In 2011, Chile experienced two massive protest movements – one against the cost and quality of public education and another against the construction of power plants in Patagonia. This represented a unique opportunity to analyse and compare how Facebook and Twitter use were related to street demonstrations. Using a face-to-face survey among urban youth (18–29 years old) conducted shortly after the protests, we showed a positive relationship between the use of social media (specifically Facebook and Twitter) and youth participation in protest activities, even when taking into account the influence of other factors such as socioeconomic status. Thus, for young adults living in urban Chile, social media is more important than traditional sources of information for engaging in political action.
Our research also reveals a that young people that ascribe to post-materialist values (i.e., people who give a high value to self-expression and quality of life, rather than economic growth) are more likely to participate in social movements.