The good news is we’re now on the last section of this series. The bad news is we still have another ten more posts. However, this section involves the ten most common themes of life in a destructive cult. Each post will focus on a theme; how it feels to be inside such a group, and how it can affect emotions, behavior and thinking. In the original set of posts there were a lot more details regarding Delphi members and situations; I stepped away from that with this set in general.

The audience was different obviously; the names and situations would be meaningless to anyone reading the posts now. Back then, the Delphi members themselves were the audience and they knew the people and situations I was referring to as well as I. Truth to tell, eleven years later, there were some situations originally described that looking back on the original posts now, I have no idea what I was talking about either.

 

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This meme has absolutely nothing to do with the topic. I just love the picture and its one of my favorite quotes from the film. 😉

But there was something I did in the original set of posts with the Delphi members that I would like to share in this post. In the original (corresponding) post to this one, I stepped away from naming names and kept the details of situations to as much of a minimum as possible because I was looking to get a different kind of point across. I wanted to move the original audience away from the details of specific events and situations because back then, details were often used to confuse and isolate.

It was pretty common for people to start out trying to resolve something by addressing details in the forums of Delphi, only to have the conversation deliberately derailed. Individuals would get stuck, blind to the forest for all of the proverbial trees. In an environment where it is ingrained in members to accuse first and assign blame wherever it could be made to stick, and the devil was always in the details, the details had to be removed from the examples.

The members needed to have a discussion that focused on the what, the how, and the why, and one that stepped away from the who of “The Delphi Game”. I was looking to break the cycle of “The Delphi Game”, not exchange roles and replace individuals that had been caught being shady on an internet server, for no reason other than, they could. Eleven years ago everyone’s opinions were biased, mine included, and everyone had been affected negatively.

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There is something to be said for not becoming part of a vicious cycle.

In the original corresponding post, I acknowledged we all had to stop pointing fingers and laying blame, and start taking responsibility for what we all got caught up in. We had to put ourselves on pause and examine how we responded to the Delphi indoctrination process on an individual level, in what way, and why. For that, we needed to recognize ourselves in these themes Steven Hassan was talking about; and this was best done privately, focusing on our own roles.

We all needed to see ourselves in these themes, in the context of a bigger picture. If we had been in other places on the internet, how would we have acted or reacted to “The Delphi Game”? Would we have looked at it the same way? How would we have acted or reacted if what had been going on in Delphi online had instead been happening offline? What made Delphi different? Was Delphi different? The answers weren’t meant for group discussion but instead, solitary introspection.

After eleven years and seeing the same dynamic everywhere else on the internet, I am certain Delphi was not really all that different. Smaller, more intimate or at least as intimate as an online server can be but otherwise not that different. Individuals came to the server looking for something; attachment perhaps, maybe validation, approval, support, a social circle of sorts; perhaps just deep conversation. What are people looking for on social media today?

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Maybe what people are looking for is connection, meaning, and purpose.

Opinions and mileage may vary, but maybe what they were looking for on Delphi then and what they are looking for on Twitter, and Facebook, and YouTube, and every other online community of sorts on the internet is a voice. Or maybe its connection and kinship; something deeper than the superficial bullshit they get offline, every day, from everyone they know, trying to float a personal brand and a public image.

Someone in Delphi once told me that the people who got hurt on the internet didn’t matter because they weren’t real; they were just “pixel people”. I thought the statement was incredibly sociopathic and sad. There are real people on the other end of internet profiles, computer monitors and keyboards. Maybe people who think that other people aren’t real because there is a computer and distance involved in communication should check their assumptions and biases.

We don’t dehumanize people who communicate across long distances by telephone. We don’t dehumanize people who communicate across long distances by letter and postal carrier. People who market themselves by way of personal brand and public image on LinkedIn are not considered “pixel people”. No, that’s considered “establishing online, social media presence”. Truth is there are plenty of offline relationships that are shallow, superficial, fake and phony.

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Of how to think logically, rationally, and free from the influence of other people. Especially, people that are handpicked for their entertainment value and sex appeal.

Nobody ever questions that. Somewhere, at some point, someone influential said “things were better and people were more real before the internet”. No, no they weren’t. People were just as shallow, superficial, fake and phony; it was just easier to talk smack behind other people’s backs without getting caught back then. The idea of “better days before the internet” is sour grapes and bullshit from people either too lazy or too intimidated by today’s technology, hoping it will go away, or else they have negative bias to hide.

In any case, feel free to consider the themes in the next ten posts through the lens of your own online (and/or offline) experiences in general or in the context of a favorite internet community or social media site. Perhaps you have your own Delphi to draw a comparison to. Enjoy, feel free to like, share, comment, and thanks for reading.

 

***This is part 20 of a series of posts on cults and cult indoctrination online. It will focus on the book that played such an integral role in ending the indoctrination process on the Delphi Forums server; Combatting Cult Mind Control by Steven Hassan. This series will be heavily revised and updated; the purpose is to show that Delphi is not unique.

The same process occurs elsewhere on the internet; Al-Qaeda and Islamic State did not invent it; they did not even innovate it. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, none of these sites were first to find themselves the vehicles of fake news, propaganda, or truth decay. There are much bigger cults out in the world; awareness is key to stopping the cycles.