Seeing the Positives in Social Media

The modern world

Just as I thought I’d made a decision to try to embrace social media a little better, I saw a photograph that sums up the world we now live in. You’ve probably seen it too – it went viral, which was simultaneously powerful and ironic. In the picture (which you can see at the top of this post), a large crowd of people watches an event. Everyone is capturing the moment on a smart phone. All except one lady that is, who watches on with her actual eyes rather than through a screen. This hasn’t made me rethink my decision exactly, but it has made me think a little more about the good, the bad and the ugly of social media.

Let’s start off with a few statistics. It is estimated that globally, the number of people who are active on Facebook at least once a month is now 1.5 billion. That’s about 20% of the world’s population. Twitter and Instagram both have over 300 million monthly users. I’m stating the blindingly obvious when I say that social media is a huge, influential and growing part of our daily lives.

There’s an obvious irony in the phrase ‘social media’. Whilst the various platforms enable us to communicate, connect and share experiences, most of us have at some point looked up to realise that we are sitting with a group of other people and none of us are doing those things in ‘real life’. What usually happens next? Someone makes a comment along the lines of, “Well we’re sociable today aren’t we?” followed by everyone muttering, “Ha ha, yes, it’s terrible isn’t it,” before gazing back down at the screens in front of them.

Technology does and always has changed the way people live. Whilst it’s true that ‘big news’ – whether that’s a friend’s engagement/pregnancy/graduation, or the latest political, sports or entertainment bombshell – now spreads across the world via digital platforms, once upon a time developments like the printing press, wireless radio and television revolutionised the way in which information was communicated. A quick status update is an easy and efficient way to spread news instantly. I suppose the problem is that depending on the news, the rest of the world (or even your friends and family) might not actually be that bothered… but they’re forced to see it anyway.

This is where my own opinion about what’s interesting and what isn’t starts to get in the way. I know the only way I can avoid this is by steering clear of social media entirely… but there are some things I’m just not interested in. Depressing (or worse still, cryptic and depressing) Facebook statuses, incendiary political tweets, corny selfies or anything to do with the Kardashians sometimes make me want to delete the whole Internet. Equally, I’m aware that articles about sport or philosophy and videos of cute kittens/puppies falling off items of furniture don’t appeal to everyone, but at least they intrigue or amuse me. The challenge, the lesson, the issue – whatever you want to call it – is in filtering the things you do and don’t want to see on social media without wasting your entire life doing it.

I also read an interesting article about the use of Instagram this week. The writer was arguing that people are so obsessed with creating a perfect ‘insta-world’ that we aren’t documenting life as it really looks and feels. As a recent convert to Instagram, I understand the rationale behind this idea, but I think if you flip it around it can probably help us focus on the positives too. I believe that looking for a ‘photo opportunity’ can help you to look at the world in different ways: it can make you see the beautiful in the mundane or the tiny detail in the bigger picture. Creating a photo can actually make an experience more fun or memorable. Maybe on some level it does make me want to have some kind of pseudo insta-life where I’m having fun and amazing experiences all the time. The key thing is though, if that’s what I’m trying to represent, I’m also more likely to try and make that a reality.

Ultimately, social media can both bring us together and tear us apart. I think I’m starting to figure out my own attitude towards it: I don’t want to spend more time looking at a screen than interacting with the world around me and I don’t want to miss out on experiencing something because I’m too busy trying to record a diluted version of it to look at later. In fact maybe it’s a bit like writing this blog. I want to use it in a way that makes me and others smile or think. The fact is, like that lady in the picture, in order to experience, capture and share special moments through authentic words or powerful images, I have to have my eyes open to see them happening in the first place.

And now, the ironic plug… don’t forget to follow me on twitter @inkingfeeling or instagram @herbie17


Kiwi Adventures 2015: Weeks 3 and 4

Kiwi Adventures Weeks 3-4

“There and Back Again…”
This is the equivalent of that postcard you scribble out on the flight home and pop in the postbox along the road from your own house. I reckon it’s a pretty good sign when you’re having too much fun on your travels to find the time to write about it…

“Not all those who wander are lost…” J.R.R. Tolkien

After an adrenaline-fuelled first couple of weeks swinging off bridges and rafting down rapids, I got behind the wheel once again and did some road-tripping. After playing a game in one of my favourite places in NZ, Taupo – we’ll gloss over the hockey for now – I continued through the North Island up to Tauranga. Having (theoretically) ‘grown up’ in Jersey, I have good reason for being a bit of a beach snob. However, after trekking up the summit path of Mount Maunganui in the sunshine to look down on the white sand of Maunganui beach, I can safely say that this place ticks some serious boxes. It’s pretty mindblowing to look out across the ocean knowing that the next landmass is Chile – about 6000 miles away.

