Brazilians are avid social media users, spending over three hours and forty minutes a day, every day, scrolling through their timelines. Social media has become so important in the lives of Brazilians that since last October The Brazilian Report has been discussing how they could interfere in the electoral process. But in this article, I don’t intend to talk about the political role of social media, but rather how it became such a central part of people’s lives in Latin America’s largest country.
Many believe that the era of social media begins with the arrival of today’s most famous platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter – but that’s far from the truth. Indeed, social interactivity and internet democratization are certainly linked. But Brazilians have been connected to each other online for a long time.
The 2000s: the era of Orkut in Brazil
In Brazil, commercial Internet boomed back in 1996, but its first social media experience came eight years later, with Orkut.
Orkut was a social network launched by Google (and named after the Google employee who created it, Orkut Büyükkökten). It was so popular in Brazil that the country accounted for approximately 60 percent of the network’s users. That’s why, in 2008, Orkut started being managed by Google’s Brazilian office.
At first, membership on Orkut was by invitation only. Way before Facebook, the website allowed users to share their profile, photos, and personal information with their friends – and join many groups (which were called ‘communities’). But then came Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild, stealing Orkut’s market share and profitability.