Anti-Social Internet & Entertainment Addictions Can Save Energy

On Monday night’s City Vision show on teen use of smart phones, researchers discussed how teens are now much more anti-social and depressed as they lack face-to-face contact and surf in isolation. Adults aren’t much better, as many of us get “tech neck” staring at devices.

But there may be an upside: saved energy use and therefore reduced greenhouse gas emissions. As the New York Times reported, all this staying at home has some environmental upsides:

Researchers found that, on average, Americans spent 7.8 more days at home in 2012, compared to 2003. They calculated that this reduced national energy demand by 1,700 trillion BTUs in 2012, or 1.8 percent of the nation’s total energy use.

The lifestyle shift was especially pronounced among 18- to 24-year-olds, who spent an extra 14 days at home and roughly four days less in travel. The findings represent a significant change in lifestyle in less than 10 years. Those fewer travel days are particularly important when it comes to saving energy.

I suppose the same phenomenon might be observed as more Americans switch to “downer” drugs like legalized cannabis, which compared to alcohol might encourage people to stay home more.

We certainly don’t need more isolation and anti-social behavior in our society, but the energy upsides at least provide some consolation. But how about a compromise? If we make our neighborhoods more walkable and transit-friendly, going out for socializing could have a smaller carbon footprint.

But in the meantime, if you stay in this weekend, at least you can feel good about your overall energy consumption, if not your energy output.