Clubhouse invites and a heavenly invite

Last week I did two things: I bought Dogecoin, and I posted on Facebook asking for a Clubhouse invite. Two unrelated things, but since Elon Musk tweeted about both, I guess I acted like his “disciple.”

There is something to be admired about Clubhouse. It is an invite-only audio-chat app that first became popular among the elite. The early adopters were influencers, tech entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, political insiders, gurus and hero. These people are the idols of our time, who define cultures, drive trends, and make history. Who won’t want to be in the same club with them?

As a tech observer, I have every reason to join the app. Many of my friends and colleagues are already there. I asked around for invites. They either have exhausted the two invites upon signing-up or remained undecided over whether I am important enough to be the next recipient. Some offered to put me on their waitlists, which I gratefully accepted. At the time, a Clubhouse invite was bid at ~$100 on eBay.

I am not crazy about Clubhouse. Yet, seeing others joining while I am not brings a bit of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). The app’s exclusivity sells. It arouses the desire to be associated with the famous and the important. It activates the fear of not being invited, not being included, missing the next big thing, of not being in the same room with those we idolize.

As I was waiting for my clubhouse invite, I remembered another invite, a heavenly one. This one was sent out thousands of years ago by the Author of Life. This invite was delivered to every person through every generation. It has been delivered on papyrus and papers, in words and actions, through tribulations and peace. For us, the digital-only generation, we may find that invite in text messages, phone calls, emails, Instagram posts, TikTok/YouTube clips, or maybe a Clubhouse room chat. Some of us have clicked that invite, believed it, and acted upon it. Some haven’t, thinking that it is not important enough or that there is still time to RSVP. Some have discarded the invite as spam. This invite, the heavenly one, is for every one of us to be reconciled with the Author of Life.

I remembered Zacchaeus, that tax collector in the Bible. Zacchaeus was short, rich but despised by his people. When Jesus entered Jericho, Zacchaeus did something outside of his character and the cultural norm of the day. He wanted to see Jesus so much that he climbed a sycamore-fig tree. I question if my craving for a Clubhouse invite outweighed Zacchaeus’s desire to see God. As recorded in the Scripture, on that day, Jesus, when seeing Zacchaeus up in the tree, said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately, I must stay at your house today.” This is Jesus’s heavenly invite to Zacchaeus, a short and dejected man, a sinner, one among the deplorable. It is also an invite to us.

I finally got a Clubhouse invite thanks to a friend’s generosity. I love the app! Today I listened in a clubhouse chat on the controversial language policies in Inner Mongolia. It was a roundtable attended by the liberal intelligentsia as well as by Marxist nationalists and social Darwinists. I find it incredibly riveting to see people from opposite sides of the parallel worlds come together and talk (and not to troll), such a rarity in a time of polarization and distrust.

However, I doubt that the public-spirited civic conversations will last very long before they turn into another echo chambers or shouting matches. The app may not even outlive the COVID-19 virus. The bidding price of clubhouse invites? It is currently ~$25 on eBay, quite a price drop from its high.

The app, the exclusive club, will one day fade into our memory, like all others. But, the heavenly invite stands…

assistant professor studying discord, distrust, and dishonesty on internet platforms. I occasionally writing about everyday tech and opensource computing.