An anonymous 11-year-old girl from San Diego, California is suing Snapchat, TikTok, and Meta for destroying her mental health. The child identified as "Jennay" blames the companies for causing her to become addicted to social media, and subsequently getting groomed by a sexual predator, developing an eating disorder, self-harming, and attempting to commit suicide twice.
Within a year, Jennay went from a being "normal girl" who liked gymnastics and drawing to becoming completely obsessed with likes and comparing herself to other girls, she told CBS8.
As her body image worsened, she began using drastic methods suggested to her by the social media algorithms to lose weight. According to the lawsuit, filed with the help of the Social Media Victims Law Center in September, Instagram inserted content that focused on excessive exercise dieting into Jennay's feed.
"I would feel like, you know, like, why couldn't that be me? Or feeling like, maybe I'm ugly," she said. "Or, just because I don't look like that certain person. I felt as if I needed to eat less. I lost 11 or 12 pounds in a week."
At the same time, according to her lawsuit, "TikTok was identifying and pushing harmful content and hashtags like 'What I eat in a day', and '500 calories.' This was content TikTok selected, not because [Jennay] asked for it or even wanted it, but because TikTok chose to program its recommendation technologies in a way that TikTok believed would maximize user engagement."
As months passed, Jennay developed body dysmorphia, a mental disorder involving obsessive focus on a perceived flaw in appearance.
That's when she was contacted by a strange man via Snapchat, who enticed her to send nude photos and videos of herself. Convinced that the content would disappear, Jennay sent him explicit images and inappropriate videos herself.
Thankfully, Jennay's grandmother "Meghan," her legal guardian, discovered the grooming and reported it to the authorities. However, this was not enough to stop Jennay's social media-induced depression.
She began to cut herself, and less than three months later, the girl attempted to take her own life. In February, Jennay swallowed some of her grandmother's hypertension pills. In August, she swallowed nine over-the-counter pain pills and half of a bottle of cough syrup.
According to Meghan, she was blind to the extent of her granddaughter's social media obsession.
Now, Jennay has become the first child in San Diego County to sue the social media platforms for making a profit off of her internet-induced self-destruction.
"I felt the pressure to try and make myself look like other people. Even though… I knew I wasn't them," Jennay said to CBS8. "And I found myself having less and less confidence and more insecurities. I didn't really like going outside anymore. I saw a lot of talk about self-harm and drug use and suicide. And I hadn't really had too much knowledge of that yet. And instead of being told by people that would filter it a little bit for me. I was told by social media instead and it wasn't in the best way."
Jennay's lawsuit is among hundreds that accuse social media companies of using algorithms to market destructive habits to young people in order to turn a profit. According to the child, social media directly influenced her suicide attempts.
"Some people made jokes about it and I didn't know any better," she claimed. "Some people would even go as far as to say that self-harm is a joke or suicide is a joke. Or people would make, like TikToks and videos about them being in the hospital for attempted suicide. And they would make it seem like it's fun. So I thought maybe it is fun. And then I looked it up and I saw things that I shouldn't have."