The End of My Facebook Timeline

Almost six months ago, I left Facebook. My first Facebook post was in December of 2008, and my last post was in May of 2017. That is a close to a ten year run, which is actually a long time in Internet years. Before I left Facebook, I downloaded my full history, which gives me an unflinchingly long timeline of a life spent (wasted?) on Facebook.

The Early Days of Facebook

Looking at the early posts, I see how simple they were. Back then the format of posts was a little different. I think every post automatically began with John Hewitt, and then I added the rest. So I mainly talked about mundane activities such as where I was going or what I was eating. It was dull, harmless stuff. Some of them were nicely esoteric such as John Hewitt is chasing butterflies in his mind.

After a few weeks, I discussed some work issues, and quickly learned that having work friends on Facebook meant having to be careful about what you said. That was my first and lightest experience with the downside of Facebook. Be careful what you share about yourself. I can tell I was getting sensitive because of this post about two months in, “John Hewitt has decided to replace the word disaster with adventure for the foreseeable future.”

Within the first few months I also picked up one of the other frustrating things bout Facebook, the regrettable friend. I had friended someone who I knew a bit in real life, but who seemed obsessed with me online, commenting a lot and saying things I didn’t agree with, but also didn’t want to fight about. They weren’t mean, just uncomfortable to be around. It was years before I unfriended this person.

For the most part, on my timeline, I stuck to pop culture references and quotes. There were posts such as

That was our first encounter with disco mutants. I was sure it wouldn’t be our last.

Pop culture references have been my go to from the first posts to the the last. The reasoning is pretty clear. They are innocuous, and pass (barely) for cleverness in today’s world.

The nice/scary thing about the timeline is that it is a sort of history of my life, from losing and finding jobs to losing and finding friends. It is not as meaningful as a diary or even a blog, but it does live up to its reputation as a timeline. Reading though it, I remember events that passed, and people who passed as well. When my wife and I had twins, photos and references to our children took up a lot of the timeline, especially in the first couple of years, when everyone wants a shot of the babies.

Why I Left

There is a clear reason why I left, but you won’t see it on my timeline. It is polarization. Facebook stopped being a celebration of life (in its own shallow way) and became a place for airing grievances and trying to convince people that they are wrong. Politics was the main way this happened, but there was also religion, health, and really just about any topic that required an opinion. For my part, when I got into arguments, I soon regretted it and deleted the posts. You can delete posts, but you can’t change the tide of posts.

As time passed I found myself unfriending more and more people. This started with people whose views were incompatible with mine, but eventually, it even spread to the people I nominally agreed with. Even the people who I agreed with were polarized. There was no room for a rational discussion of issues. Everyone was shouting each other down.

Even when someone posted something thought out and interesting, there was no respite. Why? Because the comments below them would turn nasty, and often threatening. So, I stopped unfriending, because these people were my friends, and started muting people instead, but at some point I started to wonder what the point was.

Additionally, I found that there was a new section, called Trending that I dreaded to see, but could not resist. I would quickly fall down the Facebook wormhole, finding myself reading comments from strangers, and being tempted to respond. I had to remind myself that a Facebook comment did nothing to further a cause. It was less than meaningless. It was contributing to the downfall of conversation and the end of civility.

That was when I decided it was time to move on. There are things I miss: event invites, pop culture discussions, my FitBit and writing groups, hearing about friends I never see, but I cannot deny that leaving took a weight off my shoulders. I no longer feel like I am investing a lot of time into the act of making myself unhappy. I am also starting to see others who are moving away from the shallow pool social media and looking for better things. I even remembered that I have a blog of my own…

Character Biography for Delbert “Dell” Martin

Below is a character biography I have been working on for my planned NaNoWriMo story. The goal with the biography for me is mainly to get some character details I can draw in as the story progresses. Dell is meant to be the lead character, but by necessity, he is not as flamboyant as some of the other characters I intend to introduce. I think he is interesting, but not a flashy character. If you read my post, Character Bio Sheets, you’ll see that I left some items off. The sheet is meant to be a tool that you can fill in as you go. This is what I have for him so far, and I will add more as I get more thoughts about the character.

 

Character Name: Delbert Martin

Nickname / Alias: Dell

Date of Birth:  August 29th, 1995

Place of Birth: Tucson, Arizona

Residence:  Dell lives in the town of Santa Creda. He lives in a tiny apartment above a sandwich shop. He moved there about a year earlier to take a job.

General Appearance:  Dell is pleasant looking, but not the type of person people notice for his looks. He is relatively fit, with a surprising amount of upper body strength for his size. He tends to dress neatly, if somewhat blandly.  He prefers solid colors, and mainly dresses in blues, grays, and browns.

Height: Five foot nine.

Weight: 155 pounds.

Clothing Sizes: Wears medium shirts and size 32 pants.

