From Damaging Our Psyche to Damaging a Personal Injury Case, Social Media Can Have Some Serious Downfalls
We are almost all guilty of it by now: using social media in a near obsessive way. And as we have all probably known, or at least had a feeling, it turns out that social media could have some pretty serious negative impacts on our lives. Whether it be negatively affecting our mental health, or being used against us in unexpected ways, the simple fact is that social media comes with its fair share of negatives.
The American Academy of Pediatrics released an article about the negative effects social media can have on children and teens, while plenty of other studies have pointed toward similar risks for adults.
If you are wrapped in a lawsuit or other type of court case, social media can bite you for sure. Sometimes, injured victims in the middle of a personal injury case post something to one of their accounts that seems harmless but comes back to haunt them later.
This article covers some helpful information about the negative effects of social media, both for the everyday person and for the person caught up in a personal injury case.
Social Media Usage Statistics
When you look at the statistics on social media use, it not only makes clear that it most certainly would have some effect on our brains and lives, but it also makes clear just how much information about humans is out there.
- According to Mashable, 3 billion people use some form of social media.
- That’s about 40% of the world’s population.
- On average, humans spend 2 hours every day using social media, according to Global Web Index.
- This equates to about 500,000 shares, likes, tweets, and updates every minute.
Social Media Can Cause Stress, Bad Mood, and Anxiety
People use social media to complain about their own problems, which can help them vent in a healthy way while providing an indirect outlet. But when you scroll through your feed, guess what you see? Other peoples’ problems and stress, making it easy to empathetically take on some of that negative energy yourself.
Researchers from Science Direct found that those in their study who used social media for 20 minutes versus those that just browsed the internet reported being in a worse mood.
Social media has also been linked to general anxiety, a feeling of restlessness and worry, trouble falling asleep, and a lowered ability to concentrate. In fact, the more social media platforms you participate in, the more anxiety you are likely to have.
Social Media Can Increase Depression and Cause Addictive Behaviors
Some studies have found a link between depression and the use of social media, like one involving 700 students that found that depressive symptoms were connected to online interactions.
Some have claimed that posting on social media may be more difficult to resist than cigarettes or alcohol, making it more and more likely that mental health institutes will soon start writing about the possibility of social media addiction in publications like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, aka the DSM.
Experts don’t agree whether social media addiction is a real thing, but there’s some real evidence that it is. A study from Nottingham Trent University concluded that “neglect of personal life, mental preoccupation, escapism, mood modifying experiences, tolerance of and concealing the addictive behavior, appear to be present in some people who use [social networks] excessively.”
And this leads to the concept of how social media can have negative effects on one’s personal injury case. We simply can’t help ourselves even when it could prevent us from getting the compensation we need after an injury caused by negligence.
How Social Media Can Hurt Your Personal Injury Case
Social media can, and has, hurt many different personal injury cases even if the post in question seems harmless. Anything you post on social media can be used by the defense attorneys and insurance companies against your case, which can hurt your chances of recovery.
- Your social media post may contradict your claim.
Take for example an injury case that is based on an injured back or neck. Now imagine that you post an innocent photo of you at your sister’s wedding on the dance floor. Even if you weren’t dancing yourself, the defense attorney may be able to use this photo to convince a jury that you aren’t really injured or else you wouldn’t be at a wedding “dancing” around. This type of contradiction could prove to be seriously detrimental to your claim.
- Check-ins on Facebook can look bad.
Most attorneys will tell you not to use social media while your injury case is active, but if you do, a seemingly innocent check-in at a yoga studio could out your claim in jeopardy, even if you were just at the yoga studio to buy a new pair of pants.
- Posting photos can be misinterpreted.
When posting photos on social media, we are all guilty of making our lives look a little better than they really are. For example, you may take a photo of your kids at the beach building a sand castle. But the defense could easily argue that your 3-year-old couldn’t have built that castle on their own, and thus you must have helped them. This can easily twist an innocent picture into a convincing argument to a jury that you “aren’t injured enough to stop you from building sand castles and taking beach vacations.”
