Hikikomori, AI Girlfriends, and VR Porn Booths. Why is one of the most digitally connected countries also the most socially isolated?

Emma Sloane

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Throughout my studies of Digital Asia this semester I have learned that“the number of internet users in Asia is now equivalent to those in the rest of the world combined,”(Athique, 2019.)Looking specifically at Japan we see that“93% of the population uses the internet today which equates to more than 117 million people,”(Kemp, 2021.)Despite being one of the most digitally connected countries in the world, there are many emerging digital practices that indicate a society that struggles with real-life connections.

These unique digital spaces in Japan are likely a result of certain socio-cultural practices and principles. I personally believe that many of these spaces are rooted in the rise of modern-day hermits known as hikikomori.“Hikikomori is currently viewed as a sociocultural mental health phenomenon, rather than a distinct mental illness,”(Ketchell, 2020.)It is a phenomenon that is currently affecting half…

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