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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Plan 'social media holidays' for your mental health

Rika Kayama

Lately, the new term "insta-bae" is in style in Japan. The word comes from Instagram, or "Insta" for short, and the Japanese word for "photogenic." When someone wants to upload a more stylish photo onto the smartphone application, they might say, "If I take a photo with this background it will be more 'insta-bae.'"

    "So there are all kinds of new words," I thought. Then the other day, I received a party invitation via email from a friend that read, "The venue is a spectacular restaurant, so you can take a lot of 'insta-bae' photos!"

    I do not have an Instagram account, and wondered if there were people who decided to go to parties simply based on the fact that the locations were Instagram-worthy. I also wondered if there were party hosts who were pleased that people showed up for that particular reason. Then I reached the conclusion that since they wrote that detail themselves, it must definitely be the case.

    I sometimes hear similar stories from my patients. Even though their motivation and energy has been drained by illnesses like depression, some patients still force themselves to go out or engage in activities simply to have daily content to post on social media -- which in turn drains them even more.

    When I heard this, I was shocked. "Even though you are full of smiles on social media, you're actually depressed, right? That's nonsense," I used to say to them. However, in return, patients would say, "If I don't post for even one day, my friends will be suspicious," or "If I don't post a picture of my child's lunchbox every day, I don't know what kind of remarks my kid will receive at school." Having heard these serious concerns, I couldn't help but think, "Posting on social media daily has become an inescapable requirement in today's society?"

    However, especially for those with depression, this is an extremely stressful task. Of course, even forcing yourself to go outside solely to take pictures can sometimes act as a form of rehabilitation -- but that's only for patients who have already made a lot of progress dealing with the illness. In the early stages, when symptoms are severe, it is the best for most patients to not contact anyone, stay at home and simply get a good sleep.

    But this kind of stress isn't limited to those with depression. Anyone can relate to those days when you just don't want to talk to anyone and hope that they all just leave you alone. When you think, "I have to somehow take Instagram-worthy photos today," that in itself can sometimes become heavy emotional baggage.

    Social media no doubt helps us to enjoy the good things in our everyday lives. Still, we shouldn't forget to plan "social media holidays," too. New technology is something we should work on embracing more casually. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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