It’s no secret that social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, have affected people of all ages. The increased popularity of social media apps has led to an influx in internet and social media addiction, particularly among children, teens, and young adults.
In 2021, studies found that over 60% of teenagers use social media at least once a day, spending, on average, almost an hour and a half a day on these apps. The same study found that most teenagers flock to Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat as their social media platforms of choice.
However, children and teenagers are hardly the only ones adversely affected by social media. While another study found that only 15% of people between the ages of 23-38 admitted to having a social media addiction, approximately 90% of people ages 18-29 use social media.
While more and more valuable information has been coming out on social media’s effects on society, both good and bad, and more people are having valuable discussions on the subject, one question remains largely unanswered: did those responsible for some of the most popular social media apps of today know about the possible harm their creation could be causing?
Well, according to a report in Bloomberg that cites recent court filings in Oakland, California, we now know that many employees at Meta Platforms Inc., the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, and ByteDance Inc., the Chinese parent company of TikTok were aware of the “harmful effects of their platforms on young children and teenagers.”
“No one wakes up thinking they want to maximize the number of times they open Instagram that day,” one Meta employee wrote in 2021, according to the filing and as transcribed in the Bloomberg article. “But that’s exactly what our product teams are trying to do.”
One employee in particular who court filings found was aware of the warning signs and chose to ignore them was none other than Meta founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
This information was released to the public thanks to the ongoing lawsuit in California over social media addiction. The complaint was filed on behalf of “adolescents and young adults who allege that Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and Google’s YouTube caused them to suffer anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and sleeplessness.” Multiple social media addiction lawsuits are being filed with large law firms like Sokolove Law involved.
The filing blamed over a dozen suicides on the social media companies based on claims that these social media giants knowingly designed algorithms that were meant to lead children down dangerous and addictive paths on the internet.
For Zuckerberg specifically, his role went far beyond ignoring potential warning signs. According to recently unsealed court documents, Zuckerberg went so far as to defund his mental health team entirely, although a spokesperson for Meta came out refuting the claim.
Get the Help You Need
While the case is ongoing, this story reminds both children and parents to be mindful of not just how much time both you and your children are spending on your devices but what you are spending that time viewing. It’s also a reminder that talking to someone is important if you struggle with mental health. Remember that looks can be deceiving, and a smiling face on a social media profile is not proof of mental health.
Also, while it may not receive the same attention as other types of addiction, namely drug and alcohol addiction, social media addiction is a type of behavioral addiction and is treatable with various therapies, including psychotherapy and talk therapy.
If you or a loved one suffers mentally from social media use, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline at 1-800-662-4357, or visit their website to find therapists and addiction treatment options in your area.
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