From the beginning, I’ve said that the future of social media belongs to audio. A particular memory of my generation that may be unique (GenX) is that of having long conversations with friends or love interests with a long cord.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll explain. When I was a teenager and wanted to talk with my friends - we didn’t have cell phones, apps, IRC, chat, Facebook, Messenger, or any other technological marvel - but every family had a hard wired telephone in their house - usually mounted on the wall. I’m not talking some fancy push button phone, I’m talking about a rotary dial hard plastic phone about the same size as a toaster with a goofy handheld ear and mouthpiece.
I remember going to the phone company with my mom and looking at all the floor models as she paid the phone bill. This is a really strange memory because it sort of merges with going into a modern T-Mobile or Apple store and looking at phones but as a little kid, I was looking at these brightly colored toaster sized phone units.
My parents had a phone in their bedroom so they could have private conversations. The phone in our kitchen (mounted on the wall) had a coil stretch cord that must have been twenty feet long. So, we would call our friend (put your finger in the dial hole for ‘5’ spin it around and wait for it to return, then the rest of the numbers (7-digits for local) - it was a long process. Then the ringing. Most people didn’t have call waiting or an answering machine in my town. Then a parent or sibling would answer. Then we would use our polite phone skills “May I speak to Becky please?” if a parent answered or “Is Becky there?” if it were an older sibling or “Let me talk to Becky” if it was a known younger sibling.
And that was where the joyful part began. Once we had our friend or crush on the phone we would take the handset and stretch it out as far as we could go to find a private place. Ours stretched into the garage or into the bathroom if you didn’t mind creating a trip wire for someone else. Then we would sit on the phone, holding that thing to our ears for hours. I certainly don’t use the phone like that today. My calls are short and usually to the point. Sometimes I’ll spend an hour catching up with a friend but I’ll have ear buds or have it on speaker for that - none of the intimate holding the phone to your head stuff. None of the giggles and whispers.
The thing with those calls is that they were intimate. The sound of our friend’s voices were a part of the friendship - the way they laughed or whispered or told a story. Voice is so incredibly powerful. Phone calls will always be with us - even if they don’t have twenty foot long coil cords attached to them. I’m convinced that much of the dilemma we are facing in social media has to do with the way that our voices have been disconnected from our personas.
I’m really happy to see Clubhouse succeeding in this space. They are offering a different experience than the one that Ron and I are preparing with VoiceMarkr. The way Clubhouse works is you are presented with ‘rooms’ and when you enter one, you can then engage in talking and listening - it’s pretty cool. It’s a bit like interactive podcasting and it’s live. I love that they’ve decided to make it live.
We are going in a different direction. We want these voice conversations to be more than just in the moment - don’t misunderstand me - in the moment is really cool - it’s just not where we are heading. Think of VoiceMarkr more as a box of audio letters. If you’ve ever read a series of letters between two humans - maybe your grandparents or John and Abigail Adams - then you might understand what I mean.
I won’t go too deep into it - but hopefully this walk down memory lane has either shared something outside your experience or brought back a warm memory or two of your own.
We’re going to get back to work now. Maybe we’ll see you in Clubhouse. Or maybe we’ll catch you later in VoiceMarkr.
CEO - Iwahai, Inc.