Instagram and social capital: youth activism in a networked movement

Samson Yuen*, Gary Tang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The extensive participation of secondary school students was one of the features that characterized Hong Kong’s Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement . Lacking the power and resources enjoyed by adults, how do these teenagers organize protest actions? While recent scholarship focuses on how recent youth activism is facilitated by the prevalent use of social media, this article argues that digitally-based, informal social movement groups formed by student activists played a crucial role in unleashing teenage youth’s social capital. By activating their schools’ alumni networks, school reputation and joint-school ties, these digitally-based groups initiated a wide array of collective actions that mobilized scores of teenagers. However, despite forming a decentralized structure, these groups were unequal in terms of their mobilization power. Reputable schools with strong alumni networks and joint-school linkages are more capable of shaping movement narratives and mobilizing territory-wide protest actions. In contrast, schools with weaker social capital are more likely to organize actions with neighbouring schools within local districts and rely on external help. Our findings contribute to social movement studies by demonstrating how teenage youth engage in protests and how informal, Internet-initiated protest organizations play a crucial role in shaping movement dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)706-727
Number of pages22
JournalSocial Movement Studies
Issue number5-6
Early online date19 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Cultural Studies

User-Defined Keywords

  • Hong Kong
  • Instagram
  • leaderless protests
  • social capital
  • teenagers
  • Youth activism


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