Incels are involuntarily celibate men who define themselves as unable to find a romantic or sexual partner.
Some experience hatred towards women for ‘denying’ them sex, while others use online communities as Reddit and 4chan to vent about their struggles.
In recent years, the community has been propelled to the limelight following violent acts committed by self-labelled incels.
That has worried another corner of the internet occupied by men who identify as Forever Aloners. Like incels, they inhibit online spaces where they recount their experiences struggling to form romantic relationships and search for camaraderie.
But they’re keen to stress the differences between the two communities.
Recently, Metro.co.uk uncovered reasons why the incel community is so appealing to its followers despite obvious problems with masochism and racism as well as talking exploring why some men are trying to wean themselves off it.
Since then, some men have contacted us to explain how Forever Alone (FA) communities are completely different and people should not conflate the two.
Paul*, (aged 35+) emailed Metro.co.uk to tells us he’s a Forever Aloner who just craves human companionship. Sex isn’t his main focus – even when he paid for it, he ended up ‘crying and cuddling’ the woman.
He says sex is the focus for incels, who are so condemned on FA forums that they’re banned.
He explains: ‘Forever Aloners tend to be in a similar situation as incels but without any of the adolescent/toxic nonsense that incels spout (Chad, Stacy, etc) nor the hatred and hostility.
‘There is a tension between the incels and FAs because incels are banned from Forever Alone discussion boards.
‘Forever Aloners tend to be people who have failed at dating – adult virgins, those with Asperger’s, the mentally ill, etc. We don’t “blame” women, nor are we fixated on sex (no more than anyone else is).’
People end up as Forever Alone for a variety of reasons but the commonality is a lack of connection with other people.
There are different levels of being FA – many have no one at all in their life (no friends, family, or love interest), others have regular friendship networks but have never had a romantic relationship.
Paul, who works at a university and earns a good income, is indifferent to sex but craves human companionship.
He adds: ‘I have dated for only a few months or so in my 35+ years and that was all 16 years ago. I am profoundly introverted, and simply can’t talk to women that way.
‘The dating world is not anywhere nearly as forgiving for men with lifelong mental illnesses as it is for women.
‘I don’t think I’m a bad person. I’m not some sort of basement dweller. I’m caring and kind by disposition. I shower and groom daily, I’m polite and pleasant. I’m the quintessential nice guy.’
Paul highlights the thing that sets him, as well as other FA members, apart from incels: responsibility.
‘I don’t have any hatred whatsoever for women,’ he says. ‘The problems I have are all due to my own failings.’
He reveals that he has poor mental health and reliance on alcohol, which he knows only he can get help for. He isn’t looking for the ‘perfect woman’ to offer emotional labour. He wants to get better for himself.
How can people on Forever Alone forums help themselves?
Dr Shaun Davis, a professor at the University of Nottingham and co-author of Positive Mental Health, tells Metro.co.uk some ways FA followers can help better themselves.
‘Train to become more positive – it’s easy to lose balance because you can have a month of great days and one bad day can throw it all off-kilter.
‘Keep perspective. Get objectivity by stepping outside of yourself.
‘Personally, I’ll make notes on something, stand back from myself and self-reflect.
‘If I need to get some headspace, I get the dogs and go for a walk in the woods to process issues/challenges and approach. But I need to get away from the thing affecting me.
‘There’s no one size fits all solution, you have to understand what’s caused the problem.’
Some of his recommendations include actively trying to immerse yourself in social situations such as community events, the gym, and generally expanding social interactions.
Connect with people with similar interests, a book club, a mindfulness activity, things that interest you. If you have social anxiety, speak to GP, get support, and explore medication if you can.
From chatting to FAs, one thing seems clear – they take ownership of their shortcomings, unlike incels who often accuse women of racism and misogyny, and blame their rejection on an ethnic hierarchy of ‘Tyrones’, ‘ricecels’ and ‘currycels’.
Another male FA user, Bob, tells us he’s been FA for most of his life since being homeschooled in the fourth grade.
Similarly to Paul, Bob blames himself for not having anyone in his life.
‘I have nobody to text; nobody to hang out with on the weekends,’ he explains. ‘My parents support and encourage me, but at the end of the day, my FA status comes from myself.
‘I believe the incel community place the blame on others rather than themselves. They refuse to take responsibility for their lives.
‘It took me years to realise the only thing that can change our status is for us to take responsibility and do something. I have failed to take responsibility for my situation, which, I believe, is why I’m still FA.’
Bob adds that the incel community consists of people who primarily blame their status on women.
In comparison, he says, ‘the FA community has more open-minded individuals who give encouragement and important advice.’
Like other FAs, Bob goes through mental fluctuations where he feels content and other times where he’s disconnected from the world.
To alleviate some of that loneliness, he goes on these forums, which he feels can be a positive avenue of escape. He’s also starting to see the positives of being free of a romantic relationship.
He tells us: ‘With no friends, there is so much time to learn whatever I want to do without interruption.’
But a 19-year-old user on a Reddit FA group expresses the opposite sentiment.
He tells Metro.co.uk: ‘I joined FA simply because it was what comforted my worries. But it’s kind of funny because the FA sub created most of my worries.
‘When I discovered the sub I realized my wishful thinking of “the right person will come along one day” was wrong, and that by sitting around, nothing was going to happen
‘But joining hasn’t helped. It’s done me more harm than good.’
Dr Davis, a professor at the University of Nottingham, thinks these spaces reinforce negative behaviours and encourages followers to leave them altogether.
‘These sites help perpetuate these behaviours by continuing a negative spiral when followers label themselves “forever alone”,’ he says.
‘There is a mental toll for reinforcing negative behaviour, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby they talk themselves into being forever alone.
‘These users need to ask why they’re on FA sites – Is it an alternative to reaching out, for attention to show others their struggle? Because they genuinely don’t know what to do about it?’.
He recommends identifying what’s at the heart of isolation, such as poor self-esteem or badly regulated mental health.
Getting a change of environment might help – which means logging out and leaving the computer.
*Names have been changed.
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