Instagram Algorithm Angst

I don't know if you heard but Instagram is changing its algorithm. I'm not surprised, every one's at it. At this point I'm waiting for my mum to tell me she's diverting her attention to the children that interact with her the most and therefore going forward she'll be spending all her time with my brother, who calls her every day (I know right?!). 

In truth, I probably wouldn't have noticed any changes to Instagram; I didn't notice when Facebook changed until someone I had forgotten existed commented on my post and I thought, where have you been? Much as I love Instagram, I'm no Columbo when it comes to observational skills but I couldn't escape the fact because so many Instagrammers were pointing out the change and helpfully suggesting I turn on my notifications for them. This was helpful, I didn't even know Instagram had notifictions (seriously, observation skills - zilch). And now Now We Are 40, Content Mum and Channel Mum amongst others are blowing up my moby with notifications of pictorial joy.

What shocked me about the development wasn't the change a-coming but the extreme level of emotion that it seemed to generate, emotion specifically directed towards those that put up Instagram posts requesting that followers activate their notifications for them. Emotion that I can only really describe as wildly disproportionate vitriol. There was a lot of criticism of people flying about the interwebz, with many stating that they would unfollow anyone publicly making the request. It seemed peculiar to me that you would unfollow a person whom presumably you enjoyed previously because of one dud post, on a forum where I received a significant increase in followers after posting a picture of an empty plate. 

So I decided to give it some thought and if you found yourself feeling emotional about yet another 'notifications' notice, you may have been a victim of one of these Instagram angsts 

YOU'RE OVER INVESTED As much as I love Instagram for me it is the fast food of social media - scroll, scroll, like, scroll, scroll, like. It can be very low effort enjoyment and all quick fixes are susceptible to abuse. Are you turning to Instagram for support rather than friends and family? Are you scouring through thousands of photos of quinoa based salads, whilst eating only soggy cornflakes yourself? Perhaps it's time for an Instagram detox and that simple call for notifications has reminded you just how many people's lives you're following...

MARKETING HAS BECOME YOUR LIFE MISSION On the internet, any vaguely interesting titbit of information is like a yawn in a crowded room. You've copied, pasted and shared it before you've even noticed. In the end the message about Instagram changes was probably being shared by people that had no idea what an algorithm is, or a notification, or possibly Instagram. Within 24 hours it was too late to stand out by repeating the same message the only way to shine a light on your profile was to deride the cult of notification and establish yourself as someone with no desire for interest from the public whatsoever. 

YOU ARE ALL UP IN YOUR FEELINGS Do you find yourself crying over adverts featuring abandoned pets? Are you still feeling crushed by the defeat of your Year 5 egg and spoon race? Perhaps you just can't handle change - maybe, to you, Cif will always be Jif. If this is the case, continue to play out your emotions through social media - it may be safer that way. This is me. I often find myself loving the heck out of a feed and then one day I am confronted with a post that makes it clear that my new virtual BFF is in fact shilling wraps, the not so distant cousin of Bacofoil clingfilm, the stuff that helps you to sweat out your blubber overnight or whatever and instantly I unfollow them; not because I have anything against wraps or women building businesses but because I feel betrayed. All this time I thought you shared my love of latte art and you just wanted my money...

YOU'RE A HATING HATER THAT HATES That unfollow may seem like an extremely quick and barely perceptible process but it's actually a strong statement; a statement that says, how dare you believe yourself to be worthy of my attention? Or indeed more attention than I have already willingly allocated you. Sometimes I think that's about jealousy. I know, I know that word is bandied about so much online it has started to lose all meaning but isn't there maybe a little bit, just an amuse bouche size portion of you thinking, I wish I was confident enough to tell people to follow me. To let them know that I am worthy of their time and that maybe my presence in their life could bring them a teensy bit of happiness. I know I do. So for one post and one post only I'm going to pretend: 

You can find me on Instagram here and (if you like family stuff, quotations on being a kid and obviously lots and lots of coffee) I'm well worth a follow. Or not. Do whatever makes you happy. 

What do you think of Instagram going all maverick on us and those notification posts?

If you're not on Mission Acceptance sign up for a life affirming self acceptance challenge every week (removal of Instagram angst not guaranteed). 

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Party On Kid! IT'S A GIVEAWAY!

I haven't had a proper birthday party since I turned ten years old. It had a fifties theme (what can I say I was precocious and the film Mermaids was out) and I had made the very controversial decision of inviting every boy in my class. Twenty five years on I still remember the day clearly - not because it was fab (although it was) but because the whole process was so stressful. Would everyone come? Would anyone dress up? What about music? Party bags? I insisted my mother made ice crream and jelly and just before she brought it out from the kitchen Scott Spencer who was (and according to Facebook stalking still is) extremely cute announced that, 'Jelly and ice cream is for babies.' I basically had to rugby tackle my mother and a brimming bowl of sugary gelatine to the floor. Luckily my ma is very resourceful and managed to fashion a great pudding from birthday cake and ice pops but MAN was it a close one. 

