Exploring the extent of the hikikomori phenomenon on twitter: Mixed methods study of western language tweets
Keywords: 
Social isolation
Loneliness
Hikikomori
Hidden youth
Social media
Twitter
Social withdrawal
Issue Date: 
2019
Publisher: 
JMIR Publications Inc.
ISSN: 
1438-8871
Note: 
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on http://www.jmir.org/, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.
Citation: 
Pereira-Sánchez, V. (Víctor); Álvarez-Mon, M.Á. (Miguel Ángel); Barco, A.A. (Angel Asunsolo) del; et al. "Exploring the extent of the hikikomori phenomenon on twitter: Mixed methods study of western language tweets". Journal of Medical Internet Research. 21 (5), 2019, e14167
Abstract
Background: Hikikomori is a severe form of social withdrawal, originally described in Japan but recently reported in other countries. Debate exists as to what extent hikikomori is viewed as a problem outside of the Japanese context. Objective: We aimed to explore perceptions about hikikomori outside Japan by analyzing Western language content from the popular social media platform, Twitter. Methods: We conducted a mixed methods analysis of all publicly available tweets using the hashtag #hikikomori between February 1 and August 16, 2018, in 5 Western languages (Catalan, English, French, Italian, and Spanish). Tweets were first classified as to whether they described hikikomori as a problem or a nonproblematic phenomenon. Tweets regarding hikikomori as a problem were then subclassified in terms of the type of problem (medical, social, or anecdotal) they referred to, and we marked if they referenced scientific publications or the presence of hikikomori in countries other than Japan. We also examined measures of interest in content related to hikikomori, including retweets, likes, and associated hashtags. Results: A total of 1042 tweets used #hikikomori, and 656 (62.3%) were included in the content analysis. Most of the included tweets were written in English (44.20%) and Italian (34.16%), and a majority (56.70%) discussed hikikomori as a problem. Tweets referencing scientific publications (3.96%) and hikikomori as present in countries other than Japan (13.57%) were less common. Tweets mentioning hikikomori outside Japan were statistically more likely to be retweeted (P=.01) and liked (P=.01) than those not mentioning it, whereas tweets with explicit scientific references were statistically more retweeted (P=.01) but not liked (P=.10) than those without that reference. Retweet and like figures were not statistically significantly different among other categories and subcategories. The most associated hashtags included references to Japan, mental health, and the youth. Conclusions: Hikikomori is a repeated word in non-Japanese Western languages on Twitter, suggesting the presence of hikikomori in countries outside Japan. Most tweets treat hikikomori as a problem, but the ways they post about it are highly heterogeneous.

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