Have you read ‘Influenced: The Impact of Social Media on Our Perception’?
The book that depicts the personal experience of the author Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler, a self-confessed Tiktokaholic. The author talks about the impact of social media on our brains and behaviors each time we addictively engage in it. He had gone through the challenge of maintaining a healthy relationship with social media.
Social media was initially created as a convenient way to remain in touch with friends and family, but it has now practically become a part of our culture.
Now it’s the right time to discuss and be worried about social media’s toxic effect on people’s emotional wellbeing, especially teens. Very recent news reports the concern of umpteen American parents about their teenage kids getting stuck in the web of social media addiction.
The depth of the issue reflects in the fact that they had filed a lawsuit against social media. When the social media lawsuits escalated to a massive number, the law understood the seriousness of the social media dangers, and the lawsuits were consolidated into an MDL.
Experts in medical and legal communities are comparing the lawsuits involving social media to defective product lawsuits and the battle against opioids and vaping. When social media addiction is compared to the opioid crisis, we can understand how deep-rooted media addiction is among American teens.
This blog will take you to the ins and outs of social media addiction, its danger to teen mental health and social life, and the tips for a safe social media engagement.
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The Recent Social Media Lawsuits- A Glance
At the beginning of the new year, the public school district in Seattle filed a lawsuit against social media platforms, holding them liable for spoiling the teens’ mental health. The defendants in the social media addiction lawsuit are social media giants like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat.
In June 2023, Montgomery County Public Schools, along with more than 500 other U.S. school districts, sued the parent companies of well-known social media platforms including Snapchat, TikTok, and Facebook.
The lawsuit was based on the grounds that they “knowingly cause emotional harm” to students through their platforms. Meanwhile, some parents want the school system to be held accountable for its own ongoing use of social media.
The social media harm lawsuit argues that social media algorithms are pushing potentially harmful content to American youths, creating harmful emotional impacts.
Will the plaintiffs be able to prove the liability of the defendant social media companies through these social media addiction lawsuits? We have to wait and watch till the court hears the arguments in February. The social media lawsuit claims that social media victims with severe addiction can be affected by physical and mental issues.
News about social media lawsuit cases say that the districts blame the companies for worsening mental health and behavioral disorders, including
- Eating disorders
Before digging deep into the lawsuits over social media, let’s understand social media addiction and its impact on teens.
What is Social Media Addiction?
Although most social media users do not engage in dangerous behavior, a small percentage of users acquire an addiction to social networking sites and engage in compulsive or excessive use. According to recent social media addiction statistics, between 5 and 10% of Americans today are likely to be addicted to social media. More than 90% of teenagers use social media daily for longer than four hours.
It can be challenging to maintain self-control when using social media; one click might trigger more and more, and before you realize it, two hours have passed.
Causes of Social Media Addiction
There are different types of types of social media addiction reported in teenagers. The major causes of Social Networking Sites (SNSs) addiction can be divided into two. They are social media itself and the users.
Social media platforms are free because companies pay to gain access to you. The amount of time users spend on social media platforms directly impacts the sales and profits earned by these businesses. More time spent by more users equates to more money.
These networking sites constantly develop new tactics to get visitors to their websites. To increase user engagement, social media corporations regularly modify their technology, which effectively makes the site more and more addicting for young users.
The “dopamine loop” of motivation, reward, and reinforcement causes users to seek out rewards and look for more of them. Customized social media algorithms trigger users, especially teens, to return to these platforms repeatedly.
From the users’ point of view, the most commonly reported causes of social media addiction include low self-esteem, personal unhappiness, melancholy, hyperactivity, and even a lack of affection.
Experts suggest that these reasons make the teens feel unsecured, which they frequently try to make up for with famed likes. Another reason for addiction to social media is social anxiety. People with social anxiety might prefer to spend time online because it doesn’t require them to connect with others in real life.
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How Social Media Addiction Affects Your Brain?
Have you ever thought about how and why social media addiction occurs?
Problematic social media use can have many negative repercussions and adverse effects on other aspects of a person’s life.
Dopamine signals in your brain grow whenever you use your favorite social media sites. The neurotransmitters in question are linked to pleasure. The brain receives a flood of dopamine and delivers it along reward pathways when a user receives a like, retweet, or emoticon notice.
