The economic, political, and social climates in Brazil have been especially strained in recent years. The South American country has received multiple negative credit ratings, its current president, Dilma Rousseff, has been suspended and is awaiting impeachment, the Zika virus outbreak remains uncontained, and a myriad of problems leads up to the 2016 Summer Olympics, taking place in Rio. These dilemmas are widely acknowledged by mainstream media outlets, globally and locally in Brazil.
Beyond mainstream media, social media coverage of recent hardships may portray a more diversified, if eccentric, survey of reactions to the country’s assorted issues. Brazilian culture is considered extremely community-oriented, especially by American standards. This, combined with the ever-increasing degree of connectivity spurred by rapid telecommunications infrastructure development, marks Brazil as one of the most social media active countries in the world. The Wall Street Journal describes Brazil as the “social media capital of the universe,” adding that the country has one of the most varied social media profiles of any other country. Considering this, the social media response to recent crises has been equally diverse.
On Twitter, one of the largest social media platforms in existence, opposing hashtags – used primarily for SEO and search functions – represent differing views on President Rousseff’s impeachment. Those in support of the impeachment punctuate 140 character posts with #TchauQuerida which translates as “Bye, Darling” and references a phone conversation between Rousseff and one of her presidential predecessors. Those who do not support the impeachment implement #RespeiteAsUrnas, or “Respect the Ballots,” in reference to the fact that Rousseff was duly elected with the votes of 54 million Brazilians.
Much of the social media response to the impeachment correlates directly with stereotypical Brazilian humor which is oftentimes dark and self-deprecating. A common saying, rir para não chorar, or “laugh so you don’t cry,” epitomizes this sentiment and is applied to everything from so-called soccer disasters to crisis-level situations, such as the Zika virus outbreak. A well-known Twitter commentator who curates content using the handle @verineas, summarizes: “We have an inefficient state, the economy is in a bad state, and we lost 7×1 [to Germany in the 2014 World Cup semifinal]. We laugh at ourselves before the world can laugh at us.” And the world does laugh, not in the face of the country’s plight, but along with those who choose to make light of difficult situations.
In part, the extensive presence of Brazilians on social media is owed to the country’s large population which skews young. This is characteristic of emerging markets and explains users’ varied interests: politics, sports, celebrities, etc. This demographic and others who do not fit under the “millennial” umbrella alike have succeeded in developing a very specific social media identity for the country as a whole, one that is constantly growing and pushing boundaries, much like the South American country itself.
Read more about the upcoming Olympics in Rio.