“Hidden Youth”: The Importance of Online Networks and Technology (Inside the Bedroom) for Marginalised Young People in Hong Kong

Wong, M. (2019) “Hidden Youth”: The Importance of Online Networks and Technology (Inside the Bedroom) for Marginalised Young People in Hong Kong. Scottish Centre for China Research, Glasgow, UK, 21 Feb 2019.

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This talk presents new critical insights on the sociality of young people in Hong Kong who physically shut themselves in the bedroom and do not go outside for months and years on end. This emerging phenomenon is commonly referred to as “hidden youth” and has become one of the most topical social issues in the Chinese and East Asian contexts in the past decade. This talk will question common interpretations of “hidden” young people as withdrawn from society and challenges assumptions of their self-seclusion and loneliness inside the bedroom. This reclusive depiction will be contested by drawing on recent theoretical debates on social connectedness in the digital age (Couldry and Hepp, 2017, Lupton, 2015). This will be explored with interview data from an original qualitative study conducted with youth “hidden” in the bedroom for 3-48 months in Hong Kong. In this study, hidden youth’s sociality was found to be more nuanced than previously assumed; the young people had contrastingly high levels of online connections with peer, friends and family while having limited face-to-face interactions in offline environments. This paper argues young people can become especially attached to online communities as a reaction to their experiences of social marginalisation. The highly capitalist economy enmeshed with traditional Confucian principles in Hong Kong’s welfare system creates a unique context of work and education precarity and marginalisation of youth. This paper highlights how technology and online networks can play an important role to enable marginalised young people in Hong Kong to feel more connected through emerging digital social structures and networks. This talk will also prompt us to reflect more generally on the impact of technology on urban Chinese society and complexities of sociality in the digital age.

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
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