Discord, Clubhouse, and the future of connection--- April 2021
The term "social media" generally came into vogue after Facebook and Twitter became major forces in the public consciousness, but thinking that digital connection began in Mark Zuckerberg's dorm room would be incorrect. The internet has always been social: from AOL chatrooms to IRC discussion servers, from webrings to email lists, and especially MSN messenger, people have always found a way to leverage the fundamental architecture of the internet to trade information, ideas, and tools. Our fascination with the current solutions - Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube especially - is understandable, but it seems people are growing weary of the status quo.
The dangers of modern social media have been top-of-mind ever since the Brexit referendum upset and the 2016 United States Presidential Election. Many of us know the issues: echo chambers, false information, polarization, addiction, cyberbullying, cancel culture, FOMO, and so on. However, despite the opportunity for innovation, viable alternatives to Facebook and Twitter have not taken root until fairly recently.
I want to briefly discuss two alternatives which I have begun using. I strongly prefer both over all other forms of social media I have used.
Reminiscent of the IRC chatroom of the "old internet", Discord is a chat-based medium where users congregate on servers dedicated to a specific topic or cause. Once you join a server, you can take part in discussions happening in a number of "channels", or chat rooms, or join voice chat rooms.
The thing that I like about Discord is that the administrators of a server have the power to create channels dedicated to specific topics. This holds space for rich group discussions on complex topics, such as theology and politics.