize with each other. This helps people on Clubhouse quickly develop meaningful connections—whether they’re networking, catching up with friends, joining a club, or discussing personal topics like life, dating and relationships.”
Ketan Anjaria, a 43-year-old Clubhouse user based in San Francisco agrees that voice is a key component to connecting on the app. “Audio requires you to listen. On Clubhouse if you aren’t a good listener, you won’t get far. Listening is key for connection, so dating on Clubhouse is almost a given because people feel heard.” Anjaria is currently single but has tried his hand at dating on the app. “I had a relationship this summer where I traveled from San Francisco to NYC for someone I met on Clubhouse. We met in a room one night and just started talking the next day on the phone. Clubhouse helped us both be more open and talk naturally, as other people were in the room.”
Relationship coach Casandra Henriquez, a Clubhouse user since October, also sees the inherent power of the all-audio medium. “Normal social media is showing you flashes of the highlight reel. But on Clubhouse, people are sharing what they really think about certain topics, and even their fears and struggles. People come to the speaker stage with questions about things they’re struggling with, things they wouldn’t necessarily say somewhere else. You get to hear the heart of each person that tells their story.”
The effects on the body of close listening are both emotional and physical. In a 2015 article published in The Atlantic, Paul Zak, the director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, described the effect of experiencing audio storytelling on our brains as a “neuro ballet.” This causes the brain to release oxytocin in response to empathy with the speaker—an arousal response to the feeling of being “inside” the story.
Some of Clubhouse’s appeal may be more practical, particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic during which it was created. “The mere fact that you don’t have the pressure to always have the perfect hair, the perfect outfit, really allows people who might have looked past each other to invest in a relationship. The price of admission into the dating space is just lower,” says Denise Hamilton, a Clubhouse user from Houston.
“I’ve been married for a few years now, and as an observer of the dating scene, I worried that people weren’t having deep, authentic conversations. I worried that people were looking for a checklist instead of a partner. I think the intimacy of voices on Clubhouse allows people to really get to know the true heart and spirit of a person. It’s incredibly powerful.”
A viral tweet about another Clubhouse love story involves the Nigerian based Ephraim Osehon, 28, and Victoria Owanate Amachree, 24. Amachree joined the app on the 9th of January and found herself chatting with Osehon in a casual room. The pair connected quickly and the next day Osehon made the drive from Benin City to Port Harcourt to visit Amachree. It was an immediate match, and one Osehon can’t imagine happening on another platform. “You can meet someone anywhere, but I believe we were destined to meet on Clubhouse.” Amachree, who didn’t have dating in mind when she joined the app, is surprised and delighted by her new relationship. “Love happens when we least expect. Sometimes it’s not how long you’ve known a person that matters. He makes me so happy. I’m glad I met him and I’m excited to see what the future holds for us.” Osehon has some ideas. “She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Maybe we’ll get married soon! She’s the love of my life. Distance isn’t a barrier for us. We hope to make everything work and to be together forever.”
Though growing rapidly, Clubhouse is still in beta and thus far has retained a feeling of exclusivity. It’s also a “real identity” platform, as per its terms of service. The ability to know the person you’re speaking to is who they say they are and that you can click on their profile to see who invited them is likely a factor in the speed, if not also the frequency of some of the relationships forming on the app. There is a level of social proof that Clubhouse provides that can’t be found on a dating app. It’s too soon to know how Clubhouse will continue to evolve as it grows, and how that evolution will impact its dating culture. However, for now it’s proven itself as a place to connect and to explore romantic possibility. With the right mix of boldness and openness, Clubhouse is an ideal dating venue for those comfortable with expressing themselves through extemporaneous conversation.
As Ketan Anjaria puts it, “Clubhouse forces you to connect by words, by intelligence. By who you really are versus your picture-perfect profile pics or witty taglines on dating apps. By making you listen and then helping you meet people who aren’t in your normal social circles, your chances for connection multiply. It’s then up to you to be your best authentic self.”