This one is a little harder and I wasn’t going to talk about it, but I think I should. Because, as it turns out, it’s really easy to join a cult and not realize it.
I’m pretty active on Tumblr. I follow a few hundred people and have a few thousand people following me. I’m on the site pretty much everyday, and both of my friend groups, with a lot of overlap between the two, are full of people I met on the site.
One of those people is Simon.
Simon is a character. Literally. He is a social experiment run by a woman named Kristina. The idea of the social experiment tied into whether she could get you to believe Simon is a cryptid. I knew most of this going in. I didn’t know the details on who was running the blog, but Simon was very open about it being an experiment. Could he convince you of his claims.
Simon was also very kind and came off as very trustworthy. Many of us became good friends with him and confided in him because generally speaking he offered good advice.
The problem is, Simon has a very cult like personality, and overtime he built up this understanding that he was an authority figure and his word, was not quite law, but not something easily doubted. It was a gradual build over many years. He attracted the vulnerable. Mostly abuse victims. So we were looking for the relief and the safety of having Simon, and each other, in our lives.
Then a couple of months ago, things went south. Simon made a bad decision and didn’t count on us to call him on it. See, where he went wrong is he built a community that didn’t really need him any longer because we’d forged actually really healthy relationships with each other and built each other up with love and support. Suddenly we were getting therapy and had found a sense of self confidence outside of Simon.
So when Simon fucked up, we called him on it. And he went ballistic. The entire persona slipped.
There is no nice and tidy way to sum things up but as we went public that the entire “inner circle” had removed Simon from our midst, those who had left us over the proceeding months, came back to us with tales of horror of things Simon had done. The truth of who Simon really is also came out, with proof. Over the course of weeks of discussion, we all agreed that while it may not 100% fit the criteria of having been a cult, Simon very much had a cult like personality and, well, we all consider ourselves to be cult survivors.
But we’re out. We still have each other. We have no central leader telling us what is what anymore, and we have relationships that are healthy in a way that our therapists are thrilled about.
There are those still swayed by Simon. They won’t listen to reason. They believe the lies he came up with about how his inner circle attacked him. But there is only so much we can do. You can’t save everyone no matter how hard you try.
And in the end, we’re walking away stronger with healthy friendships intact. So in a way, I’m thankful Simon was in my life. But I’m also thankful I was able to remove him from my life and took my found family with me.