The rise and rise of social networking
The rise of social media over the last ten years has been nothing short of phenomenal. And ten years is, of course, a long time in terms of the internet. In 2002 there was no Facebook yet, Google wasn’t a verb, and YouTube was yet to spring into existence.
And if you look at the trajectory of Facebook, the journey looks so fast that it’s as if the company was rocket-fuelled. Within a short time of starting up and launching, it was then opened up to the public. Then, not long after that, Facebook overtakes (the then-mighty, now quiet) MySpace. After that it’s just a few short steps to world domination. The recent IPO wobble aside, Facebook is still the king of the social highway.
Towards a paperless planet
But what are the effects of social media on the environment? On the one hand, social media and the wider web have undoubtedly had an effect on the amount of paper we as a society consume. Need to remember something? Save it as note on your smartphone. And if you really, really need to keep info in a safe place where you won’t misplace it, then there’s the cloud.
Then there’s personal communications. When was the last time you sat down and wrote a letter? Probably a lot longer ago than the last time you sent an email. Greetings cards aside, most text-based communication with close family and friends is these days generally a mix of status updates, SMS and emails.
Another major transitional area from paper to digital is of course the news media. That’s not to say that newspapers have been replaced by digital –they still exist in a physical format, but a quick look at the circulation figures shows that most of the venerable news titles sell fewer copies year on year, while their online presence grows.
Greening the network
So, it would appear that, on the one hand, the rise of social media has been a positive for the environment. Media products such as new stories and advertising are instantly distributed worldwide at the push of a button, with the felling of no trees involved in the process, or the driving of hundreds of distribution vans along motorways from warehouses to retail outlets.
The corollary here is obvious, perhaps. And it’s to do with the large number of data centres that are required to keep us all afloat on the ocean of social media and electronically delivered news we all (or most of us) love.
Our energy demands aren’t something that can or should be ignored though. And with Facebook already having pledged to make more use of renewables, they’ve shown commendably forward thinking on the environment. Or, as one of the news headlines (in the UK’s Guardian) put it: “Facebook ‘unfriends’ coal and ‘likes’ clean power”. (Editor’s note: this title originated from an ‘unfriend coal’ campaign started by Greenpeace) This follows Google’s well established credentials in the area of environmental awareness and investment in renewables under its Google green banner.
Connecting the green dots
The benefits of Facebook and Twitter in a social context are already pretty big, but there’s every chance they could form something even larger in scale and more exciting as time goes on. The early stages of the process involved people following the environment and energy saving thought leaders on their favourite social media platforms. Then suddenly as soon as the mobile web hits big, there are a wide range of energy saving and green-centric apps to choose from. And there’s now even a green rewards site – Recyclebank – that allows members to earn redeemable points for making greener choices.
There’s no doubt about it – we are just at the beginning of a fascinating journey towards a more energy efficient, greener globe.
Image via Globaia