A Life for the Lonely


Ethan Agnetti, Editor

Social Reclusiveness  is the New Trend with Young Adults

Damien wakes up at 2 P.M. on a Tuesday in August, eats a healthy breakfast consisting of a week-old half-eaten ham and cheese sandwich, and falls asleep until 8 P.M. to prepare for a night filled with scrolling endlessly through internet chat forums and videos about mindless dribble. Damien’s lifestyle may be that of a 16-year-old high schooler on summer break, but in actuality,  Damien is a 23-year-old high school dropout that has not felt the warmth of the sun on his skin in two years. Damein also hasn’t spoken to family in three years, as well as quit his last job four years ago. Damien isn’t going anywhere any time soon. 

With the current modern climate of the world, seemingly filled with hate and discrimination, it doesn’t sound too bad to take up a lifestyle of reclusiveness . The issue that comes with this is the access to modern technology, as it spreads around dangerous forms of this ideology that become clear when looking deeper into the concept of becoming a recluse in society. The concept of such a lifestyle has lead to the mainstream adoption of such ideals, even leading to the Oxford dictionary naming “Goblin Mode” as the word of the year, meaning “a type of behavior which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.” This further develops the idea of a rampant and sudden rise in so-called “Goblin”-like behavior, that is rejecting so-called societal norms in favor of more reclusive and lonely activities.  

To further examine the idea of social reclusiveness , a deeper look unearths a term used to describe people with no aspirations in life, no desire to better themselves, no wish to progress society, a term known as “NEET” or “Not in Employment, Education or Training.”  Someone who identifies as a NEET is usually between the ages of 16-29, making them either high school graduates or dropouts with no passion for either higher education or employment. NEETs do not wish to participate in modern society like most people, but would rather be in their own home, safe from the dangers of the outside world.  In 2013, there were just over 11 million NEETs in the U.S., representing 18.5% of the 16-to-29 population, according to Pew Research Center.  An astronomical number of people with no plans on how to forge forward with their life are left stranded by the large majority of people due to the unrelatable nature of their issue. 

 The issue of social reclusiveness  is so widespread that in Japan, there is a special term for their localized version of the predicament. A form of severe social withdrawal, called “hikikomori” or directly translated to “social withdrawal,” has been frequently described in Japan and is characterized by adolescents and young adults who become recluses in their parents’ homes, unable to work or go to school for months or even years. 

 This sphere of “NEETness” is different from common NEETs, as people classified as Hikikomori are defined by the Japanese Ministry of Health as “those who are neither in work nor school, do not have social interactions and are socially withdrawn for more than six months.” The key difference between NEET and Hikikomori people is the complete and total rejection of the social aspect of human life, which is a trait specific to Hikikomori people as they do not engage in any social interaction. The difference may arise from the different environments they are bred in; the Japanese Ministry of Health states, “In Japan, marginalized psychological tendencies are more likely to be associated with withdrawal and ‘internalizing’ tendencies, perhaps because it is normative to suppress strong emotions and to not disturb others too much. In other societies, marginalized youth may exhibit more ‘externalizing’ tendencies such as joining a gang, drug abuse, showing emotional outbursts, or even engaging in school shootings.” This clearly shows the different environments in which NEET and Hikimori individuals grow up and experience life.

The two ideas, that being NEETs and Hikikomoris, are similar in the age range being adults who are under 40, usually categorized as people who are full of energy for work or school, but in actuality are completely shut off from even the idea of working a normal job or living a normal life. Another similarity between these two is the rejection of mainstream attitudes or values.  A very common idea between the groups is that modern developments or ideas, such as newer movies or video games, are infinitely worse than the familiar, older video games, which have a close place in their hearts.

As shown, the problem of NEETs or Hikiomoris is one of large importance as we enter a newer, more online age. Researchers in Japan have developed a scale to assist in identifying and combating NEET/Hikiomori risk factors. The scale, known as the NEET-Hikikomori-Risk Scale, or The NHR scale for short, contextualizes various features and traits which are known to be exhibited by people on the scale.  The development of the scale was awarded national funding as well as nationwide recognition for the group’s research.  

The hope of creating a scale such as this is to extinguish the premature embers which may eventually lead into the wildfire of social reclusiveness  that is the NEET/Hikikomori lifestyle.  With the spotlight of countless researchers and government agencies on this issue, the warm sunlight is beginning to peer into Damien’s window as help is on the horizon for the millions like him across the globe. 

* Photo by Madison Sosnowski