One of the awesome things about this trip has been having the chance to catch up with friends – Brits abroad and Kiwi mates who live further away than I would like them to. The day after Tauranga, I also managed to pop in and visit my fantasy cousins in the Shire. Maybe this just makes me a weird Lord of the Rings nut, but there’s something pretty magical about going in a hobbit hole and drinking a cheeky (hobbit-sized) beer in the Green Dragon Inn. A hike up to Wairere Falls and our brilliant day in Middle Earth was complete.

Time flies when you’re having fun and 2000km of road-tripping later, tournament week in Whangerei, Northland was suddenly around the corner. We stayed in a beautiful location in Tutukaka and relaxation is pretty important when you take on the challenge of seven games in nine days. The standard of hockey was definitely better than last year and the ‘Central Caterpillars’ and I gave it everything. We essentially just missed out on a semi-final place by one goal, leaving us all gutted. Having said that, it was a brilliant week – we played some exciting hockey and I loved being part of such a fun and gutsy team. It’s always great to have the chance to step out alongside top players you’ve admired as an opponent, but it’s also nice to see younger players making their first mark on the game at a high level. I hope I’ll get another chance to wear the Central colours…

After the tournament, I gatecrashed the winners’ party (thanks for having me Auckland!), caught up with more friends and did a final bit of exploring with my trusty tour guide and general legend, Jules. Most of our travels usually seem to revolve around food but as well as filling our boots we fitted in a day trip to Waiheke island for more beach wandering and a stunning winery, a morning at Takapuna Beach on the North Shore, and a very windy view across Auckland from One Tree Hill in Cornwall Park.

After another amazing adventure with some amazing people, it was finally time to set off on the long journey home. The really, really long journey. I’m very happy to be safely back home with the boy and feel ready for the special and exciting few months ahead. But there’s just something about New Zealand that makes me feel like a little part of me belongs there too.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” The Lord of the Rings


Find me on twitter @inkingfeeling and Instagram @herbie17 for updates…

Kiwi Adventures 2015: Weeks 1 and 2

Kiwi Adventure 1

This entry comes from New Zealand… It’s a pretty spectacular place and as well as being very well-looked after by my brilliant adoptive Kiwi family, I’m doing my best to make the most of being here. Rather than my usual ramblings about sport and whatever else gets my ideas flowing, I thought I’d write a bit of a blog-postcard about my travels.

After a few days of waking up outrageously early, acclimatizing to NZ’s wind and rain, and a bit of training with the Central NHL team, I’ve settled in nicely for this year’s Kiwi adventure. The first game was on Saturday and we started with a great 3-2 victory… although only a few days after a 38-hour 4-flight journey my body did not feel like it was winning. We then had a fund-raising dinner and I was definitely more nervous about taking the stage for a Q&A with an All Black and two of the greatest ever Blacksticks players than I will be for any of the hockey games!

I road-tripped down to Wellington on Monday – the furthest South I’ve ever ventured. The roads here are a little different to the motorways back home. ‘State Highway 1’, which as its name suggests is a reasonably significant route, is over 1000 kilometers long in the North Island alone. It’s mostly single carriageway, with occasional passing lanes to let you overtake the truck you’ve been stuck behind for miles on end. A bit of a contrast to the good old M25…
I spent most of the day in the ‘Te Papa’ Museum of New Zealand. We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to free-to-access museums in London, but this museum was right up there. Exhibitions on the World War I ANZAC campaign in Gallipolli, Maori history/culture and colonial emigration kept me entertained for a good few hours. I finished my day with a trip to a lookout point on Mount Victoria for some 360° views across the city and the Cook Strait, and a toe-dip in the ocean at Oriental Bay – not as cold as I feared.

