Socially ‘Withdrawn’? Examining the Sociality of Young People ‘Hidden’ in the Bedroom in the Digital Age

Wong, M. (2019) Socially ‘Withdrawn’? Examining the Sociality of Young People ‘Hidden’ in the Bedroom in the Digital Age. Understanding the Social in a Digital Age Conference, Norwich, UK, 08 Jan 2019.

Full text not currently available from Enlighten.


There have been enduring debates of the concept of “the social”, in which the nature and meanings of interpersonal connections have been contested. Classic social theories emphasise physical, face-to-face contacts are quintessential to human connectedness. The digital age, however, has had important implications to the understanding and experiences of the social. This paper reflects on how human interactions are diversified by “deep mediatisation” and technology becomes an increasingly crucial dimension of sociality. Considering this contentious debate with an instrumental case, this paper presents a qualitative study on young people who physically shut themselves in the bedroom for months and years on end. This emerging phenomenon is commonly referred to as “hidden youth” in East Asia. Hidden youth are typically assumed as “withdrawing” from the social by self-seclusion and living in isolation. This paper challenges this reclusive depiction and critically examines hidden youth’s sociality and sense of connectedness based on their lived experiences. This paper presents insights from the first study of this phenomenon in the UK/Scottish context, while studying this comparatively across two sites. 32 interviews were conducted with Hong Kong and Scottish youth “hidden” in the bedroom from 3 to 48 months. This study draws on theoretical debates across disciplines (Digital Sociology, Media Studies, and Science and Technology Studies) to shed light on emerging constructions of sociality in the digital age. Hidden youth’s sociality was found to be more nuanced and interconnected than previously assumed. A range of digital platforms allow youth to experience social connectedness in diverse ways, especially through large, loosely-knitted communities online. This paper argues that young people may become attached to digital networks to seek solace and solidarity inside the space of their bedrooms augmented by technologies. The significance and experiences of online interactions, especially for socially marginalised youth, are critically discussed in this paper.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Wong, Dr Mark
Authors: Wong, M.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Related URLs:

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record