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Social Media and Anxiety

Social Media and Anxiety

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Studies have linked social media use to many mental health issues for young people, including anxiety. The widespread use of social media may be partially responsible for the mental health crisis facing children and adolescents today. Below, we explore the alleged association between social media and anxiety.

Does social media cause anxiety?

According to a 2021 U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory, surveys of young Americans have shown a sharp decline in their mental condition in recent years. Research has shown that there is a likelihood that social media causes anxiety for some users. Younger people, like children and adolescents, may feel this influence more intensely.

Reviews of existing scientific studies on the subject found:

  • Time spent: Multiple studies covered within the survey found a link between the use of social media and anxiety. For example, researchers who surveyed European adolescents found a link between heavy social media use and depression. Other researchers found similar results with Chinese teens.  These studies also found psychological distress was linked to spending two or more hours a day on social media.
  • Activity: Some researchers found a link between how people use social media and their reported anxiety. One study found teens who had more accounts or spent more time checking notifications were more likely to experience depression and anxiety.
  • Addiction: A review of 16 studies found a recurring theme that adolescents with social media addiction were more likely to experience anxiety and depressive symptoms.

Does social media increase anxiety?

Based on the available research, it is possible that the factors that may cause anxiety for some people may increase existing anxiety for others. It is also possible that the anxiety caused by social media may worsen with continued use, given the links between heavy usage of social media and anxiety.

Why does social media cause anxiety?

Social media could possibly cause anxiety in users by instilling a fear of missing out (FOMO). It is alleged that social media apps are designed to exploit the psychology of kids and teens to maximize engagement, even at the expense of young people’s mental well-being.

These features of social media that may cause anxiety include notifications, disappearing content and social comparison.


Social media apps may have incessant notifications that ping users about what their peers are doing and urge kids to engage with the platforms. These notifications may make social media stressful for users.

However, these notifications aren’t always consistent. Apps may withhold notifying users about interactions with their posts for a period of time to further maximize user engagement.

Social comparison

Social media and anxiety may be further linked by how these platforms encourage social comparison and validation among users. Features like filters and other edited photos or videos on social media platforms may promote negative social comparisons, which may lead to anxiety, negative body image, low self-esteem and other mental health concerns.

Contact a social media mental health attorney

Motley Rice is reviewing allegations that multiple social media platforms intentionally and deliberately designed their social media apps without regard for the safety of children.

Our thoughts go out to those affected by anxiety, depression, suicide, self-harm and eating disorders worsened by social media.

Call attorney Previn Warren or Jonathan Orent at 1.800.768.4026 or complete this form to explore your options.

What companies allegedly knew about anxiety and social media

Companies regularly survey users to see how to improve their products and how teens and young adults react to them. Publicly available, external research also showcases the potential harms of social media platforms and features.

Leaks of internal research show that social media companies are aware of their impact on the mental health of their users. They know that the mental health of kids and adolescents is in danger from the use of their products.

Below is some information about what these companies know about how social media can cause anxiety.


Documents published by The Wall Street Journal show Meta extensively researched social media’s influence on young people. The leaked documents show they knew how Facebook and Instagram can harm young users’ mental health.

Internal research found that the social comparison aspect of Instagram could compound feelings of anxiety and depression among teens.
Internally conducted surveys of adolescents found that surveyed teens blame Meta’s products for mental health harms.  A slide discussing internal user research found, “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression. This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”


External research and internal documents from Snap suggest that features of Snapchat, such as Snap Streaks and Snap Map, may induce anxiety and other negative mental health impacts.  Here’s how:

  • Snap Streaks: A Snap Streak is a way users who share three or more Snaps with each other in a day are rewarded by the platform, with unique emojis awarded for longer Streaks.  External research has found that young users who lose a Snap Streak often experience negative feelings. A 2018 internal study by Snap found that more than a third of users found it important to keep a Snap Streak going and that they felt an enormous amount of pressure to do so.
  • Snap Map: Snap Map is a feature of Snapchat that shares a person’s location with their friends and the public unless disabled.  Beyond the concern of sharing the locations of minors, researchers have also found that the feature promotes feelings of jealousy, which lead to anxiety and sadness.

Symptoms of anxiety from social media

If you’re concerned that your teen may be experiencing anxiety you believe has been caused or worsened by social media, there are signs you should be aware of. Symptoms of an anxiety disorder that your child might experience include:

  • Avoiding triggers
  • Feeling a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Having difficulty controlling worry
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Hyperventilating
  • Struggling to concentrate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling

Parents who are concerned about a child’s mental well-being should consider seeking the help of a medical professional. Treatment options are available to help your child.

If your child’s doctor finds that his or her symptoms were caused or worsened by social media, you may be eligible to file  a social media harm lawsuit. Consider speaking with a lawyer to explore your legal options.

Our experience helping families stand against tech companies

Motley Rice attorneys have worked for decades fighting for families and people. Our experience includes representing people suing tech companies over harm they’ve suffered.

You may be eligible to sue if you believe you or your child experienced the following due to social media:

  • Attempted or died by suicide
  • Received treatment for self-harm
  • Received a diagnosis of a mental health disorder from a healthcare professional

If you believe these conditions were caused or worsened by social media and you need help filing a lawsuit for social media harm, please contact us. Your well-being is important to our team.

Read more about filing a social media lawsuit.

  1. Dunn, T. and Langlais, M., “Oh, Snap!”: A Mixed-Methods Approach to Analyzing the Dark Side of Snapchat. The Journal of Social Media in Society. 2020;9(2):69-104.
  2. Hristova, D., Jovicic, S., Göbl, B., De Freitas, S., & Slunecko, T. “Why did we lose our snapchat streak?”. Social media gamification and metacommunication. Computers in Human Behavior Reports. 2022 Mar 1;5:100172.
  3. 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. 12(6):e8627.
  4. Lee, JK. The effects of social comparison orientation on psychological well-being in social networking sites: Serial mediation of perceived social support and self-esteem. Curr Psychol. 2022 Sep 1;41(9):6247–59.
  5. Mayo Clinic. Anxiety disorders
  6. The Wall Street Journal. The Facebook Files.
  7. The Wall Street Journal. Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show.