“Do one thing that scares you every day…”

A couple of days later, I went to the Mokai Gravity Canyon with two of my Central team mates. After spotting a website promotion, we decided to forsake our dignity to get the experience for half price by wearing onesies – luckily Georgia’s outfit made Pip and I look almost normal. A technical glitch meant we couldn’t stick to our original plan to go on the ‘Flying Fox’, a 160kph zipline. Instead, we faced the stomach-dropping option of NZ’s highest bridge swing, which involves a free fall of around 50m. My inner adrenaline junkie tends to make me laugh – ok, giggle – in the face of danger and I’m pleased to say the other two embraced the idea of doing something that scares you every day.

One day of excitement in the great outdoors wasn’t enough for me, so I set off at 6.30am yesterday for half a day of white water rafting. The amount of rainfall meant that the river level was right on the safety limit for rafting. This led to a bit of standing around until the guides decided we were safe to navigate the Grade 5 rapids. Our guide told us the Rangitikei is a technical river, “which basically means there’s lots of rocks.” He also mentioned about five different spots where people had drowned whilst rafting, including an instructor. Good to know.
Most of my fellow rafters seemed to be “proper travelers”, bus-touring and backpacking around NZ. Thankfully, a Mancunian-Aussie, a Kiwi PE teacher and a Belgian Catholic priest let me join their gang for the morning. I don’t tick many boxes when it comes to organized religion, but if we had hit a big rock/capsized/become Rangitikei River horror story no.6 for our instructor to tell his next crew, I figured at least pity might be taken on our whole raft. Having said that, I later saw Father Louis drinking a pint in the lodge wearing full on cassock and collar so…

I’m already looking forward to game two this weekend in Taupo (the location of my skydive last year). After that, more travels and catching up with friends.
Until the next adventure!


Follow me on twitter @inkingfeeling for updates

New Year’s Aspirations


So, 2015 is upon us. Now you’ve finished unwrapping presents, bickering with relatives and eating your own body weight in Quality Streets, perhaps you’ve begun to think about a few New Year’s Resolutions. 

I’ve made New Year’s resolutions before, but it isn’t something I do every year. I’ve kept some, broken some and forgotten most of them either way. I understand the reason for making them, but to me a resolution often ends up being an objective that is measured in a very black and white way: Have I run a mile every day? Have I gone to bed earlier? Have I lost x-amount of weight by the end of March? Have I overhauled my diet, raised a million pounds for charity and travelled to twenty five new countries (…and have I achieved all this in the inordinately small amount of time I predicted it would take me when I was chatting at a dinner party during the festive season)? Some people manage to stick to their resolutions. The vast majority don’t. The problem with most resolutions is that one slip, one mistake, one bad day and it usually makes us feel like we have failed, so we give up completely. 

Maybe it’s all just semantics. I was talking to a friend a couple of days ago and she asked me what my aspirations are for the year ahead. I was struck by the idea of ‘aspirations’ – it makes me think of hope, positivity and striving for something. It doesn’t necessarily follow that aspirations are something you succeed or fail at, as long as you are trying to make something happen. I think that’s a good way to think about what you want to try and do, change or achieve. I may not complete my list, but if I have backed up my intentions with effort and some kind of action in the right direction, I won’t have failed. 

The list below is very much made up of personal aspirations that will (if I stick to them) impact on my own life. You might read them and think I am being selfish – there isn’t anything about volunteering to help others or charitable donations. I don’t want to publicly state my intentions on those things. I have a pretty good idea of the people I would like to be better at supporting and helping. You’ll just have to trust me that I’ll be trying to do just that as well as trying to challenge and enjoy myself.

My Aspirations For 2015 and a little bit about why I have come up with them:

1. ‘To get something published’
I got the ball rolling on this last year… I started this blog, I embarked on a Masters in English Language and Creative Writing, I entered two writing competitions (I didn’t win in case you were wondering) and I have tried to be braver about asking people other than my immediate family to read things I write. The next stage is finding the courage to submit my writing to publications. And to write something I think is actually good enough to submit… obviously!

2. ‘To get 20,000 blog hits by the end of January 2016’
It’s been just over 11 months since I started the blog and I’m almost halfway there. The next phase of this aspiration is partly down to me – write more blog entries, write better blog entries… and partly down to you – read the blog, share the blog! The one thing I have learnt so far in my brief writing career is that you have to swallow your pride and put yourself out there. So this is a shameless plug. If you enjoy reading something I’ve written, please tell someone else to read it too!

