Remote Amazon Tribe Finally Gets Internet, Gets Hooked on Porn and Social Media

Five Bars

A remote tribe in the Amazon rainforest is getting to experience the wonders of the internet for the first time, thanks to Elon Musk's satellite network Starlink. But, by connecting to the rest of the world, it sounds like the Marubo people are beginning to pick up some of our modern bad habits.

The New York Times reports on what may sound a bit familiar: young people poring over social media feeds, streaming soccer games, and of course, gossiping over WhatsApp. Evenings are spent lounging around on their phones and playing first-person shooters and other video games.

"When it arrived, everyone was happy," said Tsainama Marubo, 73. "But now, things have gotten worse."

Some of the young men are especially getting a kick out of it. Alfredo Marubo, a leader of an association of the tribe's villages, lamented that the boys, now with their own group chats, were sharing porn and other explicit videos — which is unprecedented in their culture that considers kissing in public taboo.

"We're worried young people are going to want to try it," Alfredo told the NYT, referring to what they see in porn.

Culture Rot

The Marubo have been using Starlink since September, after an American woman bought them some antennas to connect to the satellite network.

Now, some in the tribe fear that the internet poses an existential threat to their culture. Young people kill time by fiddling with their smartphones instead of socializing the old-fashioned way, isolating them from their elders. By being exposed to the outside world, some of the teenagers now dream of exploring it. Alfredo fears that this could mean the tribe's culture and history, which has been passed down orally, could be lost.

"Everyone is so connected that sometimes they don't even talk to their own family," he told the NYT.

Tsainama echoed those fears, but was more conflicted. "Young people have gotten lazy because of the internet," she said. "They're learning the ways of the white people. But please don't take our internet away."

A Tangled Web

The internet comes with its vices, and to combat them, leaders have imposed strict windows for using it, outside of which the connection's shut off. But they also realize its undeniable benefits. In an area so remote that it takes several days of arduous hiking to reach, effortless and instant communication is life-changing.

New job opportunities have opened up. Villages can now easily coordinate over group chats, and also reach out to local authorities.

"It's already saved lives," Enoque Marubo, who was one of the first in the tribe to push for an internet connection, told the NYT, such as in the case of venomous snakebites, which need immediate medical treatment.

"The leaders have been clear," he added. "We can't live without the internet."

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