SWIPING AWAY TEARS: INCELS, DATING APPLICATIONS, AND SOCIAL SUPPORTS
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Little is known about involuntary celibates (incels) despite their emergence over a decade ago. It wasn’t until after multiple violent attacks took place in North America—which have since occurred elsewhere—that researchers began exploring this group of young men who congregate online. Much of this work has focused on the discourse that takes place in various incel forums, highlighting the misogynistic and entitled language used by incels in disparaging comments about women and their more successful male brethren. There is, however, a discrepancy between forum posts and the sheer volume of self-identified incels who partake in these forums, making it difficult to determine whether current qualitative and textual analyses reflect incels themselves or their online communities. Such efforts also negate the individual experiences of incels and the characteristics that they bring to these forums. The present studies sought to explore the dating application experiences of incels, their mental and relational health, social supports, feelings of loneliness, and responses to rejection. In Study 1, 38 incels and 107 non-incel males reported on several aspects of their dating applications usage as well as measures of mental health function (depression and dating anxiety) and relational health (attachment styles, fear of being single, relationship-contingent self-esteem, and rejection sensitivity). Results indicated that incels had far less success in using dating apps despite adopting more liberal criteria. Greater endorsement of mental and relational health was also present in incels, which were related to their perceived popularity on dating applications. Study 2 (67 incels, 103 non-incels) introduced the roles of social support and isolation on mental and relational health and coping. Again, incels demonstrated more detrimental outcomes than non-incels, repeating the results of Study 1 while also reporting less social support and greater feelings of loneliness. Incels also endorsed fewer healthy coping mechanisms, with the exception of venting. The results of the current program of research demonstrate the volume of adverse outcomes experienced by incels, who clearly struggle to find prosocial ways to adapt and cope with a competitive dating market. It repeatedly emphasises the role of attachment and self-image as unique predictors of incel status, which may contribute to concerning online behaviour and should be high priority items for clinicians working with this population. How these findings can be incorporated to better contextualize qualitative analyses of incel forums is also discussed.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeDesjardins, Michel; Buchanan, Carie; Hoffman, Sarah; Teucher, Ulrich