Examining Tweet Content and Engagement of Users With Tweets About Hikikomori in Japanese: Mixed Methods Study of Social Withdrawal

Victor Pereira-Sanchez, Miguel Angel Alvarez-Mon, Toru Horinouchi, Ryo Kawagishi, Marcus P.J. Tan, Elizabeth R. Hooker, Melchor Alvarez-Mon, Alan R. Teo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Hikikomori is a form of severe social withdrawal that is particularly prevalent in Japan. Social media posts offer insight into public perceptions of mental health conditions and may also inform strategies to identify, engage, and support hard-to-reach patient populations such as individuals affected by hikikomori. Objective: In this study, we seek to identify the types of content on Twitter related to hikikomori in the Japanese language and to assess Twitter users’ engagement with that content. Methods: We conducted a mixed methods analysis of a random sample of 4940 Japanese tweets from February to August 2018 using a hashtag (#hikikomori). Qualitative content analysis included examination of the text of each tweet, development of a codebook, and categorization of tweets into relevant codes. For quantitative analysis (n=4859 tweets), we used bivariate and multivariate logistic regression models, adjusted for multiple comparisons, and estimated the predicted probabilities of tweets receiving engagement (likes or retweets). Results: Our content analysis identified 9 codes relevant to tweets about hikikomori: personal anecdotes, social support, marketing, advice, stigma, educational opportunities, refuge (ibasho), employment opportunities, and medicine and science. Tweets about personal anecdotes were the most common (present in 2747/4859, 56.53% of the tweets), followed by social support (902/4859, 18.56%) and marketing (624/4859, 12.84%). In the adjusted models, tweets coded as stigma had a lower predicted probability of likes (-33 percentage points, 95% CI -42 to -23 percentage points; P<.001) and retweets (-11 percentage points, 95% CI -18 to -4 percentage points; P<.001), personal anecdotes had a lower predicted probability of retweets (-8 percentage points, 95% CI -14 to -3 percentage points; P=.002), marketing had a lower predicted probability of likes (-13 percentage points, 95% CI -21 to -6 percentage points; P<.001), and social support had a higher predicted probability of retweets (+15 percentage points, 95% CI 6-24 percentage points; P=.001), compared with all tweets without each of these codes. Conclusions: Japanese tweets about hikikomori reflect a unique array of topics, many of which have not been identified in prior research and vary in their likelihood of receiving engagement. Tweets often contain personal stories of hikikomori, suggesting the potential to identify individuals with hikikomori through Twitter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere31175
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Volume24
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Hidden youth
  • Hikikomori
  • Loneliness
  • Mobile phone
  • Social isolation
  • Social withdrawal
  • Twitter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics

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