Hikikomori is a Japanese term referring to individuals who withdraw from society, often confining themselves to their homes or bedrooms for extended periods of time.
They choose to isolate themselves from social interactions, avoiding school, work, and other public places. “Hikikomori” is not simply a form of social withdrawal, but it is viewed as a more severe phenomenon characterized by complete social withdrawal and extreme isolation, often replacing real life relationships with online ones.
The term “Hikikomori” was first used in Japan in the late 1990s. It was coined by psychologist Tamaki Saitō to describe this specific societal condition in his 1998 book, “Social Withdrawal – Adolescence Without End”.
The word itself is a combination of “hiku,” meaning “to draw” or “to pull,” and “komoru,” meaning “to come into.”
The concept emerged as a result of societal pressures, intense academic competition, and high expectations in Japanese culture. Despite it being first defined in the 1990s, the “Hikikomori” lifestyle began appearing in Japan as early as the 1970s, taking a more severe turn toward the 1980s and 1990s, especially with the rapid spread of the internet.
While “Hikikomori” is primarily associated with Japan, cases of this phenomenon have been observed in other countries as well. In recent years, the term has become more widely known and used globally to describe similar situations of extreme social withdrawal. It serves as a powerful metaphor for individuals who retreat from reality and escape into the virtual world of the internet, video games, and other forms of solitary entertainment.
With the increasing influence of the internet and technology in our lives, cases of people choosing the “Hikikomori” lifestyle are no longer limited to specific cultures. The allure of staying connected with others online while avoiding face-to-face interaction has led to the emergence of digital “Hikikomoris”. These individuals spend excessive amounts of time in their rooms, consumed by virtual friendships and virtual experiences, without actively engaging with the outside world.
Example: Imagine you wake up one day and decide to become a “Hikikomori”. You barricade yourself in your room, surrounded by piles of video games, delivery food, and anime posters. With every passing day, you feel your social skills dwindling, your courage to step outside diminishing, and your ability to understand basic social cues disappearing. You have become a “Hikikomori”, living in the shadows of society and shunning all human contact. But hey, at least you have a high score in that online game, right?
- Frontiers – Internet Addiction, Hikikomori Syndrome, and the Prodromal Phase of Psychosis
- Saitō Tamaki – Hikikomori – Adolescence without End (1998)