“Don’t leave the room, don’t make a mistake!” – Who would have thought that the illustration of Joseph Brodsky’s famous poem would be neither a movie nor a play, but a whole category of people who have decided to confine their lives outside the four walls. In Russia, such people would be called recluse, in the United States, basement dwellers, and in Great Britain, the “no-no generation” (they don’t study or work), but in Japan they have created a term that unites everything: hikkikomori.
Hikkikomori or simply hikki are people whose social activity is reduced to a minimum, but whose Internet activity breaks records, because virtual content completely replaces interaction with people around, provides employment, and in rare cases even earnings. Why rarely? Because most of the time hickies are dependents, supporting their families until they reach adulthood. You need at least minimal social activity to make a decent living, and hicks avoid it with all their might.
It may seem that laziness, infantilism, and unfit for life are the only things that motivate a hickey’s seclusion, but that is a big misconception. Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, sociophobia, agoraphobia, autism spectrum disorders are just a partial list of reasons why even simple daily socializing turns into torture for someone. On top of that, mental disorders in modern society, and especially in such a strict and conservative country as Japan, are subject to a strong social stigma, which makes treatment seem pointless, and all the person does instead of seeking psychological help is to drive himself into a dead-end, into the abyss of escapism.
But why are we only talking about Japan? Practice shows that the phenomenon of hikikomori is spread all over the world and has its own cultural influence, even something like a subculture. In Russia, for example, mostly young people whose introversion, reticence and shyness prevent them from an active social life, but the lack of communication is more than compensated by social networks: there are many thematic communities in VKontakte; the largest of them – Hikikomori – is constantly updated and shares links to talented artists, interesting movies, manga, anime, music and much more. By the way, the atmosphere in the community is friendly and intelligent.
Hikkikomori is not an insult, as is commonly believed. It is a way of life. Forced and perhaps not the most pleasant, but a way of life. Is there a life within four walls? How do you survive on unemployment? Hickeys know the answers.
If you look more broadly, you can come to the conclusion that hikkokomori is not a new cultural phenomenon at all, but only a well-forgotten old one. The hickey is the Oblomov of our time. Remember his reclusiveness? The inability to apply his knowledge? Social awkwardness? There it is. True, today’s Oblomov-hikkas have an obvious advantage – access to the Internet and its endless resources for a more productive pastime, as opposed to lying on the couch around the clock. An example of this is Anatoly Wasserman, one of the most erudite and most reserved people in Russia. You used to think he was just a weirdo, but now you know he’s a real hickkamori, but a little more independent and a little more public.
Let these people live in their own world, they have every right to do so. And let’s face it, virtual reality does beckon with its recklessness and safety at the same time; it’s great if it saves someone from outside cruelty.
“Don’t leave the room, don’t make a mistake. Why do you need the Sun if you smoke Shipka? Outside the door everything is meaningless, especially the cry of happiness.”
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