- Comments about your injury case are a big no-no.
Any good personal injury attorney will tell you not to post anything to your social media accounts about your case. Anything you post about your case could be used against you to prove that your injury claim is just an attempt to make some quick cash. What’s worse is that a simple comment from a family member or friend could add to this damage, even with a comment like “how much money are you going to get?”
Why Are Social Media Posts Admissible in Personal Injury Cases?
When you’re pursuing an injury claim in court, anything you say, in person or online, outside of court can be admissible against you because you’re a party to the case. This is why your personal injury lawyer will tell you to stay off social media during your case. Any statement you make online or any photos that you post can easily be used as admissible evidence in your personal injury claim and could end up costing you a large chunk of your settlement or even an outright denial of your claim.
Even if you make your page private or viewable to friends only, discovery laws often make it easy for the defense to require you to produce records of your online activity. This would include anything that happened on your social media page, even if it was set to private.
Courts have ruled that social media isn’t privileged. And although the insurance companies and defense attorneys cannot force you to produce all your social media activity so that they can go on what’s called a fishing expedition for anything that might help their case, it’s still not worth the stress and complications that these situations create.
Protecting Yourself in a Personal Injury Case From Social Media
Now that we know that your social media accounts can be used against you during a personal injury claim, what can you do to protect yourself from having a simple photo on Facebook prevent you from getting the compensation you deserve?
- Don’t post anything about your injury or accident. Social media is a place where we share our lives with our friends and families so keeping something as serious as a car accident to ourselves can be tough. But simply avoiding the temptation to post anything about your injuries, recovery, or details about your accident is the only way to prevent social media from putting your legitimate case at risk.
- Be selective about what photos you post. As we’ve mentioned above, being selective about the type of pictures you post needs to be taken very seriously. A simple photo of you and your friend at a restaurant could prove to a jury that your injuries aren’t as serious as your attorneys and their expert witnesses have made them out to be. Some attorneys could even make a case that your injury claim is fraudulent, which could have your case thrown out, or at the very least, could reduce the amount of compensation you receive to pay your medical bills and lost wages.
- Change your privacy settings to private or friends only. Although we’ve mentioned that a private account doesn’t completely protect you from a dubious defense attorney, it does decrease the likelihood that any information you do share on social media could be used against you.
- Do not accept any friend requests from people you do not know. It is not unheard-of for insurance adjusters, investigators, or even defense attorneys to create a fake account in an attempt to befriend you on social media. Remember when we discussed making your account private? Well it wouldn’t be so private if that attorney had full access to your account as a “friend.”
- Be mindful of what your friends tag you in. Even if you are being super careful about what you post on social media, Facebook or other social media apps’ “tag” feature may pose an unexpected risk to your case, like a slip and fall accident that caused a back injury. If a friend tags you in a post after a night of bowling—again even if you were just watching—it could have the same negative effects that we mentioned above from a post you directly created. It probably isn’t possible to tell everyone you know not to tag you in posts, but most social media platforms allow you to change your settings to require your approval before being tagged in anything. Again, as we mentioned above, check you setting and check them thoroughly.
Summarizing Social Media Dangers to Injury Cases and Our Psyches in General
Social media has changed our world. It no doubt has its positives. We can keep track of friends and family across the country, see photos from our niece’s graduation that we weren’t able to attend, and get news at the click of a button. But social media definitely has some downfalls. As we have seen, social media has been linked to an increase in anxiety and depression and an overall feeling of despair. It can also be used to decrease the legitimacy of a personal injury claim by twisting innocent photos and posts to appear as if a person is not as injured as they say they are. So when you start your personal injury case, it is best to speak to your attorney about the use of social media while your personal injury claim is active. They will probably tell you to either limit your social media use dramatically or to cut it off altogether. Listen to any advice they give you. It could save your claim!