Brazil and Orkut: made for each other?

Orkut BrazilOrkut, Google's experiment on Social Networking Services, is extremely popular in Brazil. More than 53% of Orkut users is Brazilian — even more, if you take into account Brazilian's profiles that don't show their country information and profiles by Brazilians living abroad — and more than 70% percent of Brazil's Internet users are actually profiled and active on the network.

A very large part of Brazil's online life is going on inside Orkut. Still, most of the Brazilian mainstream media and the blogosphere don't pay much attention to this social networking service, unless there's something bad to be said about it. News about hate-groups meeting at Orkut, or about pedophiles using of the social networking service to exchange child pornography or to hunt for potential victims, are fairly common on both the Brazilian media and blogosphere. But what else is going on there? Who might be all these Brazilians at Orkut, and what are they doing there?

To give Global Voices Online readers some insight into the answers to these questions, let's take a quick look at some of the Brazilian activity at Orkut, and you're invited to come along if you have an Orkut profile or a Google account – you need at least a basic registration — in order to follow the links:

First of all, let's take a look at some profiles. The first thing you notice is… Brazilians have a lot of friends. It's very common in Brazil to add everyone you know — or even just heard of — and fake or “non-person” profiles to your friend's list. More than that, it's usual to add people you don't know and don't even want to know, just in case you wish to visit their profiles someday. It's also easy to notice how fond we are of showing pictures of ourselves and our friends, except when we want to look particularly cool (and that's fairly less common). Most profiles are very colorful in language and imagery, and show a lot about what it's intended for the profile viewers to know about the people behind them. It's easy to feel that despite personal taste differences, Brazilians feel very “at home” at Orkut and their profiles are testimony to this.

Gigi, one of the famous Orkut divas

Gigi is famous on the scene. Lots of friends, lots of pictures, long description, busy scrapbook: Typical Brazil.

The scrapbooks, places where users can leave open short messages to others on their profiles, are heavily used not only to chat, sometimes to many people at a time — is if everyone was in a house meeting or a party — but are also usual places to advertise parties, events and share quotes and textual fragments. It's a matter of opinion whether these are spam or just free-form personal advertising.

Fake profiles, as well as bogus communities — like this one named “it must be boring to be a tree” — are very common. However, more than causing mayhem, these are more commonly put to mostly healthy humorous uses. Some even say Brazilians rise fake profiles and bogus communities to a work of art.


On the “I woke up somewhat bilingual today” they don't even have forum topics. The community was made just for the fun of having it's banner on their profiles.

Now, let's take a look at the communities. Besides the vast majority of communities aimed more to provide humorous or ideological “badges” for their members to show on their profiles than places for real conversations, there are a lot of serious communities too, and a lot of interesting and passionate debates are going on there. Let's take two examples. one from a community discussing the women's right do decide on abortion and the other from a community discussing Brazilian ban on WordPress.

Abortion is only legal in Brazil in cases of sexual abuse or pregnancy that endangers the mother's life. In this thread about whose interests were behind the legalization of abortion in Brazil, on the community “Aborto: um tema em debate” [“Abortion: a matter under discussion”], mor@ngoღღ says [Pt]:

[…]Hoje li um texto* que no mínimo aguçou essa minha vontade de esclarecer a questão. Trata-se dos dizeres do Professor Humberto Vieira presidente da PROVIDAFAMILIA.

De acordo com sua pesquisa, ele mostra que existem correntes eugenistas que pregam o controle populacional usando entre outros recursos o aborto.

Essas correntes seriam responsáveis por discursos bem parecidos com o que vemos aqui. Por detrás de um feminismo de fachada querem reduzir-nos em número para que não representemos uma ameaça ao domínio dos países imperialistas.[…]

“[…]I read an article today that sharpened my urge to clarify [this] matter. It was about what professor Humberto Vieira, president of PROVIDAFAMILIA [roughly: “PRO-LIFE-AND-FAMILY”] association, says. According to his researches, he shows that there are some eugenic factions that preach the population control using, among other methods, abortion. These factions were responsible for speeches that are very similar to the [pro-choice] ones we see here. Hiding behind a facade of shallow feminism, they want to reduce our numbers so we don't represent a menace to the imperialist countries domination.[…]”

Then Jose Guilherme furiously retorts [Pt]:

[…]se vc levou a sério esse texto mediocre e paranoico por favor vai pra comunidade do Olavo de Carvalho. Pq lá é que eles gostam dessas teorias de dominação mundial.

