“I’m sorry for you and you are not alone”. Politeness strategies on Reddit: the case of r/hikikomori

30 May 2024
Room D1

“I’m sorry for you and you are not alone”. Politeness strategies on Reddit: the case of r/hikikomori

In the last decades, the field of cyberpragmatics has developed, investigating a wide range of computer- mediated discourses with the aim of describing how users employ language in the construction of identity and community (Yus, 2011). However, since computer-mediated communication has been constantly expanding in recent years, some social media have still received limited attention from cyberpragmatics, and this is the case of Reddit, a social news aggregation website where posts are subdivided into user-created boards called “subreddits.” For the present study, we will focus on the subreddit r/hikikomori, a forum made up of posts written by users from different countries that live in the condition of “hikikomori,” the so-called “hikis.” Hikis are young “modern hermits” who escape the “strong social pressure” of everyday life (Majumder, 2022) and keep contact with society through social media. In the online environment, hikis feel free to express themselves and to share their experiences with other people living with the same condition.

Against this background, the present study aims at investigating the role of politeness in this particular type of computer-mediated communication and tries to address the following research questions: 1) What are the most frequent politeness strategies enacted by users to build in-group solidarity? 2) What linguistic markers of positive/negative politeness are employed by hikis to show support/criticism to other community members?

A mixed-method approach will be adopted, drawing on corpus pragmatics (Rühlemann & Aijmer, 2015) to: 1) see the quantitative presence of linguistic markers of positive and negative politeness (Leech, 1983); 2) investigate the collocational patterns of politeness markers; and 3) describe their main functions to build solidarity among hikis.

Preliminary results show a tendency for hikis to create a positive community environment through linguistic strategies of politeness, and participants seem to be tactful and respectful towards others’ experiences without being overtly critical.



Aijmer, K., & Rühlemann, C. (Eds.). (2015). Corpus pragmatics. Cambridge University Press.

Leech, G. (1983). Principles of Pragmatics London: Longman

Majumder, P. (2022). Hikikomori: How the Youth of Japan are Living as a Shut-in. Journal of Japanese

Studies, 1(1), 535-550.

Yus, F. (2011). Cyberpragmatics: Internet-mediated communication in context. John Benjamins Publishing