Is Social Media the Cause of Depression?


Imagine who you would be without social media. Let me guess, it was difficult. A recent study shows that 93% of people ages 14-22 use social media. Along with the use of social media, the highest depression rates occur in teens and young adults. Mixing high depression rates and high usage of social media does not look good for our future generations. 


A 17-year-old from Kenosha, Wisconsin named Christopher James Dawley, lovingly referred to as CJ, took his own like in 2015. He loved playing golf and was sought after by top-tier colleges. By his senior year, his parents believed he had developed an addiction to his phone and became sleep deprived and obsessed with his body image, the mental image of one’s own body.


On January 4, 2015, after taking down Christmas decorations, CJ went to his room and held a 22-caliber rifle to his head with his phone in the other hand and fatally shot himself. Prior to shooting himself, he posted on Facebook, “Who turned out the light” and sent a text to his friend saying, “Godspeed.” The police found a suicide note written on the envelope of a college acceptance letter. His parents claimed that he never showed any signs of depression or suicidal thoughts. 


“When we found him, his phone was still on, still in his hand, with blood on it. He was so addicted to it that even his last moments of his life were about posting on social media,” his mom, Donna Dowley, told CNN.  


The Dawley’s are filing a lawsuit against Snap and Meta, the parent companies of Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. The lawsuit accuses these companies for designing their platforms with algorithms for non-stop scrolling to maximize the time spent on their platform for profit. 


Donna Dawley and her husband believe CJ’s diminishing mental health and poor body image was a result of these addictive platforms. They were urged to take action in this lawsuit when Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, released hundreds of documents showing that the companies knew their platforms had a negative effect on their users. 


Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, spoke on the topic and claims that Haugen took the company’s research on its impact on children out of context and painted a false picture of the company.


Families aren’t the only ones taking action against these big companies. President Joe Biden used part of his State of the Union speech to urge lawmakers to hold social media platforms accountable. 


As Frances Haugen, who is here with us tonight, has shown, we must hold social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit,” he states. 


The Dawley’s lawyer, Matthew Bergman, explains that, “The only way to force social media companies to change their dangerous but highly profitable algorithms is to change their economic calculus by making them pay the true costs that their dangerous products have inflicted on families such as the Dawley’s.”


Snap Spokesperson, Katie Derkits explains that, “We intentionally built Snapchat differently than social media platforms to be a place for people to connect with their real friends and offer in-app mental health resources, including on suicide prevention for Snapchatters in need.”


She also says that Snap can’t comment on active litigation but their hearts go out to the families who lost a loved one. 


The trials against these popular social media companies is ongoing and will most likely require a long, grueling process to get justice for CJ and everyone who has taken their life due to the affects of social media.