Role exit is a complex process that can be especially complicated for extremists, whose identities are stigmatized. Such stigmatization often leads extremists to seek refuge in “free spaces” where they may insulate themselves from the mainstream and celebrate their ideology amongst likeminded individuals. Yet, stigma may also push those who desire to exit an extremist role to seek out their own free spaces where they can disengage from extremist ideology with others who wish to disengage. In this study, we analyze posts obtained from two Incel digital forums: a forum of active Incels and a forum of exiting Incels. We compared the ways that active and exiting Incels use free spaces to situate themselves inside or outside of this extremist community. Our analysis demonstrates that free spaces, which social movement scholars argue foster commitment among extremists, may offer exiting extremists insulation from active extremists while also keeping them tethered to hostile ideology.

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