Does Social Media Seriously Harm Your Mental Health?

Does Social Media Seriously Harm Your Mental Health?

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Does Social Media Seriously Harm Your Mental Health?

The majority of people have at least one social media account. The younger you are, the more likely you are to have accounts on everything from Instagram to TikTok. Many people monetize their content on these platforms and make a living on sites such as Twitch and YouTube. While these platforms are designed to bring people together, they can also adversely affect mental health and well-being.

But does social media seriously harm your mental health? You or someone you care about may have already experienced the downside of social media use, possibly even resulting in severe consequences. The insidious thing about social media is that its developers use algorithms intended to drive users to consume more and more content, even if that content can be harmful. In some cases, people have been driven to suicide or become radicalized, leading to deadly results. Should social media developers be held accountable when aware of the harm their product can cause?

It isn't easy to take on social media platforms because they are some of the biggest companies in the world. Furthermore, they are shielded from accountability since they are not considered publishers under current U.S. laws. Nevertheless, this area of the law is fluid and still catching up to technological developments. Morgan and Morgan have been pioneers in holding negligent companies accountable for more than 35 years. We're not afraid to bring a landmark lawsuit that could change how courts view these types of businesses moving forward. Let's take a look at how social media can cause serious harm to mental health and your legal options if you or a loved one were harmed.

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  • Why Is Social Media So Addictive?

    Social media has existed for over two decades and is used for various purposes. Some people use it for business, some for self-expression, and others may use it simply to connect to the outside world. Lots of people use it for all the mentioned reasons combined. It's a cure for boredom and allows us to stay in touch with people we might have lost touch with otherwise.

    However, there is a physiological reason why we feel highs and lows when using social media. When we get shares, likes, and comments on our content, our brain's reward center releases dopamine, a "feel good" chemical. This is the same chemical released when drug users inject heroin or a gambler gets when their horse wins. Social media is designed to hook us and keep us coming back for more, making it increasingly harder to resist because of pleasurable experiences.

    Addiction to social media is most pronounced in teens and young adults, but it can happen to anyone. The immediate gratification from the attention can cause other compulsive and obsessive disorders to worsen, though. For example, while social media hasn't yet been linked to body dysmorphia, it can amplify the problem.   

    Social media is further addictive by design, meaning developers have created elements within social media to gauge approval, such as the "like and share" button. While it's nice to have "likes" on your social media posts, some people find they spend countless hours mindlessly scrolling and liking content before they even realize how much time they've spent.

    Likewise, there is no "page two" on social media. Instead, you can scroll infinitely without making a willful decision to consume more content.

    Fear of missing out is another issue because if we miss out on something important, it creates anxiety and depression. This is especially true when we see posts of others having fun, and we aren't included.

  • What Are the Studies on the Harmful Effects of Social Media on Teen Girls?

    Social media can harm people of any age or gender, but social media can be particularly harmful to teen girls. Leaks of internal presentations at Instagram show that executives were aware of the harm their platform was causing to teen girls, yet they downplayed the negative effects. Social media distorts reality through the use of filters and carefully choreographed poses and situations. Now anyone can look like a runway model on Instagram. However, when teen girls look in the mirror, they compare themselves to unrealistic and impossible standards.

    Adults are susceptible to this warped reality as well. In fact, plastic surgeons have reported increased requests to make their patients look like their heavily filtered Snapchat or Instagram profiles. There's been an uptick in requests for procedures like facelifts, eyelid surgeries, liposuction, and buttock augmentation. In 2019, Botox injections rose by more than 300,000 over the previous year.

    Some people have such unhealthy relationships with social media that they endanger genuine relationships. For example, one New York Times article shared how a newlywed couple almost called it quits on their honeymoon because the new bride was paying more attention to planning and posting selfies than she did to her new husband. 

  • What Are the Signs of Serious Harm to Your Mental Health From Social Media Use?

    So you’ve asked, "Does social media seriously harm your mental health?" You may already have an idea of the answer if you’re being honest with yourself and are probably already noticing disturbing signs. The problem with social media use is that instant gratification can supplant the positive effects of traditional means of gratification, like doing well in a tournament or winning over a new client. Traditional achievements take time and effort, while getting many comments on the latest selfie can be almost instantaneous. Likewise, the search for instant gratification drives people to check and recheck their posts for updates obsessively.

    However, this addiction to social media can cause other issues like anxiety, depression, and further mental health problems.

