Men who have found a sense of belonging in the 'incel' community are now reportedly trying to leave what's become a "toxic" culture.
'Incel' stands for involuntarily celibate, and refers to people who are romantically or sexually unsuccessful. These people - mostly men - congregate in online spaces such as Reddit and 4chan, where they indulge in pessimistic discussions about their own loneliness.
The forums are rife with misogyny, as incels tend to blame women for not being attracted to them rather than focusing on self-improvement.
Metro spoke to several men who are part of such spaces but now want to leave. While many people find comfort in talking to others in their situation, some feel incel forums are counterproductive to their own mental health.
'Anton' (not his real name) told the website he joined incel groups because of insecurity about his appearance as a short black man. Incels abide by a very strict hierarchy of attractiveness, and believe only tall conventionally good-looking white men have a chance of finding a partner.
Members often ridicule each other with offensive insults, using terms like 'ricecel' (Asian incels), 'currycels' (Indians) and 'mentalcels', meaning people who believe their lack of romantic success is due to their mental illness.
"This place was a heaven for me in the first few months, but then it slowly became an inescapable hell," Anton told Metro, saying the constant degradation wore him down.
"I'm trying to wean myself off of inceldom communities but it's so hard when you've basically conditioned yourself to think that you're a part of a community, even when over half of that community is basically an alt-right haven that would try to shoot you in the event of a mass shooting."
He says the endless negativity and loathing towards women became draining, calling it a "pretty toxic community".
Other young men spoke to Metro about wanting to distance themselves from the forums.
"The community can be too much - too abusive, too self-deprecating," one says.
"Nobodywants to be an incel, it's not like we can choose," another says.
Metro also interviewed Dr Rakib Ehsan, an expert on radicalisation and terrorism, who says it's possible for incels to be 'deprogrammed'.
"A starting point would be providing such young men with a greater sense of 'real-life' belonging and encouraging them to adopt a more optimistic and hopeful mindset which is based on personal responsibility and economic self-sufficiency," he says. "And in a way, that actually makes them more 'marketable' in a dating sense."
Incels rose to public consciousness in recent years after several high-profile mass killings by men who frequented the forums.
Elliot Rodger, 22, murdered six people at his California university before turning the gun on himself. His online 'manifesto' detailed how he resented being a virgin and vowed to take revenge on women who he felt had rejected him.
In 2018, a man rammed a van into pedestrians in Toronto, killing 10 people. The suspect, 25-year-old Alek Minassian, allegedly cited Rodger as the inspiration for the attack and used incel slang such as 'Chad' (attractive man) and 'Stacy' (attractive woman).