The Impact of Social Media on Political Engagement and Contentious Political Behaviors among Hong Kong Youths

Project: Research project

Project Details


The increasing use of social media for civic and political engagement among youths in Hong Kong has raised significant questions about the nature and extent of such engagement.

While the political use of social media is not limited to youths, its effects on younger individuals are far more pronounced. Social media provide greater opportunities for younger citizens to participate in civic life and social movements because they lower the entry barriers and facilitate new forms of political participation that are more compatible with the lifestyles of the digitally networked youths (Loader, Vromen, & Xenos, 2014).

On the other hand, the confluence of social media use and contentious political behaviors (such as class boycotts, sit-in demonstrations, and civil disobedience) among younger individuals is a cause for concern considering that individuals coming of age are more willing to undertake the risks involved owing to developmental factors and lack of adult responsibilities (Johnston, 2012; McAdam, 1986; Wiltfang & McAdam, 1991).

At present, however, we know very little about the factors that may foster contentious political engagement among Hong Kong youths and whether the use of social media has necessarily contributed to more radical or risky behaviors such as politically-motivated hacking and political violence during recent mass demonstrations.

The central focus of this research project is to assess whether the extent of civic and political engagement by Hong Kong youths can be identified as a consequence of using social media and if there is evidence that social media may intensify the adoption of contentious political behaviors.
More specifically, this project asks:
1. How is Hong Kong youths’ use of social media related to their political and civic engagement in online and offline settings (including any contentious political behaviors)?
2. What is the role of social media in relation to traditional socializing agents (family, schools, religion, traditional media) in the political mobilization of Hong Kong youths?
3. How does the use of social media influence Hong Kong youths’ political values and civic cultural norms (including their attitudes toward contentious politics)?
4.To what degree are relationships between social media use and extent of political engagement among Hong Kong youths explained by psychosocial orientations (social identity, risk-taking tendencies, self-efficacy) and social contexts (social capital, interpersonal networks, social-economic status)?

The findings of this project will facilitate evidence-based dialogue with educators, parents, and civic organizations regarding the opportunities and risks in the use of social media for civic and political engagement among young people in Hong Kong.
Effective start/end date1/01/1630/06/18

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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