Examining incel subculture on Reddit

The online presence of incels, or involuntary celibates, has been an increasing security concern for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers in recent years, given that self-identified incels – including Alek Minassian and Elliot Rodger – used the Internet to disseminate incel ideology and manifestos prior to committing acts of violence. However, little is empirically known about the incel movement in general or their online communities in particular. The present study draws from a set of comments from r/Incels, a now defunct but once popular subreddit dedicated to the incel community, and compares the most highly-upvoted comments (n = 500) to a random set of other comments (n = 500) in the subreddit. This qualitative analysis focuses on identifying subcultural discourse that is widely supported and engaged with by members of the online community and the extent to which incels utilize this online space to reaffirm deviant behavior. Our study underscores the importance, as well as the difficulties, of drawing from online sources like web-forums to generate new knowledge on deviant communities and behaviors. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of this analysis, its limitations, and avenues for future research.

Tags: Incel, Reddit, subreddit