3. ‘To have fun at hockey’
I have spent a lot of hours of my life on hockey. The last few years have been pretty mixed as far as the ratio of good:bad hours is concerned. I know it is just chasing a little white ball around a field… but it is important to me. When I enjoy hockey and when I feel like I’m making a positive contribution to my team, this generally has a reasonably big impact on my overall happiness and wellbeing. The last few months have taught me that my hockey performance and experiences are generally summed up by a simple formula: having fun = playing well. And for good measure: playing well = having fun.
This season, my team is trying to defend a national championship and going on a European adventure at Easter. I intend to enjoy this experience as much as possible.

4. ‘To undertake at least five new / physical challenges’
Last year, I completed my first Tough Mudder and bike sportive, I jumped out of a plane in New Zealand, I hiked up a mountain in St Lucia, I started a Masters and a blog. All of these experiences – some of which were scary, some of which hurt, some of which were tiring, some of which just made me smile (and not necessarily in the order you’d assume) – made 2014 very memorable. It’s probably really self-important to quote from my own writing, but I’m going to do it anyway: “Suck it up and breathe it in… Not every moment in life is perfect, but every moment is unique.” I’m going to try and remember that.

If you’ve made it this far, you now know my aspirations for 2015. My question to you… what are yours?

New Friends and High Places

NZ 2014 banner

Things have been quiet on the blog front lately. Sometimes I guess you have to let the creative juices refresh themselves and wait for your pen to start impatiently nudging you to make something appear on the page. Luckily, I haven’t just been sitting on the sofa staring at the TV, so even if my creative side hasn’t been challenged much in the last few weeks, my courage and confidence certainly has. After an amazing Caribbean holiday in August, I headed home and repacked my bags ready for another adventure.

Hockey has given me the chance to travel to many far-flung corners of the globe, but this was the first time I had set foot in New Zealand. The first thing I should point out is that it’s lucky it’s such a cool place, because my God is it a long way to travel! I know it’s probably a bit self-indulgent to describe my adventures on here but as I think I said in my last entry, I’m trying to savour new experiences and soak in life as it happens. I want to get my memories down on paper anyway, so hopefully it will get me back on the blogging track and act as a little reminder for me to keep enjoying the moment. Plus it’ll save me a few postage pennies on my as yet unwritten postcards.

Having immersed myself in a foreign environment pretty fully during two hockey seasons in Holland, I have learnt how to get over my ineptitude at small talk and figure out how to make new friends. This time around I was ‘team grandma’ – although this didn’t stop anyone from making the customary short jokes. Hilarious as always 🙂 Having spent the last few months outside a team environment, it was awesome to get back into the swing of things with a great bunch of girls. I’m used to being the slightly weird foreigner, but once they had figured out my sarcasm (and I had figured out that I had to download Snapchat in order to communicate with anyone), I felt at home pretty quickly. I was also looked after like a member of the family by my amazing hosts and even at my grand old age (ha) this made such a difference to how easily I settled in. Sports-mad, friendly and up for a laugh – Kiwis make good mates.

New Zealand is also a phenomenally beautiful place. A few of the girls scoffed at me getting my camera out as we walked onto the field for our first game. There was a snow-capped mountain in the background. As far as I’m concerned, that is pretty damn cool. So I may have looked like a bit of a tourist – but I wanted to be able to remember that view even when I’m a real life old granny. Thankfully I managed to do some non-hockey exploring too whilst I was there. Geothermal parks, hot pools, jet boating, visiting a Maori village, waterfalls, Auckland’s Sky Tower, Mount Eden, a sheepskin factory, a honey centre and even catching a giant prawn (just one – but this was kind of a big deal, ok?)…. all were ticked off my list. Oh and I jumped out of a plane from 15,000 feet. Possibly one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. You can’t fail to soak things in when every one of your senses is being inundated by new, exciting, challenging environments. And this was just the North Island…

As well as my tourist cameo, I was there to play some hockey too. We set out with two mantras: to enjoy ourselves and to learn as much as possible. There’s no doubt that we came out of the tournament a better team than we went into it, and I definitely spent 99% of the tournament with a smile on my face. I’ve come home excited to see friends and family, and eager to get started for the season here.

