Social Media Addiction: The Problem, the Numbers, and the Law

May 21, 2020 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Social Media Addiction: The Problem, the Numbers, and the Law

Florida Injuries Caused by Social Media Addiction

Have you noticed that everywhere you look, someone's typing away at their phone or making pouty lips, preparing to send a message out into Snapchat land? Welcome to the world of social media addiction. It may seem like this nationwide obsession started just recently, but in fact, this fixation with sharing everything with everyone started way back in 2004 when a young man from New York first launched a little company called Facebook. If you go back even further, people were sharing their lives on MySpace in the early 2000s, and before that, AOL and Yahoo Messenger. So, really, social media addiction is nothing new. It's just bigger and more easily accessible than ever. But there's something strange and disturbing that has happened over the past few years. Complete strangers are challenging one another to participate in weird, disgusting, and outright dangerous dares, tasks, or whatever you want to call it. From the mannequin challenge to the “Kylie lip challenge,” it's an all-out battle to see who can get the most likes and views. And while some stunts are nothing more than childish fun, there are many cases where social media has proven dangerous.

Social Media Addiction by the Numbers

Take a minute to think about how many people around the United States use social media. What about your own household? Do you have a guess? Start with your own home. Do all residents have at least one social media account? According to Hootsuite, 97 percent of digital consumers have used social media in the last month. Worldwide, 50 percent of the population is using social media. To break it down for you, that's about 3.8 billion people. Ready for some more stats?
  • On average, in one recent year, users spent nearly 2 ½ hours on social media per day.
  • People use Facebook more than any other social media platform. According to Oberlo, this includes 68 percent of US adults.
  • Over 90 percent of Millennials are on social media. For Generation X, almost 78 percent of people use social media, and even baby boomers come in at close to 50 percent.
  • According to Pew Research, 74 percent of Facebook users say they access the platform daily. And 51 percent say they check it multiple times a day.
Are you ready for the most shocking statistic of all? According to Pew Research, 59 percent of users say they think that it would not be difficult to give up social media. However, 40 percent of those questioned were honest and said they think it would be hard to give up their accounts.

The Dangers of Social Media

Before you stress out, nobody is telling you to give up your social media accounts. But it is important to monitor your own usage, as well as what your child does on social media and how much time they spend doing it. The effects of social media addiction are far-reaching. Let's take a closer look:

Social Media on the Go

Have you ever been sitting at a stoplight and looked over to see someone engrossed in their phone? Most states have laws that prohibit drivers from using their mobile devices while driving, to some extent. In Florida, for example, you can't use your phone to send or receive messages. But still, people pull out their phone at the stop sign or red light, and try to fit in that selfie, or catch up on Facebook. Even scarier, many people take to social media while driving. According to, one study showed that 55 percent of drivers admitted to checking social media behind the wheel (25 percent said they have recorded a video driving). In 2018, 2,841 people died as the result of a distracted driver. This addiction to social media is quite literally costing thousands of lives per year, and that's just on the roads.

Social Media Challenges

We touched on this briefly, but these so-called challenges are putting lives at risk. Remember the Tide pod challenge? Then there's the “Blue Whale Challenge,” and a challenge where the goal is to literally make yourself pass out. More recently, people have been seen licking public areas like restrooms as part of another challenge. These challenges pose a risk to not only the people who are doing them, but often, the people around them. But once again, it comes down to the likes. The more controversial something is, the more views it gets. Because of this obsession with social media validation, young adults are willing to put themselves in harm's way, in hopes of becoming a star.

Mental Health Issues

The numbers regarding mental health issues are just as shocking as other social media issues. A recent study found that there's a serious difference between people who use social media occasionally and those who are most likely addicted. According to the study, “occasional users” of social media are three times less likely than frequent users to suffer from depression. Additionally, those who use social media two hours per day or more are more likely to rate their mental health as fair or poor. The study also found that there's a difference between users who primarily view or “take in” social media content, and those that post. People who view content are more likely to suffer from anxiety, envy, and depression. Those who post have a strong desire for external validation. When they don't get the attention they crave, their problems can quickly turn into questions of self-worth.

Can You Really Call It an Addiction?

