What is the carbon footprint of social media?

Sushree Behera

The entire world right now is in the grip of social media. The internet plays a key role here as it has brought the entire globe into the palm of our hand. However, only a handful of people know that these social media platforms are also hampering our nature. The carbon footprint of social media is a disturbing picture that will leave all of us sweating. 

Considering that there are more than 4.3bn social platform users worldwide, one can imagine what amount of carbon dioxide equivalent they produce. Let’s know more about the carbon footprint of social media in detail. 

What is the carbon footprint

Basically, it is an index or calculated value that compares the total weightage of greenhouse gasses that something or someone contributes to the atmosphere. This something or someone can be an individual, a company, a product, or an activity. It is usually measured in tonnes of gas emissions per unit of comparison. 

It is important to note that any given product’s carbon footprint includes its entire life cycle’s emissions. The emissions include both direct and indirect ways. 

What is the carbon footprint in relation to social media? 

In simple terms, the emission of carbon dioxide equivalent by social media platforms is referred to as the carbon footprint of social media. Many of us have zero idea that using social media can cause such harmful emissions. But, it is true. In fact, according to Greenspector’s calculation, around 60 kg of CO2e is produced by an individual through social media apps or websites. 

The calculation is based on the data that a human spends around 145 minutes daily on social platforms. To know how severe this number is, the right estimation says that 60 kg of CO2e comes out after a car travels around 535 km. 

Let’s take some examples of the carbon footprint of social media platforms. Instagram app’s 60 seconds of use produces more than 1.5 grams of carbon dioxide. A simple WhatsApp text can produce around 0.3 grams of carbon dioxide. The supreme leader of social media platforms, the internet accounts for more than 3.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. 

Read also: What is the carbon footprint of an email?

Impact of the carbon footprint of social media

The carbon footprint of social media has a severe impact on the environment as well as on human beings. These problems will get more serious with the passage of time. Let’s discuss the issues in detail. 

  • Greenspector’s study states that the combined usage of around 10 social media platforms produces more than 260 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. This amount is almost 0.60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions;

  • Compare the Market made an analysis and found out that the carbon footprint of social media can lead to climate crisis too. This is because social media platforms rely on energy produced by fossil fuels, which further leads to greenhouse gas emissions;

  • Excessive use of these social media apps and websites also causes internet pollution on a large scale. The major polluting activities are scrolling news feeds, uploading photos and videos, etc;

  • Too much social media also corrupts the human brain, leads to optical illness, and sometimes may cause insomnia. The carbon footprints of social media are indeed a slow poison for human beings as well as for the environment. 

How to reduce the carbon footprint of social media? 

Even though the carbon footprint of social media is a serious issue, it can be tackled without any large-scale revolution. People just have to change their habits and lifestyle. Let’s explore the ways by which human beings can reduce the carbon footprint of social media.

  • People should not indulge themselves much in the email exchange cycle. Sending fewer emails will gradually reduce carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. It is also a good step to delete the old emails that are not that necessary;

  • Websites should be properly optimized so that they do not emit excessive greenhouse gasses. Checking on the websites and grooming them at regular intervals is quite necessary;

  • The gaming world has drastically increased the number of online streams over the internet. This culture has to go down. Online streaming produces a huge amount of carbon dioxide equivalent per minute. So, reducing these streams will automatically cut down the carbon footprint of internet community;

  • Video calls should not last longer, and the number of video calls should also be fewer. People should avoid video calling when something can be conveyed over call or text. This is because video calls produce comparatively more CO2e than texts;

  • Opting for offline games instead of online games. Online games include resource downloading, online chatting, data uploading, and purchases. All these also contribute to carbon dioxide emissions. 

The carbon footprint of social media is a silent destroyer that is slowly jeopardizing the environment and human health. The amount of carbon dioxide equivalent that social media apps and websites produce is not as much as the combustion of fossil fuels, but they still pollute the environment significantly. It is, therefore, important to keep social media under control. 

Read more: Green computing: the path to eco-friendly technology solutions

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