After that I was done with parties, it's not that I don't celebrate, just in a very small group; very often with a table for one. It didn't occur to me that I wouldn't get away with this forever - then I had a baby. One of the awesome (read: at best irritating, at worst soul destroying) things about becoming a parent is that you have to do things that you wouldn't necessarily do for yourself and for me that meant parties. 

So anything that will make that process easier for me gets a big thumbs up emoji in my book and that's where Party Bags and Supplies could step in, they have everything you could want for any celebration to remember and at the end of this post you can enter a giveaway to win £30 towards your next shindig, in the meantime I hope these tips help...

Forget about peer pressure - Your child is unique and their party should be about them and not whatever Connor, whose mum always has time to starch his shirts, had at his party. 

Creative doesn't have to mean crafty - No more 2AM tears over Pinterest. Something as simple as picking your son or daughter's favourite colour can make an amazing theme. 

Know your audience - Kids want sugar and the freedom to scream for two hours, play to the paying customers - the other parents. Make sure there's some adult friendly snacks and the tea (or booze) is flowing, it might be the only break they get all week. 

Get a gift list - I know this is a contentious subject but I haven't shaved my legs since September, I don't have time to hand pick a present every other Saturday. If you feel guilty about requesting stuff just make sure you get your kid into lego - you can never have too much lego. 

Get someone else to do it - a doting aunt (Hey auntie Jo!!), a soft play centre, a teenager in need of a punishment; the outsourcing of parenting should be applauded and you can then put all that free time into planning your own birthday celebration.

For your chance to win £30 to spend at Party Bags & Supplies please enter below:

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photo credit: docinhos via photopin (license)

Mission Acceptance - Accept the power of no

Someone very wise once said, 'No no, no no, no no, no no, no no, no no, there's no limit. I don't doubt that this is true but this week I learned that whilst there may be no limit perhaps there is a limit to my no's. 

Last week I wrote about letting joy into my life and it left me all geared up for it but sadly there just wasn't enough space for all the joyfulness, to let stuff in you've got to be willing to let stuff go and that's why this week was all about saying no - saying no to the thankless tasks and to any expectations that aren't my own. 

I have a complicated relationship with no. I don't like hearing it, in fact it makes me feel a little queasy. I'm not a (complete) diva, it's just for some reason when I hear no, I don't just hear no to that thing we happen to be talking about. I hear no to you and your face and everything you stand for. I suppose because this is my experience, I find it incredibly hard to say no to others believing it to be incredibly unkind, even though it's very likely the recipient barely notices. 

My first no of the week was quite a big one because it was a no, not just for me but for my son as well. He had been offered some playwork sessions through our very wonderful health visitor but by the time they had come round I knew that with all the activities we had scheduled it would just be too much. It would mean hacking out a big chunk of the afternoon that we go to our playgroup and catch up friends. Fearful of looking a gift horse in the mouth I had initially said yes and then as the day crept closer my feelings of dread grew fiercer, until my committment to my mission forced me to cancel at the last minute. Of course that was probably far more annoying than if I'd said no in the first place but it was so exhilirating to believe that I knew what was best for my family and that I could protect it using only the power of refusal. 

With my no muscle firmly exercised I was on refusal cruise control. I said no to going on a night out when I really needed sleep and no to a days work that I didn't have time to prepare for. I was feeling fab! This is what being a grown up lady was all about! Of course then things got complicated. I was asked to stay a few more hours at work and I knew I had to say no but I really wanted to say yes because I wanted to feel like a valued member of the team, and then a friend needed my help and I wanted to say no because I wasn't sure that what they were asking was the best thing for them but instead I said a sort of half hearted maybe which didn't feel satisfying for anyone, and then my husband asked me to spend time with him and I had some pressing bloggy stuff to do and so I just hummed and hawed my head off, and then before I could make any firm decisions about anything, I was struck down by a ridiculously inconsiderate flu. Not one of those, I've got a bad cold but I want a bit more sympathy things but a proper, do nothing but sweat and hallucinate for 24 hours jobby; so obviously I had to say no to everything and that was no fun at all. 

So I'm writing this in a Lucozade fuelled frenzy and my conclusion is that 'no' can be empowering and 'no' can be self preserving but too much 'no' is as bad as too little. 'No' is the seasoning in the sausage stew of life and next week I'm gonna try and work out how to perfect the recipe...

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What colour's your traffic light?

Yesterday there was a point, and I'll confess it wasn't yet lunchtime, when I was was just about ready to give up. I mean just stop right there on the high street and make a pillow out of my tote. I just felt so, so tired. I know, how boring, another parent banging on about being tired but I'm gonna keep banging on about it because NO ONE IS HONEST. They say you'll be tired for a few weeks or a few months in odd cases a year. No one but no one said after having a baby I would be tired FOREVER. 

