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Social Media Addiction

Reddick Law tapped by Arkansas Attorney General to fight the ongoing social media addiction crisis.

Reddick Law is proud to announce that we have been selected by Attorney General Tim Griffin to represent the State of Arkansas against Meta Platforms, Inc. (“Meta”) for its role in the social media addiction mental health crisis plaguing our youth. Teaming up with national powerhouse law firms The Lanier Law Firm and Robbins, Geller, Rudman & Dowd, LLP, Reddick Law attorneys are humbled by the opportunity to fight on behalf of all Arkansans to seek justice for the deliberate suffering caused by Meta and its subsidiary platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

The incidence of young people experiencing mental health issues has soared in the past fifteen years. Excessive and addictive social media use is linked to mental health problems among our youth, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, self-harm, and suicidality. Meta deliberately designs its social media platforms to attract and addict youth by flooding them with customized and profiled material, and dosing users with dopamine hits, in order to drive youth engagement and ad revenue.

This lawsuit follows on a growing body of scientific research, including Meta’s own (previously concealed) studies, that draws a direct line between Meta’s conscious, intentional design choices and the youth mental health crisis gripping our nation. Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube have rewired how our kids think, feel, and behave. While presented as “social,” Meta’s products have in myriad ways promoted disconnection, disassociation, and a legion of resulting mental and physical harms.

Recognizing the power of engaging young users, Meta deliberately tweaked the design and operation of their apps to exploit the psychology and neurophysiology of kids. Because children’s and adolescents’ brains are not fully developed, they lack the same emotional maturity, impulse control, and psychological resiliency as adults. As a result, they are uniquely susceptible to addictive features in digital products and highly vulnerable to the consequent harms. Knowing this, Meta wrote code designed to manipulate dopamine release in children’s developing brains and, in doing so, create compulsive use of their apps.

Researchers studying the effect social media has on the brain have shown that social media exploits “the same neural circuitry” as “gambling and recreational drugs to keep consumers using their products as much as possible.” All are addictive because of the neurological chemical dopamine, which is released with the pulsing colorful notification sounds and vibrations associated with a “reward.”

Over the past decade, Meta has relentlessly pursued a strategy of growth-at-all-costs, recklessly ignoring the impact of their products on children’s mental and physical health and well-being. In a race to corner the “valuable but untapped” market of tween and teen users, each Defendant designed product features to promote repetitive, uncontrollable use by kids.

Meta’s choices have generated extraordinary corporate profits—and yielded immense tragedy. Suicide rates for youth are up an alarming 57%. Emergency room visits for anxiety disorders are up 117%. In the decade leading up to 2020, there was a 40% increase in high school students reporting persistent sadness and hopelessness, and a 36% increase in those who attempted to take their own lives. In 2019, one in five high school girls had made a suicide plan. In 2021, one in three girls seriously considered attempting suicide. Children and their parents and guardians across the country have struggled to cope with the severe, lasting damage visited on their families by anxiety, depression, addiction, eating disorders, self-harm, suicidality, and the loss of outliving one’s child.

Arkansas children are not merely the collateral damage of Defendants’ products, they are the direct victims of the intentional product design choices made by Defendants. They are the intended targets of the harmful features that pushed them into self-destructive feedback loops. Despite intentionally designing their products to be addictive and despite knowing the negative impact that use of their products has on young users, the Defendants have publicly misled consumers about the addictive nature of their products. Meta’s misconduct is egregious; these social media giants can and should take measures to stem the tide of the mental health crisis afflicting America’s social media-addicted youth.

Having recovered hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of Arkansas cities and counties in a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors for their role in the opioid epidemic, Reddick Law is honored to continue the fight for Arkansans in yet another lawsuit where our citizens have suffered at the hands of greedy corporations who prioritize their profits over people. Arkansan youth are facing an urgent mental health crisis, and we are proud to be at the helm of this important litigation.