This story cannot be that common statistically, but the theme of "Wokeness turned out to be as bad as my fundamentalist church" has popped up over the years, especially recently. The article is long, and I apologise. But it is not the author's intended theme that jumped out at me, but the whole concept of the artificial social media world that some young people are living in. Perhaps it is more common in those subcultures such as the sexual self-definition ones, where identity might require a separation from shared reality to sustain itself. It is right in line with Haidt and Lukianoff's Coddling of the American Mind, which shows evidence that the break from reality kept increasing until the HS Class of 2014, the first cohort to have had devices since middle school, and thus throughout their years of social development outside the family. Suicide, depression, and anxiety disorders exploded in this group and have remained high since.
This came up over at Grim's a few weeks ago, and while it is not a brand new idea to us, it is troubling me more. I keep thinking that such artificial worlds cannot remain aloft indefinitely, that they must plummet back to earth eventually. Yet perhaps they can. The emotional cost may be high, even devastating, but apparently it can be maintained, at least among some. Dale Kuehne, a friend from years ago who is a professor at St Anselm, wrote a book late in 2009 that has turned out to be prescient, Sex and the iWorld, about the change in relationships in the digital age. He pointed out then that it is a new thing for people, including especially the young, to define themselves without reference to input from others. You can lay claim to a gender even if your family and every friend you ever had tells you you are mistaken.
The conversations Appel describes over at Quillette seem to come from a sci-fi dystopian world, or something out of Tolkien or Lewis where a character has lost his identity, submerged in the will of another. They seem to be reciting or enacting roles rather than inhabiting flesh. Frankly, it sounds like some descriptions of possession. But it is not fiction. It may be filtered through an unsympathetic recorder, but the curious thing is that this recorder has OCD, so the content is especially likely to be accurate, even if the interpretation may be skewed.
We are somewhat used to the already-alarming idea that even normal children may be having their social development harmed, their identities weakened by living in two worlds, one of flesh and one in the ether. That some may even too equally inhabit those worlds we have heard, and worried. Yet I don't think I had fully grasped that there might be some whose lives were not merely dominated by their social media life and identity, but that it might even consume the original host, the human being born into the world as a baby two decades before. It is like encountering the Tragedian and Dwarf in The Great Divorce, or Weston in Perelandra, or the Mouth of Sauron or Grima Wormtongue in LOTR. Chilling.