Had I known I would have spent much more time developing the baby timeshare concept that I had pitched to my husband on a few drunken nights out. The sum of which was that we found another couple, equally loving of their nights out and lie ins and have one baby between the four of us, on a strict week on week off schedule. 

I'm sure to the casual passerby I looked like your average, happy go lucky, reasonably stylish mum but on the inside, if anyone (and I mean anyone) had offered to watch my kid for five minutes whilst I cried snottily in a corner, I would have gone for it. 

The problem is when I'm in on top of the world, had time to put on eyeliner, supermum mode, if anyone dared to offer me help I would be mortally offended; I mean how dare they suggest I can't cope?! This creates a bit of a minefield for the average individual - do you approach the parent that in your assessment may be struggling? Or do you adopt a charity starts at home attitude and go merrily on your way? 

It reminded me of parties I went to at university, before the age of Tinder we went for something far more practical - colour. The occassions were known as traffic light parties and the concept was satisfying simple, if you wore red you were unavailable, if you wore orange you were open to approaches and if you wore green, well, you were up for anything. Wouldn't this be wonderful for motherhood, a clear signal to the world that you are open to support? You see a toddler having a meltdown of epic proportions, just glance at the parent - they're wearing red and you just leave them to it, green and you go in with carbs and compassion. 

Of course this isn't practical; for a start orange isn't in this season. So here's my solution. Start with a smile. A smile can say a thousand words, it can say -  

You're doing great!
Are you okay?
Been there done that 

And sometimes, that's all you need. 

What colour is your traffic light?

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Life Love and Dirty Dishes

Mission Acceptance - Accept a little joy

Last week I wrote about my occasionally tendency to dip my toes into the sea of negativity and not because it felt nice but because it was easy. I think we like to believe that joy is a given, that it shouldn't be something we have to work at but a baseline that we are entitled to. In the past when I have been feeling a bit 'woe is me' my husband has reminded me that happiness isn't just going to 'arrive one day in a taxi' and although I would nod my head solemnly, but I would be thinking, Whyyyy! It' snot fair! The idea of having to work for it was too much work. 

It's become a blogger cliche banging on about hashtag finding the joy but like many cliches it exists because there's some truth in it. Why do we need to be reminded through snapshots of artfully filtered life to seek out something so wonderful and life affirming, because we're scared. Okay, let me own it, because I'm scared. Scared of my own power. If I have it in me to control my joy why not everything else? 

As a support worker I have had the privilege of working with families in some of the most challenging circumstances one could imagine and many of these individuals have been some of the most joyful I have met. When happiness isn't handed to you, you are forced to make your own and when you become practiced at doing that it becomes easier to tap into that skill when you need it. 

I want to make that skill a habit, as instinctive as my morning cup of coffee and so this week's mission was to start small and inject just a few minutes of joy into life each day. Personally I feel the most joy when I'm not thinking, just feeling and I'm no more in the moment than when I'm dancing. I used to dance quite regularly, at one point every Friday and funds allowing Saturday, but creaking joints and baby birthing put paid to that, so now I don't do it much at all. This week I decided that I don't need power hungry bouncers and warm mixed drinks to dance, I can do it in my PJs and that's what I did. Every day I danced to a tune from my life affirming playlist. I felt a bit self conscious the first day, even though I was alone but the next day it felt natural and the day after I invited my son to join me and he did gladly. I found that when joy is shared it grows exponentially, the joy I was throwing out he was catching, enhancing and throwing back to me. 

The best thing about making your own joy is not even the moment itself but the way it underpins your day; shifts your perspective just enough to find the green shoots in cracks of the cement wall of life. So there were moments when I felt a bit anxious, for example I attended my friend's book launch and was all in my own head about the crowds of super polished professionals, but my spiritual gaze turned towards the joy (My pride in my friend; a child free event; free white wine!) and although the anxiety wasn't eliminated it felt like a fly buzzing round the joy cake I had baked. 

The best thing about teaching myself to be joyful was feeling more confident that I can teach my son to be so too; it has surpassed good manners and proper hygiene in my non negotiable parenting goals list. When all is said and done life, and parenting, is about creation and given the choice shouldn't you choose to create just a little more joy?

My life affirming playlist this week (don't judge):

Survivor - Destiny's Child 
Jump Around - House of Pain
Move on Up - Curtis Mayfield 
Do You Know the Way to San Jose - Dionne Warwick 
Teenage Dream - Katy Perry 
No Control - One Direction 
Love on Top - Beyonce 

What do you or would you do to bring a little joy into your life every day?

If you would like to try out my missions sign up here to find out the challenge at the start of the week. 

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