Since publishing "The Post-Individual" a few weeks ago, I've received more than 80 responses from readers sharing what they felt from reading the piece. Here’s a collection of those comments and reactions:

“First off, I want to say that I loved the piece. My favorite pieces of writing feel like reading something I suspected intuitively but had been unable to describe and this piece did just that…

“I've always viewed having a "main and an alt" as a necessary but unfortunate circumstance for living and working among people whose religious beliefs are no longer my own. Amongst friends, we laugh and mock some of the attitudes/naiveté we were raised with. At the same time, I am a natural diplomat and value relationships with family and coworkers who still believe. Many people in this situation feel that this sort of diplomacy is a bad thing (inauthenticity) since that is the logical conclusion of the idea that "merging your main and your alt is the moral thing to do". Over the past few years though, I've felt that wasn't the case. The pressure to consolidate identities seemed misguided and I felt that expressing/censoring certain ideas depending on the situation was not undesirable but in fact a natural and inevitable part of collaborating and building relationships with others.

“After reading the piece, it clicked that the authentic/inauthentic paradigm is flawed. The existence of different (even potentially contradictory) identities is not a defect, it is just an inevitable part of being alive. The pressure to merge is unnecessary. I can simultaneously feel affinity with working class farmers and skater kids at punk shows. I can simultaneously be disenchanted with religion but relate to those who aren't. These differing perspectives are a skill and a good thing.” — Dallin Skinner

“I have always found the idea of fluid identity a fascinating aspect of modern culture. I do find myself feeling a bit concerned about what this means for "the whole self" in the future. Your comment, "I’ve also experienced being on the fringe of so many worlds I don’t feel really part of anything" is a familiar feeling. I don't disagree that micro-identities are a path to belonging, but how meaningful is that long term? If we are only giving parts of ourselves in certain spaces, will this impact our sense of true belonging? While I feel optimistic about our potential to have more paths to explore our own identity, I worry that depth and real meaning might fall short if we're expending more energy on slices of ourselves rather than showing up in community fully.” — Alyssa Feuerer

The web is a super-machine at coaxing us into moulds. I’ve always been super aware of potentially losing myself and merely becoming a caricature I feed to an audience. You see it in people that become successful and just start to crave more of it in the feeds and they eventually become defined by it: posting more and more generic viral bait to feel relevant. You become moulded by others.

Knowing this and how easily one can get sucked into the information-dopamine vortex, it’s also why I don’t want to make parallel monikers or go anon with an alt. An alt can be a release for an identity you want to experiment with, but that can lead to the same feedback loops. For example, when I was younger, I was naively a bit more of a misanthrope, and if I created an alt that indulged in this, I might have spiralled into becoming that person, fully. So, in me, is many selves, and so the “I” becomes even more blurry, as “I” also negotiate with all the selves I can and want to be.

Despite me not really playing at distinctly creating separate identities, I still present different things in different contexts. On Twitter, I present differently to who I am in an obscure Discord server, which is different to who I am with family, or who I am in this newsletter, to you. We ultimately can be many more people even if we still present as the same person. In writing up a will and testament in the post-individual era means condensing *all* of us into one document: my marriage, my things, this newsletter, my family, my old lives, my lives I still hope to live, futures yet to come, and so forth. And maybe the freedom we’ve gained from being able to be many things and then being asked to condense it back into a legal document is where my unease stemmed from. But maybe that’s also where the answer comes from.  — Simon de la Rouviere in this blog post

“My primary reaction, in summary, is that I really think we are moving into a new world where for "third-orbit" affiliations, individuals are going to increasingly start interacting with collectives and not other individuals. For example, every day when I tweet on X, I think of it as "doing community service" or "saying a prayer". It's become a ritual of sorts where I get lots of new input and feedback from the collective (known as "X"). Increasingly, I don't think as myself as interacting with other people online. But rather simply interacting with raw ideas & thoughts. Humanity is evolving!  Very excited to see where we go from here!” — Robert Lin

“I read this essay a couple of weeks ago in the Dark Forest book and have been thinking about it on and off since. This line in particular really struck home because it’s become true for me in the past few years: “The internet is my social home.” Ouch. And yet not inherently bad. Just different. Thanks for articulating something true many of us are or will be grappling with. I’m happy to support your work.” — Sara Campbell

“On the post-individual visual towards the end of the essay, I'd love to see something that shows how we relate differently to ourselves and each other, as you are explaining. I understand you're going for many individuals in one, however right now it just looks like a group, which feels like where we came from.” — Vicki Tan

Wonderful essay. Love the intentionality, and the choice to share it along with the other media made the experience much richer.