E se for verdade ? Vamos deixar de fazer algo pq os outros querem isso ? Vamos ditar as nossas políticas públicas para contrariar aos supostos “imperialistas” e não pq interessa ou não ao país ? E como diminuir população ajuda os “imperialistas” ? Tudo vago e sem explicação… claro…

“[…]if u took this mediocre and paranoid article seriously, u should go to the Olavo de Carvalho community. ‘Cos they really like these world-domination theories over there. And what if it's true? Should we refrain from doing something just because someone else wants us to? Should we modify our public policies just to counteract some supposed ‘imperialists’, and not because it is in our country's best interests? And how does reducing the population help the ‘imperialists'? All very vague and with no explanations… of course…”

Politely, mor@ngoღღ tries to support her point:

Eu entendo controle de natalidade como determinar quantos filhos cada pessoa deve ter. Diferente de planejamento familiar. Pelo menos era o que eu pensava. Eu via planejamento familiar como dar ferramentas para que as pessoas escolhessem quantos filhos querem ter…
Mas se a campanha vier acompanhada de atos proibitivos ou punitivos vira controle de natalidade, isso eu sou contra.

“I understand birth control as the determination of to how many kids a person is allowed to give birth. It's not the same as family planning. At least, that's what I used to believe. I used to see family planning as bestowing tools for people to choose how many children they want to have… but if the campaign includes prohibitive or punitive acts, it becomes birth control, and I am against that.”

Kelli joins the conversation saying [Pt]:

Meio incoerente não?
Aborto criminalizado é um ato proibitivo e punitivo, então vc tbm é contra?

“Doesn't it sound a little incoherent? […] The ban on the abortion is a prohibitive and punitive act. So, you're against this [ban]?”

Then José Guilherme delivers his coup-de-grâce:

Morango […] Esse discurso é meramente uma forma de atacar a legitimidade de quem é a favor da legalização. Pintar essas pessoas ou como capachos de “agentes” externos… ou como ingenuos manipulados. Ou seja… ao invês de debater as questões… buscam atacar as pessoas e suas motivações. Ad Hominem em escala grande.
Na ANDSC menos de 25% das mulheres disseram que abortariam/abortaram… então ao menos 75% realmente acreditam que as OUTRAS devem ter esse direito sem que isso seja reflexo de interesse proprio.
As teorias ditas “Freakonomics” de controle da natalidade tambem foram rejeitadas pela ANDSC.

“Morango […] your speech is merely a way to undermine the legitimacy of those who fight for the legalization [of the abortion]. To make them look like servants to external ‘agents'… or like manipulated naive people. So… instead of discussing the important matters… [you] seek to attack people and their motivations. It's a mass Ad Hominem [argument]. At the ANDSC [Aborto não deve ser crime – “abortion should not be a crime” [Pt], a pro-choice Orkut community] less than 25% of the women said they would eventually get an abortion, or have already had one… so, at least 75% of them really believe the OTHER ones should have this right [to choose], without any personal interest involved. The mentioned ‘Freakonomics‘ birth control theories were rejected, too, at ANDSC.”

At another community, about the Brazilian justice threat to ban domain [Pt] (already discussed here and in many other places), there's a thread where the members show their discontent at the idea of one million users being punished for just one blogger's misdeeds. Paulo calls its peers into action:

Calar a boca de 1 milhão pelo erro de um ?
Não podemos deixar isto acontecer. Se alguém errou, que pague-se pelo ato cometido, mas não se pode penalizar uma coletividade, devido o erro de um indivíduo.
Temos que chamar a atenção da mídia e da sociedade para este cerceamento da liberdade que querem cometer.
Mande e-mails para os amigos, para a imprensa, para autoridades.
Se nos omitirmos, teremos nossa boca calada. E depois não adianta chorar.