Clothing Choices:  For casual wear Dell generally wears Jeans and a t-shirt. For work he wears khakis and a polo shirt.

Hair: Dell has dark brown hair that he wears short, usually about two inches long. He does not have a beard or mustache.

Eye Color: Brown

Handedness: Right

Jewelry: He does not wear jewelry.

Tattoos / Marks: None

Role in the Story: Dell is the lead protagonist. If there are scenes without him, they will be few and probably focused on Zeke.

Key Relationships: Dell and Zeke spend most days together, he is the closest friend Dell has.  Mari was his best friend growing up. He had romantic feelings toward her that were never realized. Del’s Mother Rozalia has a somewhat strained relationship with him. He also has three older brothers, with whom he seldom speaks. They are eight, ten, and thirteen years older than him. Dell was closer to his father, who died three years earlier. Dell has another high school friend, Jared, but does not keep in touch after Mari began dating him. Dell has some interest in Janie, a girl who works the checkout counter at the independent grocery/convenience store across the street from the sandwich shop.

Education: Dell has an Associate’s Degree in Computer Information Systems. He is also a high school graduate. He graduated both schools with honors and has always been a good student who likes to read.

Work History: For the past year and a half, Dell has worked as an overnight Junior System Administrator for a health insurance company. He works three twelve-hour shifts a week and is alone for most of his shift. He sometimes gets called in on additional nights because they have trouble keeping other overnight personnel. During college he worked part-time at a call center for a prescription drug provider.

Skills: Dell spent two years on his high school wrestling team, and although he was never one of the top wrestlers, he has an above-average ability to defend himself. Dell is fairly handy with carpentry tools and general household maintenance. Dell can pick basic locks, especially padlocks. He can juggle, although nothing fancy. He spends a lot of time reading and trying to teach himself things.

Phobias / Fears:  Fears rejection and feeling unwelcome. Fears losing his temper. Fears failure, especially financial failure.

Good Qualities:  Dell is loyal to his friends, perhaps to a fault. He is good with money. He is trustworthy. He rarely drinks and does not smoke.

Bad Habits / Vices: Tends to close off to people when he is angry, often frustrating people who do not know what they have done to upset him. He is easily upset when people discount his opinion because of his age.

Quirks: Keeps a drawer full of wooden pencils that he can break when he is angry. Reliant on the wifi connection from the sandwich shop for his Internet.

Goals and Motivations: Dell values his independence. His biggest motivation is to remain employed and able to keep his apartment and live alone.  Dell’s older brothers have tended to be, in his opinion, unreliable and overly needy, with one or more of them moving back home due to job losses, divorces, and other mishaps. Dell also wants to contribute something to the world, which is why he helps maintain the shrines with Zeke.

Favorite Food: Oranges, preferably Navel and Valencia oranges . Dell usually eats five or six oranges a day. He also eats a lot of sandwiches due to his proximity to a sandwich shop.

Favorite Music: Dell is fond of indie rock bands, especially Wilco and My Morning Jacket. He also likes some older country/folk musicians such as Townes Van Zandt, Woody Guthrie, and John Prine.

 

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo

It is about a month and a half until National Novel Writing Month. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel over the course of the month of November. I have taken up the challenge five times, and have completed it twice, only once coming up with something I actually considered a novel. This year it is my intention to compete again.

In the past, I haven’t overly prepared for NaNoWrimo. The most prepared I had been was when I had a list of characters and a general idea of their relationships and “secrets”. The least prepared I have been is when I literally sat down on the second day of November and began to type with only a vague idea of who two characters were.

This year my goal is to be as prepared as possible. My goal is to have the following

  1. In-depth character descriptions for as many characters possible.
  2. A list of themes I want to explore.
  3. Descriptions of all the key settings.
  4. A map of the character relationships.
  5. A general plot outline.
  6. If possible, a highly detailed plot outline with a breakdown by chapters or beats.

The plotting represents the biggest challenge for me. Plots are my weak point. I tend to start writing with very little idea of where my characters are going to end up. I then struggle to have things happen to them.

This year I have a bit of an advantage over previous years. I already have a good idea of who the two main characters are and what the backbone of their relationship is. This is a key difference between this story and some of my previous stories. Most of my previous stories have started with a single protagonist who starts, essentially friendless and as an outsider. This story is going to be more about a friendship. While the characters have only known each other for a few months, they are already quite close by the time the story starts. This should relieve some of the weight of having to introduce a character, one by one, to all the other characters in the story. The two main characters have known each other long enough to have a good idea of each other’s habits, strengths, and weaknesses.

Another advantage is that I have decided to once again set my story in the fictional town of Santa Creda. I have already spent a great deal of time fleshing out this location. Although I don’t intend for  the characters to frequent the same exact places as those from my previous story, the general atmosphere of the town, as well as its landmarks and politics, will remain the same. A few of the previous characters may also leak over into the new story, although I don’t have any specific characters in mind yet. They are still in town though, so you never know who might show up.