I'm struck by this connection you make between Medieval social structures and the nascent internet structures that seem to echo them. I've started to investigate this connection myself over the last few months as part of an ongoing design research project; was great to hear common threads and can't wait to see and hear more of your work on the topic. 

One thought I have, and where a lot of my reading has been focused, is on the lineage of thinkers who, often referencing the Middle Ages, have attempted to preserved a more relational understanding of the self (the "person" instead of the "individual") along the way – Ruskin and Morris of the Arts & Crafts movement, G. K. Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc's Distributism, Dorothy Day's Catholic Worker movement, Ivan Illich, and contemporary "personalists" like Christopher Alexander and Jaron Lanier. I find it super interesting that most of these are what you could call "creator" movements focused on community, which I think is what makes me so interested in Metalabel's approach… — Dominic Rishe

Micro-identities may be a product of algorithm-driven user generated content. Being a Chronically Online Person (tm), I get a lot of content such as:

Clean Girl Aesthetic- an emphasis of eating lots of fruits and vegetables, elaborate skin care routines, etc.

Emo Shitposter- guilty as charged. But I also get a lot of the Emo's Not Dead videos and offshoot content of that. That one is more a celebration of emo and the subculture and community along with playing with the stereotypes of 2003-2008 emo.

General Shitposter- unfortunately, despite not being on tiktok, I still know what the latest memes are through other mediums.

Organization Guru- lots of acrylic organizers and buying and arranging things to make your house look like a grocery store

Vtuber Degenerate- refers to watching a lot of content produced by people streaming with (usually) anime character avatars with face tracking.

I suspect that the algorithms try to push us to consume more for ads to be shown and products to be purchased, and a clever, newer way is to push identifying with micro-identities with the message that we too can be a part of those communities by buying things. Additionally, there is a lot of emphasis on the self and your status and/or content, inherently thinking more about the I than We. That may be why there is a lot of virtue-signaling online, to where people comment on major political events and expect others to "use their platform" to show what side they're on. A lot of it seems to be more showing yourself to be part of the in-group and wanting celebrities and other people to be a part of your in-group too by making a statement. It's essentially emphasizing the I by "focusing" on the We without any actual action to support the We.” — Alexis Krone

We don’t know each other, I’m just taking you up on the invitation to react to The Post-Individual :) I collected the piece because I’ve always found the .zip to be a charming format for ‘open work’, and because your title prompted a connection. 

Having read the piece I am thrilled to discover that you have built out a more substantial set of references and vocabulary for a concept that I’ve been working with on-and-off for the last two years. I’ve been using the term ‘profilicity’ to mean something close to your post-individual. I got that word from a YouTube philosopher called Hans-Georg Müller. He talks about profilicity as succeeding two historical identity paradigms, which he names ‘sincerity’ and ‘authenticity’. These broadly align with your discussions of the familial, and of self-actualisation through consumption. — Gilbert Again

“The article is incredible. I think you pinpointed some crucial historical turning points, and sometimes, I'd like to understand the parallels that occurred in each case with the "consumption" of music, and whether there are parallels at all. For instance, troubadours shared family stories and were usually alone or in small groups, and with the emergence of churches, they gained historical significance (they are parallel historically). Similarly today, artists are considered "creators" who generally connect with peers or form scenes, but they are still sums of individuals. Just brainstorming

Thanks for sharing it and for being so innovative!  — Nicolas Madoery

“Like the proverbial frog in a pot of water that is gradually being heated, it is often hard to be able to observe and make sense of the evolving dynamics of our social context. I thought that this piece managed to provide a coherent and insightful lens to the experience of those of us who have been Very Online at least in the past decade—the multiplicity of our online selves; the longing for belonging within disparate online spaces; and the ephemerality and volatility of online culture. The term "post-individualism" is inherently open-ended, and I look forward to future discourse on how we can make use of this concept to enhance the way we live on the Internet”. — buffets.eth

“The role of identity and agency is a key to any democratic system. The insights provided by the lens of post-individualism might also be highlighting where we need to go to revitalise an intellectual and pluralistic middle ground in the polarised political climate.” — Martin Willers