I know I haven’t actually said much in this entry. I guess it’s a bit of a thank you, a bit of a personal diary entry which has accidentally made it onto the internet and a bit of a justification for why I have been busy getting out there and living for a few weeks without a hypothetical pen in my hand for once. Most of all though, it’s just a little reminder to myself about how much fun I have when I let myself… and that’s definitely something I want to keep doing now I’m back home with the people I love and into my normal (but brilliant) life. Kia ora New Zealand…

Good Dirty Fun

For the second Saturday running, I’ve found myself completely and utterly covered in mud. Last week it was the Tough Mudder in Yorkshire – an 11 mile obstacle course in, you guessed it, mud. This week, the surroundings were a little different: a mud bath in the sulphuric sludge of a volcano in St Lucia. One left me with bruises, a free tshirt and a sense of achievement; the other left my skin feeling silky smooth and me (allegedly) looking 10 years younger. As I still occasionally get ID’d in Tesco, I’ll have to assume I now look approximately seven years old. Both Saturdays were memorable and unique.

For anyone who read the title of this post and thought it was going to be the sequel to ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, shame on you! For anyone who is wondering what on earth I’m doing blogging whilst on holiday, I can tell you that as someone who enjoys writing, scribbling away on a sun lounger with the Caribbean waves lapping against the shore a few yards away doesn’t feel like work. I’m not trying to gloat, I promise. However, in order to make a more salient point, I will have to describe a few things I’ve been up to.

I’m a person who likes to plan, to dream, to think about the future. This can be a strength and a weakness. I usually know where I’m supposed to be and when, plus getting your stuff ready the night before means you can sleep for longer. The problem is, when you spend time planning your time, it turns out that the time you’ve planned can mysteriously disappear. With that in mind, I have recently tried to live in the moment a bit more. Spontaneous “yes’s”, saying out loud (ideally to another person, although not a prerequisite) that I’m having a good time/enjoying myself/”This is awesome!”/suitable alternative, and taking a second to breathe it all in are helping me do this.

Of course, it’s sometimes easier to get excited about living in the moment when you are doing something different, fun or interesting. For example, if I were to write a list of things I’ve done this week, it would include: Doing Tough Mudder, watching the boy win a Commonwealth medal whilst on WAG duty, snorkelling amongst tropical fish, taking a mud bath, going to a drive-through volcano and swimming in a waterfall. I am aware that I’m pretty lucky to be able to write a list like that (and rest assured, it isn’t a typical week). But there are other things I could happily describe as awesome from the last seven days: A roast dinner and log fire in August, a kindly member of the public handing my lost purse into the police station, a chilli pepper actually growing in our plant pot (miracle – trust me) and the fact that England have finally remembered how to play cricket. My point is, suck it up and breathe it in. Not every moment in life is perfect, but every moment is unique.

Presumably there’s a reasonable chance that I won’t spend next Saturday rolling around in the mud. Whatever I am doing though, at some point I will take a few seconds to look around and take in my surroundings. I will remind myself to remember the moment. Maybe my overriding feeling will be that I’m glad I haven’t got mud stuck in unimaginable places for the third week in a row…. Ahh, good dirty fun.

What a Weekend of Sport: When Words Aren’t Enough…

Because sometimes, a picture really does tell a thousand words…

David Luiz scores for Brazil vs Colombia in QF of World Cup 2014 (from

David Luiz scores for Brazil vs Colombia in World Cup 2014 QF (from

Petra Kvitova - Wimbledon Women's Singles Champion 2014 (from

Petra Kvitova – Wimbledon Women’s Singles Champion 2014 (from

Arjen Robben and Tim Krul celebrate Netherlands QF victory over Costa Rica on penalties (from

Arjen Robben and Tim Krul celebrate Netherlands QF victory over Costa Rica on penalties (from

Le Tour de France Stages 1 and 2 in Yorkshire 2014 (from Le Tour de France Facebook page)

Le Tour de France Stages 1 and 2 in Yorkshire 2014 (from Le Tour de France Facebook page)

Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the British Grand Prix 2014 (from

Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the British Grand Prix 2014 (from

Novak Djokovic - Wimbledon Men's Singles Champion 2014 (from

Novak Djokovic – Wimbledon Men’s Singles Champion 2014 (from

An amazing weekend of sport, captured in pictures and shared with the world. All photos as credited above.