A Remote Amazon Tribe Connected To The Internet For The First Time — And Many Members Are Now Addicted To Porn And Social Media

Published June 6, 2024

In light of the negative consequences of the internet, the Marubo people of the Amazon have put limits on how long members of their tribe can browse and scroll.

Marubo People With Starlink

Navi GlobalThe Marubo tribe receives an antenna from Starlink, Elon Musk’s satellite internet service.

Last year, a remote Amazon tribe called the Marubo received access to the internet for the first time ever via Starlink, Elon Musk’s satellite internet service. The 2,000-member tribe is one of hundreds who have received Starlink since it first came to Brazil in 2022.

The newfound connection has allowed the community to keep in close contact with friends and family and even call for emergency medical evacuations.

However, this development has not come without downsides.

In part due to their isolation, the Marubo have been able to preserve their culture and way of life for hundreds of years. Now, tribal leaders report that many young people are quickly becoming addicted to their phones, preferring to scroll social media, watch pornography, and play violent video games rather than take part in traditional tribal activities.

The shift is leaving some elders concerned that access to the internet may have changed their culture forever.

Starlink Arrives In The Amazon

In September 2023, the remote Marubo tribe of the Amazon received equipment from Starlink, Elon Musk’s high-speed satellite internet service. This came out of a joint effort from tribal leaders and Allyson Reneau, a consultant and motivational speaker who donated more than 20 Starlink antennas to the tribe.

Some tribal leaders believed that Starlink would give the tribe more autonomy, allow them to stay well-informed about the outside world, and provide new opportunities to tell their own stories. And at first, the internet seemed like a gift. Villagers could now communicate with their distant friends and family members.

Considering how far the tribe is from medical facilities, one of the most positive consequence of Starlink has been the tribe’s ability to quickly contact emergency responders.

“It’s already saved lives,” a tribal leader named Enoque told the New York Times.

Marubo Tribe

Navi GlobalThe Marubo tribe’s village in a remote part of the Amazon rainforest.

However, it soon became apparent that the greater connection to the outside world came with downsides.

“When it arrived, everyone was happy,” said Tsainama Marubo, a 73-year-old member of the tribe. “But now, things have gotten worse.”

The Internet Fundamentally Changes Marubo Culture

Shortly after receiving Starlink, Marubo elders noticed that the younger tribe members were becoming addicted to their cellphones (purchased from the nearest city) and were losing interest in traditional tribal activities like jewelry and dye making.

“Young people have gotten lazy because of the internet,” Tsainama said. “They’re learning the ways of the white people.”

People were reportedly spending so much time on their phones that they were neglecting other responsibilities.

“It changed the routine so much that it was detrimental,” Enoque said. “In the village, if you don’t hunt, fish and plant, you don’t eat.”

Some young villagers have reportedly been playing violent shooter games or speaking to strangers online. Tribal leaders also complained that young men are consuming graphic pornography and sharing it with each other in online group chats. Traditionally, even kissing in public is frowned upon in Marubo culture.

“We’re worried young people are going to want to try [the acts in the videos],” said tribe leader Alfredo Marubo. He claimed that the tribe has seen an uptick in sexual aggression among young men since the arrival of Starlink.

The Future Of The Marubo Tribe

Marubo With Starlink

Navi GlobalMarubo leaders holding a Starlink satellite.

These issues have convinced tribal leaders to put limits on tribe members’ internet usage. The tribe can now access the internet for two hours in the morning, five hours in the evening, and all day on Sundays.

“Some young people maintain our traditions,” tribal leader TamaSay Marubo told the New York Times. “Others just want to spend the whole afternoon on their phones.”

Still, the Marubo tribe has no intention of giving up its Starlink connection.

“I think the internet will bring us much more benefit than harm,” Enoque said, “at least for now.

“The leaders have been clear. We can’t live without the internet.”

After reading about this isolated Amazon tribe, dive into the story of North Sentinel Island, the home of the most remote tribe on Earth. Then, read about the uncontacted Awá-Guajá tribe that lives in the Amazon.

Amber Morgan
Amber Morgan is an Editorial Fellow for All That's Interesting. She graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in political science, history, and Russian. Previously, she worked as a content creator for America House Kyiv, a Ukrainian organization focused on inspiring and engaging youth through cultural exchanges.
Maggie Donahue
Maggie Donahue is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. She has a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a Bachelor's degree in creative writing and film studies from Johns Hopkins University. Before landing at ATI, she covered arts and culture at The A.V. Club and Colorado Public Radio and also wrote for Longreads. She is interested in stories about scientific discoveries, pop culture, the weird corners of history, unexplained phenomena, nature, and the outdoors.
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Morgan, Amber. "A Remote Amazon Tribe Connected To The Internet For The First Time — And Many Members Are Now Addicted To Porn And Social Media." AllThatsInteresting.com, June 6, 2024, https://allthatsinteresting.com/marubo-tribe-starlink. Accessed June 21, 2024.