Your focus may be pulled to social media or diverted by it. Studies show that your brain is negatively affected and shrunk due to social media addiction. In addition to that, the cognitive performance of the brain is also affected.
Is social media addiction a mental illness?
Experts do not consider it a mental illness; still, social media addiction can trigger many other mental disorders in the long run.
Your brain recognizes social media use as a pleasant activity you should repeat when you feel more dopamine. The happy emotions felt while using social media are fleeting, and you would tend to return to social media to restore the dopamine level.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat users see what appears to be an endless scroll of photographs with comments, remarks, likes, and tags. Social media victims may switch their attention between numerous incoming media streams, which results in vigorous multitasking. The resulting multitasking hinders our capability to focus and shortens our attention span.
Social Media Addiction Symptoms
How do you find out if your teen or a loved one has social media addiction?
The following are the signs and symptoms of social media addiction.
- Spending hours on social media networks
- Not able to manage time for daily chores and duties
- Less interaction with loved ones
- Less interest in studies
- Restlessness when away from mobile phone
- Checking social media sites frequently
- Oversharing of selfies and other social media content
What are the Harmful Effects of Social Media Addiction?
Now you would have understood the biochemical changes and the human brain’s response to the addictive usage of social media. Let us now check out other dangerous social media addiction effects.
Depression and anxiety
People who check Facebook late at night are more likely to feel gloomy and dissatisfied, according to a Lancet study published in 2018. In contrast to those who use 0 to 2 social media platforms, teenagers in the United States who use 7 to 11 social media platforms are far more likely to experience significant levels of depression and anxiety symptoms.
Non-suicidal self-injury, often known as self-injury, is the deliberate injuring of one’s body, such as by burning or slashing oneself. An unhealthy approach to dealing with emotional anguish, despair, rage, and stress is to damage oneself.
Specific social media posts make an effort to “normalize” self-harm and suicide, which could lead to adolescents imitating the behaviors they see. These can be nebulous notions and deliberate plans to kill one’s life.
Cyberbullying occurs in social media by disclosing personal or private information or denigrating another person. It is often intended to humiliate, degrade, or discourage people. Personal attacks, harassment or other discriminating behavior, the dissemination of false information, and cyberstalking are all examples of cyberbullying.
The fact that all material on social media platforms is produced by users encourages individuals to promote themselves. Narcissists believe that people are interested in what they do and want people to know what they are doing, and they frequently use social networking sites.
Addiction and over-social media engagement can cause relationship problems in youngsters. Around 60% of both men and women report difficulties with commitment due to social media addiction.
For most teenagers, scrolling through their favorite social media accounts is one of the everyday pre-sleep activities. This habit can lead to severe sleep disorders and mental illness in them.
Lawsuits against Social Media Companies
The lawsuit against social media by the public school district in Seattle is the first lawsuit of this kind in the United States. However, similar claims were filed in 2022 by many families, holding the social media sites accountable for suicides.
The vital fact is that the public school district in Seattle includes more than 100 schools with about 50,000 children. The lawsuit claims that the schools cannot educate children with true essence because of social media addiction and the related consequences.
The lawsuit filed against Alphabet Inc, Meta Platforms Inc, Snap Inc, and TikTok-owner ByteDance claimed that they purposefully designed their products to attract youngsters to their platforms, creating a mental health crisis.
What does the social media lawsuit say?
“Defendants have successfully exploited the vulnerable brains of youth, hooking tens of millions of students across the country into positive feedback loops of excessive use and abuse of Defendants’ social media platforms,”
How do social media sites respond to the lawsuit?
Google responded that it has invested heavily in creating safe experiences for children across its platforms and has introduced “strong protections and dedicated features to prioritize their wellbeing,”
To give users in-app tools and resources, Snap says it collaborates closely with various mental health groups. The company also stated that the wellbeing of its community is its top concern.
The social media platforms stated that they are trying to safeguard their youngest users by providing resources on mental health issues and enhancing measures to stop the spread of harmful content.
Social Media Lawsuit against Meta
In the second half of 2021, Frances Haugen, a former Meta employee, released records about the company’s internal procedures to the public. Haugen accused the company of intentionally exploiting youngsters to increase profits. Several state attorneys general opened probes, and Congress conducted hearings.