    Generally, these are the signs that social media use has risen to the level of a mental health issue:

    • Preoccupation with social media
    • Increased use despite consequences for relationships and personal health
    • Requiring more time on social media sites to achieve satisfaction levels
    • Unsuccessful efforts to decrease or cease time spent on social media
    • Restlessness
    • Sadness
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Chronic self-doubt
    • The advancement of body dysmorphia problems
  • What Steps Can You Take to Lessen the Harmful Effects of Social Media Use?

    The first step to addressing a harmful habit is to make a plan to decrease usage. When it comes to social media, you can use apps that track usage and make a goal to reduce the time spent on social media. Turning off app notifications could be crucial since these are designed to drag users back on whenever a new like pops up or someone you follow posts something new. Finally, move social media apps from the main pages of your phone to make them more challenging to access.

    Suppose you're a parent who is concerned about the mental health effects of social media usage on your child. In that case, you can make a difference by making an example of yourself and reducing your time spent on these apps.

    A 2018 University of Pennsylvania study showed that groups that limited their social media use experienced reduced feelings of loneliness and depression. Recognizing that social media is hurting your mental health is crucial to taking actions that will have a positive result.

  • Can You Sue a Social Media Platform for Harm to Your Mental Health?

    While current U.S. laws bar people from suing because of content posted by third parties, some accountability should be laid at the feet of developers who purposely manipulate the technology to put profit over the safety and well-being of its users. With that being said, you do have options to hold another individual accountable for harmful content. Here are some current legal angles under which a claim might be brought against another individual that posts on social media:

    Social media defamation - There's no question that untrue statements about you or your business can cause harm. When someone posts a defamatory remark on social media, it's called libel. However, you may recognize it as cyberbullying or cyber harassment. Since social media is so prevalent and many people and businesses depend on it, any disparaging remark can have far-reaching consequences, including harm to mental health.

    Still, there is little oversight on profiles created anonymously to damage others. While many people feel they can make defamatory statements based on freedom of speech, the First Amendment applies to freedom from government censorship. While people can say what they want, that doesn't mean there won't be consequences, especially if it's damaging and untrue. Still, an absolute defense to defamation is truth. That means if the person who made negative comments about you is true, it's unlikely you'd successfully bring a claim against them.

    Here are two scenarios to illustrate this concept:

    You own a restaurant, and a customer gets angry because they forgot to make a reservation for an important event. You weren't able to accommodate their last-minute request. In response, they post a fake picture of your signature dish with a used band-aid in it, claiming, "look what I just found in my food at XYZ restaurant." Suppose you can prove the customer never had that experience at your restaurant, and you suffered financial losses as a result of that post. In that case, you might have a clear case of libel that you could pursue.   

    Here's the second scenario:

    You own a restaurant, and a food critic comes in and orders your signature dish. The critic then makes a post stating, "I had the worst spaghetti of my life tonight at XYZ restaurant. In the second scenario, it wouldn't be considered liable because it's based on their opinion. Only the food critic can know if it was indeed the worst spaghetti dish they've ever had. Although it can be hurtful, there's likely no path forward using the legal system.

    Intellectual property claims - You have a cause of action if a social media site violates your intellectual property rights. That means the content you produce or post on the platform is yours. Suppose you're an artist concentrating on gothic themes, and you upload your latest painting of crows in a field. Since you're subscribed to groups that celebrate gothic themes, you run across another user who has posted your art as their own. In that case, you could take legal action against the social media platform hosting the content for violating your intellectual property rights.

    Failure to warn - Perhaps the most interesting legal angle that could bring down social media giants is failure to warn. This is when social media developer conduct is responsible for harm to others. For example, in theory, you might be able to sue if a loved one became radicalized through manipulative algorithms that are designed to feed users content based on interests. While social media platforms are largely immune from legal action based on what third parties post, if they fail to self-monitor and violent content is pushed out (based on their algorithm) until your loved one's mental health deteriorates and leads to violent actions, the social media platform could be held accountable.

  • Consult Morgan and Morgan if Social Media Has Harmed Your Mental Health

    Laws that grant immunity to social media platforms are evolving. While they have many protections, emerging data, and internal leaks concerning manipulative actions by social media platforms for the sake of profit could be game changers. Don't dismiss your chances of recovering compensation until you've talked with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers. We can help you understand the laws that govern your legal matter and advise you of your rights.

    Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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