As information technologies have become very popular in recent years, thousands of people around the world use smartphones and the Internet to work, create and maintain interactive relationships that challenge geographic space. Despite the above-mentioned benefits brought by technologies, Brazil has accumulated problems related to the excessive use of portable media. Data from the State of Mobile Services Report, prepared by Annie, one of the most complete consultancies in the world, revealed, in 2018, that Brazil ranks fifth in the ranking of countries with the highest average use of mobile devices (Annie, 2018). In view of this, experts are increasingly concerned, mainly because the negative effects of this high rate have become more noticeable, especially in the population’s health (LONG, 2015). The objective of this essay is to discuss health problems related to the excessive use of the Internet by the Brazilian population and to propose two possible solutions.
One in four adolescents in Brazil suffers from Internet dependence or compulsive use. Some problems can arise from this dependence, many of the cases being of psychological order like depression and difficulties to socialize. One reason for this compulsive behavior is explained by the easy access that mobile devices offer and also, the fact that social media makes these users see themselves as more acceptable profiles by other groups that otherwise, could neglect then. It is an issue strongly related with self-esteem. In the last ten years there was a great expansion in the number of Internet and cell phones or smartphones users. In 2008 34% of the Brazilian population had access to the Internet, in 2018 the proportion increased to 70% (TIC, 2019). Inside this group 97% use smartphones for this purpose, being 56% the percentage of people who have access exclusively via smartphones. In 2008 53% of users reported using the Internet almost every day and in 2018 this percentage increased to 89%. Recently it was reported that In Brazil there are 140 million social media users corresponding to 66% of overall population (‘We Are Digital’, 2020) and the average time spent on the Internet (on pc or mobile devices) is nine hours and seventeen minutes, more than the global average of six hours and forty-three minutes, placing the country in third place in the world rank.
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Firstly, one possible way to face this problem would be to promote new ways of entertainment, especially for children and teenagers. This idea is supported by the Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han in one of his books called ‘Good Entertainment’, released in 20196. In the book he discusses how the economic system has been utilizing technology to target consumption modes by eliminating any type of diversity with respect to the kinds of behaviors adopted. An offer more diverse with less algorithm interference could bring some benefits like the discovery of new physical spaces with interactivity and contact with other cultures. However, researches indicate that this type of strategy may not work (Young, 2010) because digital culture is strongly integrated into people’s lifestyle. Even in public areas and where it is possible to interact physically with other groups, people usually share their experiences online, for example, posting photos in social media. Moreover, corporations are capable of easily using your tools in order to integrate technological resources. It is possible to see facilitators like the use of hashtags, QR-codes or interactive links that allow easy and fast access to different types of online interaction. Usually, those facilitators are shown in advertisements exposed in such spaces when they succeed in attracting a great number of people. These links are launched nowadays by companies and advertisements in order to transport people from physic spaces directly into online ones, and in doing so the relationship between consumer and the brands is perpetrated. We should consider that beyond the strategies created by the market through advertisement, there is a digital culture in which people feel comfortable to keep themselves online to extend their experiences sharing them permanently with followers. These practices going from personal aspects of users to more general aspects supported by companies represent a serious challenge to deal with the problem.
An alternative solution consists of recognizing the problem of excessive use of the Internet as a health problem that must be assumed by the government. As mentioned before, it is not just a matter of spending a lot of time on the Internet but, this habit indicates significant problems related with an increase in the difficulties that people have to socialize, to be accepted as they are in social groups, especially young people (Schwartz, 2016). This problem becomes more critical and develops to a psychological disease leading to depression and bringing serious consequences to the individuals and their families. Schools as important actors in the formation and development of young people and especially as a credible institution that takes part in most part of young people’s lives is the right space to debate and teach the issues related to the misuse of the Internet. It is urgent to open space to this subject in early years of education preparing children to deal with digital connected devices. It is necessary for the government to promote debates and stimulate this initiative through campaigns to make the population aware of issues brought by irresponsible use of the Internet. On the other hand, people believe that they control the right moment to quit social media and get a pause in the use of smartphones and computers. This argument can be used to reject treating the subject as a serious health problem. Also, schools are seen mainly as spaces for technical training aimed at the job market and university entrance exams, so subjects not seen as practical by parents’ face resistance to be included in school curricula.
To sum up, this essay has described the problem of the excessive use of the Internet by the Brazilian population and has evaluated two solutions. In summary, it has shown that the problem is mainly caused by increased accessibility of mobile devices and also by the facility of interaction in social media. Consequently, the effects of this excessive use include psychological issues such as depression and lack of social interaction skills in the offline spaces. In addition, it has described two possible solutions: more offline entertainment spaces and discussion of the problems as a school subject. However, it was pointed out that creating new offline spaces for entertainment and face-to-face interaction can be inefficient because these spaces can stimulate people to share their experiences in real time and companies are offering means of keeping people always online through links and easy-to-access codes. An alternative way to overcome this issue is to include this theme as a scholar subject especially for children was described. However, it was shown that it may face resistance from parents who believe that this is a waste of time in terms of education. We should focus our attention to reduce the impact of this issue considering it as an urgent discussion that needs to be stimulated by public policies and programs of conscientization reinforcing the subject as a health problem. In order to overcome the problem, it is important to think how to promote better ways of interaction and how to educate the population to take advantage in offline person-to-person interaction would potentially help to avoid the issues that such a helpful tool like the Internet can bring when it is misused.