As per the lawsuit, Facebook, now called Meta, neglected to inform customers about
- Incredibly addicting features and content
- Effects of social media on physical and mental health
- Mental health problems in children and addiction to social media at alarmingly high rates
- For minors, the injury is more severe.
Social Media Addiction Lawsuits: Class Action MDL
One of the claimants suing Meta for Instagram addiction harm filed a motion with the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) in August 2022, asking to consolidate all other Instagram addiction harm claims in federal courts into a new class action. MDL
In October 2022, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation centralized all cases into a new “class action” MDL (In re: Social Media Adolescent Addiction/Personal Injury Prod. Liab. Lit. – MDL No. 304). The MDL was assigned to the Northern District of California, where most defendants are headquartered. The JMPL consolidated 28 pending cases in 17 different judicial districts.
On January 2, 2022, the JPML ruled that all pending cases in the lawsuits against social media will be consolidated into a class action MDL in the Northern District of California. There are currently about 80 pending cases in federal courts. Though the new class action MDL will include social media addiction cases against all social media platforms, 70% of the cases are against Meta.
Can Social Media Sites Hold Liable for Addiction?
Research studies indicate that Facebook and Instagram are aware of the damage their products cause on teenagers. In a Wall Street Journal piece, the business claimed that its own research revealed that 6% of American teenagers and 13% of British kids who reported pondering suicide had Instagram to thank for their decision.
In addition, 32% of female and 14% of male users reported that Instagram increased their body consciousness.
The Communications Decency Act of 1996’s Section 230 helps shield online businesses from legal action resulting from content that third parties post on their platforms.
The scope of immunity of social media platforms under § 230 is currently under appeal at the U.S. Supreme Court. Although § 230 protects social media sites from the adverse effects of user-posted content, it does not protect them from the harmful effects of their own algorithms and technologies.
However, the most challenging part for the claimants in a social media addiction lawsuit will be proving causation. The plaintiffs will need to prove with scientific evidence that a physical addiction to the social media platform ended in the damage.
Settlement Value of Social Media Addiction Lawsuits
As of now, it is hard to predict the possibility and success of social media class action lawsuits. None of the social media lawsuits have gone to trial or been settled.
Social media addiction lawyers predict that, if the lawsuit proceeds, the settlement value of a social media lawsuit involving the wrongful death of a teenager would be around $1.5-$5 million, depending on the circumstances.
However, Social Networking Sites lawsuits with minor damages, such as self-mutilation or an eating disorder, will be settled for a lesser amount.
We have discussed social media addiction and the booming lawsuits against social media in the U.S.
Are social media companies alone responsible for the addiction of teens to it? Unless every individual, including the parents and teachers, take responsibility, social media addiction in teens will be a never-ending problem.
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How do I Break My Social Media Addiction?
Getting rid of social media addiction may be equally challenging as an opioid or vaping addiction. However, it’s never an impossible task. Let’s give you some tips and tricks to overcome social media addiction.
- Switch off your phone when you feel like jumping into your favorite social media site.
- Switch off your mobile data and use the telephone only for emergencies.
- Turn off the notifications on your social media accounts.
- Divert yourselves to reading books or other activities like swimming, exercising, or cooking.
- Talk with your friends and family instead of using your phone.
- Set strict screen time for your teens if you are a parent.
- You can even delete the app and find a new hobby.
- Schools can take the responsibility to conduct counseling and create awareness about social media addiction in teens.
According to studies, using social media for not more than 30 minutes daily is best for mental wellness. It’s unnecessary to stop using social media entirely, but having methods for placing boundaries is crucial.
Young adults who regularly use social media are more prone to self-isolation and narcissism because sites like Facebook and Instagram strongly emphasize sharing or oversharing one’s own images and views.
When it comes to lawsuits against social media, we cannot wholly blame social media networks for addictive usage by teens. It may be time for these sites to make their algorithms more responsible and for the users to know how and where to stop using them.
‘Too much of anything is good for nothing’. Let’s have a healthy and balanced interaction with social media sites and educate our teens on their importance.
Do you have any personal experiences with social media addiction?
What’s your opinion on social media addiction lawsuits?
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