“Silencing one million [users] to punish for just one's mistake? We can't let it happen. If someone misbehaved, he or she should pay for his/her acts, but you can't punish the entire collective for just one individual's misdeeds. We must call the media and the society attention to this violation of our freedoms that they want to commit. Send emails to your friends, to the media and to the authorities. If we omit ourselves, we will have our mouth shut, and then it will be no use to crying over this.”

Athos seems to agree with Pedro, and vents his frustration over his faceless suspect [Pt]:

Se verem um blog de pornografia,denunciem.
Vai ver é ele que fez toda a merda.

“If you see a pornographic blog, report it. Maybe it was the responsible for all this shit.”

There's always a lot to say about Brazilian use of Orkut. On my next articles, I'll try to keep track of it, and use it together with the Brazilian conversations on the blogosphere, to amplify Brazilian voices on the Internet. This will surely provide a better picture of what we have to say to each other, and to the world.

As a bonus, here is a video, provided by José Murilo in his blog Ecologia Digital [Pt], where we can watch John Perry Barlow — political activist, social thinker and mythical band Grateful Dead's lyrics writer — explaining his views on Orkut and Brazil, and telling us how he may have been an important part of all this Brazilian online party:

The author of this article is on Orkut too. He may be found here. Don't forget to leave your opinion about his cat. Both man and cat appreciate it a lot.

(author's note: most of Orkut links in this article are in Portuguese)


  • […] more on why Orkut is popular in Brazil see posts by Daniel Duende and Jennifer Woodard Maderazo, and the discussion in the comments section on this otherwise […]

  • […] more on why Orkut is popular in Brazil see posts by Daniel Duende and Jennifer Woodard Maderazo, and the discussion in the comments section on this otherwise […]

  • Magda Bessa

    Hi Daniel,

    I´m brazilian and my orkut refers to my country as being Belgium. One reason for that is that I was born in Belgium – though my parents are brazilians. I´m part of the 20% unidentified brazilians. I agree when you say brazilians have a lot of friends. I´d like to add some more information on this topic about what I think (considering I´m brazilian): Brazilians are warm people, living in a beautiful country (let´s not think about its problems…every country has problems) and people are happy, relaxed and feel great about themselves…brazilians want to show off and I believe this happens because we want to share our happiness with others and one way of doing so is showing pictures of nice moments with our friends (in a party, at the beach, etc.).
    Our people is “hot” and lives in a warm country…everybody wants to feel beautiful being appreciated by others…I know that, trust me…but that is related to our need to be loved..too much “heat” for one person..we are very warm…
    But we don´t want to interact with everybody; we just want to have “friends” available on orkut so we can pick the best connections at a proper time (understand this with an example: my friend has a list of 100 friends…she went out with 10 guys from that list..she might want to gou out with one of them again someday…how can she make that happen? by adding them so these guys will be available and she will be able to know if they are committed or not any time..same thing for guys…she will want to post pictures of her in a sexy way, maybe, just to get their attention) .. that works for friends too if we don´t see them often, but we want them available…it´s easier to get in touch without having to write down their phone number..and it´s a good excuse to always keep in touch..better than just calling someday out of nowhere just to say “hi” or not even calling anymore because you´re embarassed of being gone for so long…
    It’s true that we talk to everyone… even the ones we don´t know..but it´s part of our culture to be nice with others…but that doesn´t mean everybody´s our friend…
    I know it´s hard to understand a different culture..but I´m sure brazilians don´t bother being like that as I know that if a brazilian wasn´t a brazilian, it´d be pretty normal for him/her to be part of some other just need to get used to it…and enjoy the good things..!

    I hope I helped…feel free to ask me anything, ok?

    Warm brazilian hug to you! =)

  • Hello Magda. Thank you very much for the insights. It’s a fact that we Brazilians usually make Orkut into a mix of “dating-menu” and long-time-no-see-friends-map. And I agree with you about our “hotness” and “desire/need to be loved and admired”. That may have some connection to the fact that we usually consider gross to congratulate ourselves, so we need to be congratulated by others a lot. Every people has it’s particular quirks. And Orkut is a funny way to take a look in some of our quirks and “ways of behaving”.

    Feel very welcome bring on your ideas and insights anytime.

    Abraços brasileiros para você também, moça.
    Daniel Duende, de Brasília. :)

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