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Social Networks

Social network Facegloria: A Brazilian researcher's view

“As a Brazilian and researcher I think this has very little chance of succeeding,” Juliano Spyer, researcher at UCL tells me over the phone. “[However] I would definitely say there is an interest in finding an [online] place that is perhaps more controlled.”

Spyer is talking about Facegloria, Brazil’s alternative “sin-free” version of Facebook. Launched by a group of evangelical Christians, it already has 100,000 members and the social network sites bans users from swearing, putting up gay material, and erotic content. The point of it is to create a place where users can “talk about God and love and spread His word”.

But given the number of users the site already has, is it really likely to fail? It certainly has enough evangelical Christians to get on board. The evangelical community in Brazil went from being only 5% in 1970 to now being 22% of Brazil’s 200-million population.

Evangelic Christianity is also a large business in Brazil. You have specifically, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God which owns Rede Record, Brazil’s second-largest television network.

Spyer is a specialist on social networking sites in relation to class mobility in Brazil. He even spent a year in the north-east part of the country, which he says has a “strong presence of evangelic churches”.  Although he admits that since he has left Brazil, he cannot tell how people are reacting to the release of Facegloria, he can speak about social media and the evangelical community.

Spyer says that while there was a “strong resistance” in Brazil to Facebook in the beginning from people “across all ages”, he can see the attraction for this type of community to have its own social network. One of the key things about being evangelical is you need to promote Christianity. Social media can help you do that.

Despite this advantage Spyer suspects there was an actual chain of events that led to the launch of Facegloria. Specifically, Spyer is referring to the US Supreme Court’s ruling to legalise same-sex marriage last month across the nation. He refers to Facebook openly supporting the ruling by adding a “Celebrate Pride” tool that allowed users to add a rainbow to their profile pictures to celebrate the ruling. He says the evangelic Christians have not been happy about this.

“[Take a look] at a company called Boticario. They are like Avon and produce cosmetic products. Recently they were blackmailed [because they were promoting gay marriage or gay values].”

“Evangelic Christians are against all the companies that are in favour of gay related issues. After perhaps a month or two of this then you have Facegloria.”

Still, Spyer doesn’t hold much hope for Facegloria succeeding in the long-term – unless it becomes part of a larger community. “I think for this [to succeed] it will need to embrace a larger community, something that wouldn’t just be for evangelic Christians but still an alternative to Facebook.”

Interestingly, Spyer refers to a study conducted by Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd which labelled the movement of people going from Myspace to Facebook as a sort of “white flight”.

“At a certain point in time, Myspace became sort of labelled as a ghetto place related to rap music and in a way to poverty. Some people embraced this new identity and the ones that didn’t want to went to Facebook.”

Boyd’s study might have been controversial, but Spyer believes that in order for Facegloria to succeed it needs to have the technological infrastructure to allow something similar to Facebook to happen. Something that is “positive and embracing family values, more conservative but at same time has the infrastructure that Facebook offers.”

“It could survive because of a certain peer pressure among the more conservative and more devoted members of church. [But] I don’t think many people would give up Facebook,” says Spyer.

“It’s about being larger than Brazil. We are very isolated as a country anyway because of [our Portuguese language] so if we just stick amongst ourselves, we will probably feel more isolated.”

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Ayesha Salim

Ayesha Salim is Staff Writer at IDG Connect

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