“Loved it. It contained many ideas that have been swirling vapor in my own head, which you condensed beautifully into words on the page. Your framing of Memes as a native form of post-individual communication gave me a sense of connection with you even though we've never met. I have been thinking and writing about it myself:” — Chase Wade Snyder

“I’d to see the notion of the post individual expand into an entire book.” — Fraser Stanley

A few thoughts came to mind while reading the whole thing. First, that we have to learn to see ourself as an individual, this isn't 'natural' and we can observe this process with very young kids. Which reminds me the story of a friend: one day his daughter -around 2 year-old- came back from school and was happy to report all the friends she was in love with. While with her mother that evening, she was saying out loud "you know mum, I love Marius, I also love Leah, and I love Aline" etc. After a few minutes, her mum asked: "and what about yourself? do you love yourself?". The daughter looked at her suspiciously and answered: "of course noooo, otherwise there would be 2 Julia."I love this instinctive raw reaction. — Kev

“Reads well, and reminds me of the avatar / online self / even some of the cyberfeminism discussions on 1990s mail lists too, thanks.” — AliaK

“I’m putting it on the next syllabus” — Joshua Citerella

“Yancey, loved the essay. I listened to the audio version and It was clear how meaningful this is to you personally. I'm also trying to wrap my head around the role of the individual in the coming AI dominated world. Just finished Our Next Reality book ( Great read. It's mostly about the AI and XR future but also touches on the concept of collective super intelligence, which I've become obsessed with recently. How can AI help to advance group intelligence and coordinate group action while also celebrating the we don't become the Borg.” — Jason Glickman

“Not enough space in this box :) It’s brilliant.” — Nat Emodi

“Congrats! It's clearly visible how much time and thinking you spent on this. I think it's an important piece to understand the present. I'm not sure if you read Ezra Klein's "Why We're Polarized" - there are some interesting parallels in there as he explains how "identity politics" have completely reshaped the political landscape in the past 70 years.” — Severin Matusek

Still have to read it completely but loved the zip contents as they provide context for the piece and also the process and thought process to get there. — Diego Cobo

I think youʼre on the right track, and an important one at that. — Morgan Howard 

Spectacles and Satire: Historical Echoes in Digital Identity

Throughout history, societies have often indulged in spectacles that reflect their cultural and moral states. In ancient Rome, the grandiose gladiatorial games served to pacify and distract the populace from political and economic troubles. Similarly, during the Renaissance, European courts not only hosted feasts and masquerades but thrived on satire and ridicule as tools of power, subtly critiquing and reinforcing societal structures.

Today, in the era Yancey calls post-individualism, I believe we navigate a digital coliseum where identities are fragmented across various platforms, creating a spectacle of selves that is both liberating and bewildering. Yancey suggests that this could evolve into new forms of community and collective identity, where digital personas gain unprecedented influence, but I don’t see it.

Psychologically, I believe such an existence will prove unsustainable. The human psyche, as Freud outlined with his concepts of the id, ego, and superego, struggles for balance and coherence. The id, seeks immediate gratification and thrives in the unchecked expanses of the internet, the id loves TikTok.  The ego (watches the spectacle of the evening news, and enjoyed seeing its foes ridiculed) tries to maintain some sort of balance with our superego.  Our superego, the moral compass, works overtime to ensure our actions align with societal norms and personal ethics. This part of our psyche urges us to fact-check before sharing information and to consider the broader implications of our online behavior. As the digital age propels the id and ego into new realms of immediate gratification and public spectacle, the superego struggles to keep pace, potentially leading to a psychological imbalance. This internal conflict, exacerbated by digital fragmentation, suggests that we may not withstand the psychological strain for much longer.

As history has shown, when the spectacle overshadows substance, a societal backlash is inevitable. This impending backlash against digital superficiality may drive a resurgence in the pursuit of authentic, meaningful engagements. For example, the collapse of Rome wasn't just due to external invasions; it was also undermined by internal decay, including a populace distracted by games and spectacles, which eroded civic engagement and responsibility. Similarly, the excessive indulgence in ridicule and satire in European courts often led to political instability, as superficial court life failed to address deeper societal issues. These historical episodes underscore how societies can reach critical points where a return to substantive values becomes necessary. This reflection might prompt us today to seek a deeper connection with reality, perhaps by turning to the tangible and thoughtful experience of reading a physical book. — Mark Annett