Yeah, it does feel like the sentiment around FIRE has changed quite a bit. Here are a few theories:
1. Google made a major algorithm change in 2019 that prioritized "Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness" (EAT) and specifically targeted sites that talk about things that can impact "Your Money or Your Life". No, not the book. But topics like current events, medicine, and finance that it felt could have a high real-world impact on searchers. I know that my traffic immediately fell and that other far more prominent finance-oriented blogs like Monevator experienced the same as Google decided to push people towards mainstream sources like Morningstar and Fidelity for investing information. The end result is that any ideas outside of the mainstream were penalized in search, and it would not surprise me at all if the same thing happened with retirement/FI information. Long story short, many of the most insightful FI sources are likely being throttled in the name of "safety".
2. For better or worse, it feels like FI doesn't really have a leader at the moment. I got on board right about the time that Jacob was handing the baton to MMM for the everyday writing. But now that MMM has shifted from talking about saving and biking and building your own stuff to living in planned communities with a luxury SUV, I would argue he is no longer in touch with the mass FI market. The MMM forum has noticeably shifted to a smaller FatFIRE group, which anecdotally points to a clear shift in his audience from broad appeal to something more niche. Of course, MMM is free to live his life in any way that makes him happy! But I think having someone for the average person to look up to would help, and there's room for someone new to step up.
3. The economy is no longer in easy growth mode, which affects things in two ways. First, when you're struggling to pay rent and feed your family, luxury ideas like financial independence are the first to go. And second, I think even among the self-motivated and successful FIRE crowd, a lot of them got lazy with the default "VTI and Chill" idea and never really learned about proper risk management. So when a real market downswing finally arrived, they weren't prepared and are more likely to just keep working and view FI as unrealistic right now.
4. Related to 3, I think the over-simplified financialization of FI probably hurt its resilience in the long run. When the larger FI message shifted away from "don't be so dependent on income" to "put your faith in taking 4% out of VTI every year", I think the concept got a little too watered down. It reached more people, but it didn't necessarily teach them all they need to confidently retire when markets aren't booming.
5. I also think there are some generational things going on. FI took off when the corporate/career/pension mindset shifted to the idea of independently financing your own freedom. But young people today are raised in a much more victim-oriented culture, which naturally makes them more likely to reject any self-empowerment pitch out of hand. It may take new approaches to reconnect with different generations.
In any case, my own FIRE is going fine. I'm always thankful for Jacob and the group here for helping to point me in the right direction. So even as things change around us, keep doing what you're doing. It really does make a difference.