Climate change, Social media, Teen Novel

The silent victim of our online addiction

In the midst of the lockdown boredom a few weeks back, I resorted to mindlessly flicking through the TV channels when I stumbled across a programme that really grabbed my attention.

It was a Dispatches programme by channel 4 entitled ‘Is Your Online Habit Killing the Planet?’.

The programme title immediately didn’t sit right with me at all. This is because we often regard both elements here as two separate beasts.

Of course, we are well aware about climate change and understand that we need to cut our carbon footprint in order to manager it. We all know about social media too and the impact it can have on our mental health and human behaviour. 

Vary rarely however do you see both these monumental dilemmas latched together in the same context.

I’m sure if we all embarked on a journey into our thoughts, we could summon a bond between the two problems, but I’m sure (as I have done before) the thought could be dusted off as being a trivial one. After all there are much graver concerns such as plane travel and gas guzzling cars, right?

Well after watching this disturbing 30 minutes of information it would seem as though we should all be much more concerned about a momentous problem that we didn’t even know existed.

The bottom line from the watch is that pretty much all of us are motoring through a ton of climate damaging fuel in order to maintain our unhealthy habits with our devices.

What is such a big deal I hear you ask? Surely it can’t be that bad if there are less cars on the road and planes in the sky. Surely just a quick peek on our Instagram every now and then isn’t exactly the crime of the century. And when you consider the improving function of the batteries of smart devices, I pretty much felt the same way.

But here is the thing, apparently it is data storage which is the hidden killer!

It is not necessarily the constant usage of the devices which is necessarily causing the dire situation (although I am sure it doesn’t really help) but it is in fact your online footprint that takes an almighty toll on the earth’s resources.

Every time you stop to take a cheeky selfie or watch a video on Youtube, this data is stored and also activated on mass physical hard drives based in giant storage facilities which are powered day and night to maintain that one innocent little picture or load your favourite music vid.

Apparently, there are literally thousands of these machines, under constant strain to deliver our online demands. As you can now probably guess, these things are not run-on unicorn dust.

The documentary highlighted a few disturbing facts which to be honest blew my mind. The first related to our habits with emails. If anyone is the same as me, then you might receive a stack of emails on a daily basis. 99% of which are probably garbage that you don’t even read. The thing is (again if you’re a bit lazy like me) you probably won’t bother to delete them and stay on top of your inbox.

If I now told you that every single one of those (yet to be deleted) emails is stored on one of these machines that works non-stop 24 hours a day, what would you say? You wouldn’t believe me right. Well according to channel 4, that is exactly what happens. I found myself scrolling like a madman deleting hundreds of emails straight after learning that.

The next fact I learned which actually burst my bubble if I’m honest is that working from home, where we all meeting via zoom these days, may actually produce more greenhouse gas than the car drive into work. This depends on the length of the journey of course and also the amount of individuals on the Zoom call. I must admit this fact made me feel sad, learning that the one good thing to come out the pandemic (less car emissions) is actually not necessarily saving the planet at all.

Now I’ll leave you with this one final fact from the show. Apparently just one average Instagram post by footballer Christiano Ronaldo, uses as much energy as it takes to power 10 houses for a whole year!

You can check out the documentary on demand now @ https://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/on-demand/71182-001?fbclid=IwAR3SJGgfdIEz_a4ybqM9hfS4BivW55Z6S5t_oVRSo7NVxjpmlEg0TBVO1bk

This all sounds very sinister indeed I must admit and I’m sure you will agree. But on a positive note, the solution seems quite clear to me. We just need to stop using our devices 24/7. Let’s switch them off for a few hours. I do wonder how many of you will get straight onto the email accounts after this and start hacking away at the mass of junk. I know I would and obviously did.  

Maybe before reading this you haven’t even considered the amount of smart device usage as being an issue. If not, I do get it. It has become a way of life. But you might want to check out my book The Invite to see if this offers an alternative view on things? It is available to purchase now through Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Invite-C-P-Riches-ebook/dp/B08MCDYPPL

Hopefully one day soon when this awful pandemic is over, we can go out and enjoy the real world again. But until then I would just try to remember one thing; make sure you use your smart device but don’t let it use you! Because if you do, it would seem as though it is our earth that pays the price after all.