Technology and Media | Consumer Fraud Protection

Instagram Addiction Lawsuit

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Social media users have filed Instagram addiction lawsuits. These lawsuits allege the platform’s parent company Meta, formerly Facebook, built dangerous features to keep users engaged in an effort to maximize profits leading to mental health issues. You may be eligible to file an Instagram addiction lawsuit if you or your child have used Instagram addictively and suffered mental health harms as a result.

Why are people filing Instagram addiction lawsuits?

People are starting to fight back against mega tech corporations.

People have started filing Instagram addiction lawsuits because the evidence is very strong that the product has a negative impact on youth mental health and physical health in a large portion of users. For example, in one Instagram addiction case, a young woman attempted suicide three times while she was a child. Now an adult, the woman says using Instagram led her to an eating disorder and depression.

Lawsuits allege that social media companies have deployed behavior manipulation tactics to keep users hooked. These tactics include “intermittent variable rewards,” a behavioral research term to describe rewards given at unpredictable times and of in unpredictable amounts. One example of this is “likes.” Because they don’t know when they’ll get likes or how many they end up compulsively checking Instagram and other social media platforms. And once they’re on the social media platforms, “endless scroll” design keeps them mindless scrolling.

These cases are built on the explosive revelations of whistleblower Francis Haugen, a former Meta Software Engineer. In 2021, she shared documents showing that Meta knew Instagram could be harmful to users, and was particularly harmful to young women and girls.

Eligibility to file Instagram addiction lawsuits

Young adults who have experienced mental health problems from using Instagram may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the company. Parents of children who have faced social media addiction issues may also be eligible.

Our attorneys can evaluate your case, including specific issues like statutes of limitations, and discuss your options for taking action. If you are eligible, this may include filing a lawsuit.

Current trends in Instagram addiction lawsuits

The number of Instagram addiction lawsuits filed continues to rise. Thousands of families have filed lawsuits against social media companies.

In the U.S. District Court for the Northern California District, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers oversees multidistrict litigation (MDL) 3047 In re: Social Media Adolescent Addiction/Personal Injury Products Liability Litigation. As of May 2024, 455 claims were currently pending in the MDL. Motley Rice attorney Previn Warren is co-lead counsel for this MDL.

Social media companies have argued that they are not liable for the harm caused to young social media users, even when their own documents show they knew harm was occurring. They have defended their actions by claiming that the First Amendment and the Federal Communications Decency Act protect them from liability. However Plaintiffs have succeeded in convincing judges that their cases against social media companies should be allowed to proceed.

On November 14, 2023, Judge Gonzalez Rogers’ issued a ruling that largely denied the tech giants’ motion to dismiss the lawsuits. This allows the plaintiffs to move forward with the discovery phase of litigation which will help uncover evidence specifically as to who knew what, and when they knew it, when it came to the mental health of youth using their platform.

Other legal actions taken over Instagram addiction

Instagram and other social media companies, such as TikTok and Snapchat, also face lawsuits from state attorneys general. More than 40 state attorneys general have filed lawsuits. These lawsuits allege that social media companies’ addictive design choices have helped grow a youth mental health crisis and illegally collected data from children.

The attorneys general also allege the companies misled the public about the dangers of their platforms.

School responses to Instagram addiction

School districts across the country have filed social media addiction lawsuits. Like the other plaintiffs, the school districts believe that social media companies’ highly addictive apps have contributed to a surge youth mental health problems. Much of the burden of responding to this surge has fallen on school districts, who have had to relocate staff and funding to meet students’ needs.

The school district cases are part of the MDL in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

What is Instagram addiction?

Instagram addiction is a compulsion to use the social platform. It is a behavioral addiction, meaning it manifests in taking particular actions rather than using particular substances. 

People addicted to using social media may have trouble with their day-to-day activities, job, and academic performance. 

How does Instagram addiction happen?

Instagram, like other social media platforms, is built to encourage compulsive use, much like slot machines in a casino. This addictive goal is built into the apps’ user interfaces, product features, and algorithmic systems.

The psychology behind these design choices includes something called “intermittent variable rewards,” which mean providing a reward but not providing it consistently. Rewards cause the brain to release dopamine, a hormone often associated with feelings of pleasure, but decades of science has shown that when they’re provided inconsistently, people end up chasing that good feeling through compulsive use. On social media apps, “likes”, “shares” and notifications of friends’ new posts are some of the vast number of “rewards.” 

Additionally, for some people, social media engagement tells the brain to release dopamine. The dopamine release may encourage people to spend more time looking through Instagram.

Addiction to Instagram may cause serious harm. Some experts have found that social media addiction may carry the same consequences as other addictions. These include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Isolation
  • Stress
  • Social anxiety

Other possible consequences of social media include developing eating disorders or starting to harm oneself.

How bad Is Instagram for children?

A 2023 Surgeon General advisory drew attention to how social media affects children. In the advisory, the Surgeon General wrote that social media can “have a profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.” 

While more data is needed, a 2017 study showed Instagram and social media-addicted adolescents may experience depressive symptoms and suicidal behavior and outcomes.

Signs of Instagram addiction

There are several signs of Instagram addiction that you can be on the look out for. These include:

  • Getting anxious without having access to Instagram
  • Hiding Instagram use
  • Issues with body image in connection with Instagram use
  • Spending a lot of time on Instagram
  • Suicidal ideation

If you or your loved one appears suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. This free and confidential call will connect you with a trained staff member. You can also visit their website: 988lifeline.org.

Contact the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) for any signs of an eating disorder. The toll-free number is 1-800-931-2237, and the website is www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.

Contact a social media addiction attorney

You may be eligible to sue if you or your child has suffered negative mental health effects from using Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok social media platforms. Contact Motley Rice today for more information about a social media lawsuit.
Call Attorney "canonical">Previn Warren at 1.800.768.4026 or complete this form to explore your options.

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Our experience with Instagram addiction

For decades, Motley Rice attorneys have fought for people and families against corporate conglomerates that prioritize profits over safety.

We are currently working on behalf of people who have been harmed by Instagram addiction and harm from other social media platforms. This may include people and their children who have experienced depression, eating disorders and suicidal behavior that was worsened due to social media.

Your well-being is important to our team. We can help you determine if you are eligible to file a lawsuit for Instagram addiction.