TikTok emits three times more carbon than Facebook per minute of use

When we talk about the harms of social media, we tend to focus on psychological issues related to body image or money. But there’s also a hidden environmental cost to our daily scrolling habits.

It takes a huge amount of energy to store all those cat videos and photos of your friends’ latest dining experience. The result is a surprisingly high volume of CO2 emissions – which most users are unaware of.

But not all platforms transmit in the same way. BanklessTimes.com collected data on several major social media brands to find out how environmental impact compares across platforms.

Main findings:

  • Facebook has the most daily active users – 1.96 billion. The average user spends 30.1 mins on the platform every day, producing a total of 46,797 tons of CO2e per day.

  • TikTok has less than half the number of users. But their users spend 50% more on the platform every day – and emit three times as much for every minute of use. As a result, a conservative estimate indicates that the platform produces 40,151 tons of CO2e per day.

Although the popularity of a social media platform is important, there are other factors to consider. YouTube and Facebook have considerably larger user bases than TikTok. But TikTok emits three more CO2e per minute of use than Facebook – and five times more than YouTube.

Similarly, users spend 50% more time on YouTube and TikTok than on Facebook. As a result, the companies’ overall carbon emissions are somewhat surprising given their different scales.

Facebook emits relatively little per minute of use – 0.79 grams of CO2 equivalent (CO2e), to be exact. The average user spends 30.1 minutes per day on the platform. But with 1.96 billion daily active usersthe platform produces a whopping 46,797 tonnes of CO2e per day – and 17,080,905 CO2e every year.

Although there is no reliable data on daily active users of TikTok or Youtube, there is data on their monthly user base. If we take a conservative estimate that around a third of these users might be using each platform daily, we can produce a reasonable estimate of their overall carbon emissions.

YouTube has 2,562,000,000 mostly active users and an average daily watch time of 45.6 minutes. If we again take a conservative approach and assume that a third of monthly active users match the daily consumption figures, we find that the platform produces 17,913.5 tonnes of CO2e per day.

TikTok has 1 billion monthly active users, with an average daily usage of 45.8 minutes – emitting 2.63g of CO2e per minute of usage. At the conservative end of the spectrum – counting a third of monthly users as daily uses – this would produce 40,151 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per day.

To put that into perspective, it’s estimated that a seat on a London-New York flight and back can take up to 1.7 tons of CO2. Thus, Facebook and TikTok emit more CO2e each year than it would take to transport the entire population from London to New York and back.

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