Can I Sue Instagram?

by: Motley Rice

Some people may be eligible to sue Instagram. Parents of children harmed by Instagram, adults harmed as minors, and school districts that have experienced damages may be eligible. Social media attorneys can help you determine if you have a case against Instagram and its parent company, Meta.

Who Can Sue Instagram?

Several different kinds of people may be able to sue Instagram. You may be able to file a lawsuit against Instagram if you are:

  • The parent or guardian of a minor: Parents or legal guardians can sue on behalf of a child who was harmed by the impact of social media. Harms may include mental health problems and self-harm.
  • An adult who was harmed as a minor: If you are an adult (between the ages of 18 and 25 years old) who was harmed as a minor (17 or younger), you may be eligible to file a suit on your own behalf. You may be eligible if you’ve experienced any of the negative outcomes described above or elsewhere in this article.
  • A local government or school district: Schools and local governments are suing social media companies over the associated costs with the ongoing youth mental health crisis. If your district was impacted by increased costs or repairs from social media related challenges, you may be able to file a claim.

What can I sue Instagram for?

It’s possible to sue Instagram for any number of negative outcomes from using the app. Let’s take a look at some of the most common.

Social media addiction

Instagram addiction is characterized by compulsive use of your Instagram account through the app or website. Studies show that children and teens often display these behaviors. Instagram addiction with more extreme negative impacts is especially prevalent among female users in their teens.
 
Social media companies have no shortage of legal troubles. Whistleblower Frances Haugen outed social media companies in 2021 for worsening eating disorders and suicidal thoughts in teenage girls. The addictive nature of social media platforms is a national concern. Even President Biden has called for a need to hold social media companies accountable for its negative impact on children.
 
Using Instagram or other social media sites can result in addictive behavior. Social media sites have been compared to slot machines, using a system of rewards and variable returns. Notifications, likes, shares and interactions act as prizes, triggering the release of “happy hormones,” serotonin and dopamine. These features draw Instagram users back to the app, looking for an emotional reward. It is alleged that this type of reward system is part of the intentional design of the platform. 

Learn more about how social media affects children and teens.

Symptoms of Instagram addiction

The symptoms of Instagram addiction can begin in small ways. Eventually, checking the app may become compulsive and symptoms may escalate. This can result in serious mental health conditions.
 
Wondering if you or a loved one might be experiencing the symptoms of Instagram or other social media addiction? Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Anxiety
  • Body image issues
  • Compulsive use
  • Depression
  • Excessive use of continuous scrolling
  • Recording or photographing mundane events
  • Social comparison
  • Suicidal ideation

Minors will often use social media to compare themselves and their lives to others. Since online posts are heavily curated, users can highlight the positives of their lives while leaving out negatives. This can result in children feeling left out or having less than their peers. This phenomenon has been associated with depressive symptoms and eating disorders.
 
Social media addiction can have serious mental health outcomes. Addiction to social media may become so extreme that young users can become fully immersed in the platform and start to lose track of time. The result of prolonged social media use contributes to a number of mental health conditions.

If you or a loved one suffers from a social media addiction to the point where it interferes with your everyday life, you may be eligible to file a claim.

Mental health conditions

As mentioned above, social media use has been linked to a number of mental health conditions, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleep disturbances

Social media has consistently been shown to negatively impact not only how young people feel but also how they see themselves. The impact of positive feedback loops through likes and social comparison can lead to serious side effects.If you or a loved one have struggled with mental illness as a result of using social media, consider consulting a lawyer to discuss your legal options.

Self-harm

Several studies have shown the link between self-harm and social media. Young girls in particular are susceptible to self-harm. Some resulting conditions include:

  • Body dysmorphia
  • Eating disorders
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

In fact, these symptoms are often related, and eating disorders will often occur in conjunction with other self-harming behaviors. Researchers have found links between these behaviors and social comparison to influencers and peers at particularly vulnerable stages of development.

Learn more about the dangers of social media.

Need help now?

If you or a loved one are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988 or chat via their website.

Emotional distress

You can sue Instagram for emotional distress if you have suffered harms. Studies have reported the following mental health outcomes, which may qualify as emotional distress associated with social media use. They include:

  • Lasting struggles with eating disorders
  • The loss of a child
  • The urge to self-harm
  • Continuing suicidal thoughts or actions

These serious and potentially life-threatening conditions are just some examples of the harmful impacts of social media. If you believe you or a loved one have been harmed by social media use, you may be able to take legal action.

How to file an Instagram lawsuit

If you’re considering filing a lawsuit against Instagram, a social media lawyer with experience can walk you through the process.

Many social media cases are part of a multidistrict litigation docket (MDLs). MDLs are a way of organizing multiple individual lawsuits to speed up the lawsuit process. A lawyer can evaluate your case to see if it qualifies for a MDL. As of May 2024, 455 pending lawsuits are in the social media MDL. This means 455 individual people have filed lawsuits against social media companies.

Sources
  1. Business Insider. Facebook's internal research found its Instagram platform contributes to eating disorders and suicidal thoughts in teenage girls, whistleblower says. 
  2. Karim F, Oyewande AA, Abdalla LF, Chaudhry Ehsanullah R, Khan S. Social media use and its connection to mental health: a systematic review. Cureus. 2020 June, 15;12(6):e8627.
  3. Montag C, Lachmann B, Herrlich M, Zweig K. Addictive Features of Social Media/Messenger Platforms and Freemium Games against the Background of Psychological and Economic Theories. National Library of Medicine. 2019 July, 23; 16(14):2612.
  4. Nino Gugushvili, Karin Täht, Robert A. C. Ruiter & Philippe Verduyn. Facebook use intensity and depressive symptoms: a moderated mediation model of problematic Facebook use, age, neuroticism, and extraversion. BMC Psychology. 2022 Nov., 28;10(1):279.
  5. Spiegel International. The Slot Machine in Your Pocket.
  6. United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. MDL Statistics Report - Distribution of Pending MDL Dockets by District.
  7. Wall Street Journal. Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show.
  8. Wall Street Journal. Republicans and Democrats, Unite Against Big Tech Abuses.

 

Motley Rice