Carbon Emission by Social Media Platform

Carbon Emission by Social Media Platform: A study by Greenspector

Social media websites like Instagram and Facebook are popular sources of climate news for many people. Social media platforms are used by environmental activists to hold polluters accountable, spread awareness, and create movements.

It wouldn’t be incorrect to claim that social networking sites are now an essential aspect of our lives. But do social networking apps contribute to the fight against the climate crisis? Applications like Instagram could be increasing emissions more than we realize in the background.

The impact of Instagram’s key features on the environment was investigated in a study in 2020. Researchers at an energy efficiency group called Greenspector calculated the amount of energy that activities like publishing, live streaming, and scrolling used to determine their carbon footprint.

Scrolling is by far the most energy-consuming Instagram activity. The comparable distance traveled in one minute of newsfeed scrolling is about 13 meters or about one car length.

Posting a photo was the action with the lowest carbon footprint, followed by writing a tale.

The study’s average user spent 28 minutes each day on Instagram in France, where it was performed. This had a carbon footprint equivalent to driving 166 meters per day.

This doesn’t seem like much but, every day, more than 500 million people use it.

The average daily carbon footprint of Instagram users worldwide is equal to driving 83,000,000 km if the typical user across the globe is the same as in France. This is about similar to a car making 2,071 full rotations around the globe per day.

Carbon Emission by Social Media Platform
Carbon Emission by Social Media Platform

Carbon Emitting Selfies:

The environmental impact of Instagram can be evaluated in several different ways. One 2019 study accomplished this by calculating the weight of one Instagram photo. It was close to 2 MB. Comparatively, this was far higher than other social media apps. The size of a picture uploaded to Facebook or WhatsApp was just around 100 KB.

This was used by the researchers to determine how much energy was needed to process this image. It produced 5.12 kWh. They termed the carbon value they were able to calculate from this the Selfie Index.

According to the Selfie Index, Instagram contributes roughly 405 tCO2 per year. Only photos that have been sent or uploaded using the app are included in this statistic. It doesn’t take into account how indirectly Instagram harms the ecosystem.

Through its impact on consumption, it most likely contributes to climate change in at least one way. Instagram is increasing revenues by using extensive advertising and built-in shopping features.

130 million Instagram users click on shopping posts each month, according to statistics on Instagram shopping.

Instagram has grown to be a significant participant in the fast fashion sector, which accounts for more than 10% of global carbon emissions, through direct sales and advertising. This exceeds the sum of all foreign flights and maritime transport.

To make it simpler, whatever we do on social media is processed by servers at the data centers. The more we use social media platforms, the more power these servers and data centers will consume and their energy demand will grow.

As of now, the majority of the energy demand of these servers and data centers is fulfilled via coal-based energy generation which is carbon intensive. This makes our social media use a carbon-emitting process. 

However, if we switch these data centers and servers to solar energy, the scenario will change.

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