Social Media Injury AttorneyFor frequent users, it's easy to question the use of the term “addiction.” Addiction makes most people think of activities that are “bad,” like drugs or alcohol. Where's the harm in social media (besides the ones listed above)? Addiction Center classifies social media addiction as a behavioral addiction. This puts social media addiction in the same category as gambling addiction, shopping addiction, and sex addiction. An addiction is a compulsion to do something, often, without regard to the consequences. Think about this? How many times have you aimlessly scrolled Facebook, mindlessly wasting away hours of the day? Did you really get anything out of it? While some people can just relax and take in social media every now and then, others may feel compelled to constantly post or check on what their friends are doing.

Social Media and Kids

Kids are getting mobile devices younger and younger. And many of these devices come automatically equipped with the top social media platforms. Though most sites require users to be a certain age, there really is no stop guard, besides the parents, to make sure kids don't lie and create an account. Social media use is dangerous for young kids. During this time, their brain is developing and they are still trying to understand the difference between right and wrong. When you throw in external validation and unlimited access to the adult public, it can be confusing. Additionally, social media platforms can often facilitate online bullying. This can cause depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues for young children. As a parent, there are a few things you can do to keep your child safe:
  • Do not allow social media accounts. If they do have an account, make sure the security settings are on private and you are on their friends list.
  • Conduct regular check-ins. You should always have unlimited access to your child's phone. If they are unwilling to give this to you, then they are not ready for a phone. Make sure you always have the password to their phone and their accounts and check up on social media posts, private messages, and friend lists.
  • Lockdown parental controls. Most newer phones allow you to set parental controls on your child's device. If you're not sure if a phone does, it's probably a good idea to ask this question when you buy your child a phone. Before you hand over a new phone, uninstall any inappropriate apps and set a secure parental control password that your child will not be able to guess.
  • Talk to your child: Your child may not like the rules you set regarding social media, but it's important to protect their interests and have an open and honest conversation. Explain your reasons and listen to their concerns.

Liability Issues and Social Media Addiction

Social media addiction isn't just a personal issue, it can be a public health and safety issue. When a person causes a car crash because they were on Facebook, that person will likely hold liability. Additionally, the court may assess punitive damages because of gross negligence. Think liability issues end with driving? Here are a few other issues where social media addiction and personal injury may converge:
  • Physical assault: “Fishing for likes” is not an excuse to cause physical harm to another person. Have you heard of the “Skull Breaker” challenge? During this challenge, participants entice an unwitting person to jump up and down for a social media video. When the person is in the air, the other participants kick the feet out from beneath the jumper, causing them to fall. While videos show teenagers laughing, this is not funny. This is assault. If your child does this, you may be held liable for their actions.
  • Negligence: Are you responsible for watching someone's child? Are you cooking food for a large group of people? What may seem like just a quick social media check-up can be enough time to cause serious consequences through inattention.
  • Workplace issues: Social media and work are never a good combination,—especially when you post about your work on social media. It's normal to complain about a hard day or talk about how much you hate your job. But when you bring in specifics, that's when you can get into trouble. This is especially true if you hold a managerial role. If you make a discriminatory comment about a person or group on social media, that person may have a hostile workplace claim. If it's your own company, you may be responsible for damages. If you work for someone else, you're likely out of a job. Even if you are just an employee, the other party may have grounds for an actionable complaint.

Damages Included in a Personal Injury Case

Social media addiction in itself does not cause legally actionable injuries. It's the negligence that comes with the addiction that is the biggest problem. When someone's action causes you injury—say, if they're texting or watching videos while driving, and they crash into you—you may have the legal right to file a personal injury claim. A personal injury claim can help you recover costs related to your injury. This may include:
  • Medical costs, including doctor visits, medical transportation, medication, surgery, and mental health therapy.
  • Lost wages, if your injury causes you to miss work.
  • Pain and suffering, for actual physical and mental pain, including short-term and long-term pain, depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
  • Wrongful death, if an accident leads to the death of a loved one. Costs include funeral and burial, medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Every case is different. In the event of extreme negligence or willful behavior, the court may award punitive damages to discourage others from repeating the same behavior.

When You Should Talk to an Attorney

Social media addiction may seem like a trivial issue, but for the countless people who are affected by this addiction, it's a serious problem. Many times, people don't realize they have an addiction until their actions cause harm to someone else. While you can't file a claim when someone posts something offensive, you do have rights in the event of an injury. These issues are serious, and the other party needs to understand the consequences of their actions. If you were injured and would like to know if you have a personal injury claim, an attorney can help. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 (727) 451-6900


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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