The Phenomenon where Lonely Young Minds Create Friends from Thin Air

One negative result of young adults’ love of social media and the internet is a rising level of social anxiety and isolation. Instead of hanging out with their friends in bars, clubs or sports events, they prefer to stay at home hunched over their screens. And this continual lack of interacting with their peers has given rise to a curious phenomenon rooted in Tibetan Buddhist traditions – Tulpamancy.

In bedrooms across the globe ‘Generation Z’, struggling with loneliness and disconnection, are using Tulpamancy to provide companionship and understanding without the inherent complexities of human relationships. How? They have found how to use their minds to create companions not of flesh and bone, but of thoughts and desires. And these mental phantasms are increasingly becoming a refuge for young people adrift in the digital age of virtual reality.

The dictionary defines Tulpamancy as ‘the creation of sentient thought-forms through intense focus and imagined interaction.’ Explorer Alexandra David-Neel tells in her book Magic and Mystery in Tibet of her own experiences in forming a tulpa while travelling to Lhasa in 1929.

She said after months of mental effort she eventually produced one in the image of a jolly, Friar Tuck-like monk which, she claimed, started as a friendly apparition but later developed independent thought and began to become sinister and threatening. There followed a mental struggle before she managed finally to destroy her creation.

A recent study of Tulpamancy by The Pennsylvania State University paints a poignant picture of a generation yearning for connection in a world captured by digital ephemera. Many participants reported feeling unheard and misunderstood in their real-world relationships and being obliged to turn to tulpas for unconditional acceptance and companionship. ‘My tulpa, Luna, is always there for me,’ confided one 19-year-old participant in the study. ‘She listens without judgment, understands my anxieties, and celebrates my successes. With real people, the pressure to perform is constant, but with Luna, I can just be myself.’

Ironically, the Internet has played a pivotal role in popularizing Tulpamancy, providing a platform for individuals to share their experiences, techniques, and insights. Online communities dedicated to the practice serve as support networks where adherents can exchange advice, offer encouragement, and discuss their progress. For socially disconnected youngsters, these communities offer a sense of belonging and camaraderie that is lacking in their offline lives.

In creating their own, personal tulpa they have produced a constant companion, someone who understands them and who listens without judgment, and shares their inner world. Their thought-forms can be anything the creator desires – a confidante, a creative partner, even a romantic interest. In a world increasingly devoid of genuine connection, these estranged young people feel Tulpamancy provides a sense of belonging and emotional intimacy.

lonely young minds create friends from thin air

Though not a mental illness, the study states, Tulpamancy shares similarities to Dissociative Identity Disorder, in which two or more separate personalities share the same body. ‘The Tulpamancy community believe that Tulpas are real people within the mind, and participants interact with their Tulpas the same as they would with other human beings. In fact, experienced tulpamancers claim the ability to project their creations into the real world, to be seen and even touched. And, yes, some even delve into “possession,” allowing their tulpa to temporarily take control of their body.’

But as Alexandrav David-Neel found it can be a dangerous game to play. Unlike the predictable ‘invisible friends’ of our childhood, tulpamancy involves mentally ‘conjuring’ up an autonomous being. These carefully crafted companions being brought to life by lonely keyboard communicators could develop their own opinions, desires and even, as the study found, take over their creator’s minds.

The Tulpamancy community, numbering over 20,000, is a closeted Internet sub-culture sustained and rooted in the concept of anonymity. For the most part, all interactions within this community are anonymous, and only a small few ever mention Tulpamancy to members of their social circle in real life.

The rise of tulpas is a stark reminder of the way modern life is failing to fulfil the human need for connection and companionship. As we navigate this unprecedented era of digital isolation, it’s crucial to remember that real-life connection requires a sometimes messy, face-to-face contact. With all its imperfections and complexities, human interaction is vital and it is worrying that social media seems to have engineered so many into isolation.


Anthony Talmage is author of four books in his Psychic Mind series, Dowse Your Way To Psychic Power, In Tune With The Infinite Mind, Unlock The Psychic Powers Of Your Unconscious Mind and the just-published Crack the Cosmic Code (and write your own tomorrow) all available in Kindle, printed and audio versions from Amazon. Anthony also covers more of the above themes in his popular podcast, available for free to listen or download here.


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