When it comes to plotting, I decided to give myself a bit of a crutch. I am setting the story during the Christmas holidays, which provides a natural backdrop of events that can be explored by the characters as they progress.

As I work through my preparations, I will post some of the pre-work here, along with my thinking behind how I approached these things. It should be fun.

A Quick Note on Marshall Cooper

Greetings, my few remaining followers. I took my novel, Marshall Cooper, off the site for the time being while I clean it up a bit.

From what I can tell, no one was really looking at it anyway. Reading a story as 28 different blog posts that appear in reverse order is a bit of a tedious exercise for even my most rabid readers.

I plan to clean it up (a bit) and put it out as a free e-book. It will never be professional grade, but I can at least reduce the grammar and typo issues a bit before patting it on the butt and sending it back out to play.

Thank you for your understanding.

Love,

John

My Current Technical Writing Toolset

Ten years ago, most of these tools would not have been on my list. Only Microsoft Office, WordPress, Acrobat, and Notepad have remained in my toolset over the past ten years. Some bigger names that have fallen off my list over the past few years include RoboHelp, DreamWeaver, FrameMaker, and PaintShop Pro. That is partially due to personal preferences, and largely due to the company I work for and the job I do for them. I haven’t included browsers here, but the short answer is that I use all the major ones for one thing or another but Chrome is my primary.

Content Tools

Confluence

Confluence is the wiki on which we write and publish most of our documentation at my job. I was part of the team that chose it and launched it at our company. I am also one of the administrators. I have my own cloud version that I use for all of my non-work writing. For the most part, it has replaced word processors as my default when writing. Having it in the cloud means that all of my work, and the interface to develop it with, are available wherever I go and whatever machine I am on.

Microsoft SharePoint

Our company’s intranet sites are developed using SharePoint. I am the SharePoint administrator for the development and support arm of my company. I spend a lot of time curating content and fixing/redesigning pages.

Snagit Editor

I not only use Snagit for screenshots, I do most of my image editing using its editor. It isn’t full-featured like Gimp (my other image editing program) but because it has a simple interface, and some nice out-of the box annotation graphics. I use it for most work-related image creation and editing.

Microsoft PowerPoint

I frequently create presentations, usually just a few slides. I also use it for text-heavy image work because it is easy to move elements around on the page.

ER Studio Data Architect

This is not a common technical writer tool. I support our data dictionaries, which led to me becoming one of two administrators for this tool. I don’t develop data dictionaries from scratch, but I often come in and clean them up for publication. I am the main support person for the tool, so if anyone has trouble publishing their data dictionaries, I come in and troubleshoot the problem.

Adobe Captivate

Every once in a while I need to make a video and this is the program I use. Captivate is actually a little high-end for my purposes, so I end up tripping over some features, but in the end I come out with some nice videos.

Gimp

If Snagit Editor can’t do the job with an image, Gimp is my fallback. It is much more powerful, but far more complex, which slows me down.

Microsoft Word

I rarely write from scratch in Microsoft Word, because I have Confluence, but I still get Word documents from other people that I need to edit. I also use it whenever I need to change the capitalization for a large block of words, or if I want to convert text to a table or a table to text.

Microsoft Excel

We report a lot of information in spreadsheets, and Excel is still the best tool for that.

Notepad

I mainly use this for notes and when I want to remove formatting from a block of text in another program.

WordPress

This isn’t used for my job often, but I still maintain my personal web sites in WordPress. Occasionally, I also use it to do some quick and dirty HTML editing.

TinyLetter

I use this to publish my newsletter. It has a nice, straightforward interface that is almost like sending an email.

Adobe Acrobat Standard

Every once in a while, I need to publish or edit a PDF.

Productivity Tools

Jira

My group at work tracks its projects using Jira. We’ve only been at it for a few months, and I am still getting used to the interface, but it does a good job of making my deliverables clear and letting my boss know when I do and do not have time for additional work.

HP Agile Manager

Another group at work is using HP Agile Manager for tracking a single project that I work on. It does the same thing as Jira, and I like the basic interface a little better, but either tool will do the job.

Trello

Trello is a much simpler project tracking tool that I use for my own projects. It is quick, easy, and surprisingly powerful if you want to dig a little deeper. I can break out project steps very quickly in Trello, which is something I cannot do quickly in Jira or HP Agile manager.

Microsoft Outlook

I could just as easily put this in as a meetings and communication tools, but I put it here because the calendar in Outlook is the first place I go to see what kind of day I am going to have. I use Outlook for email, of course, but the calendar is what keeps me afloat.

Meeting and Communication Tools

GoToMeeting

I run several meetings and attend far more. GoToMeeting allows me to use both audio and screen sharing.

Microsoft Lync

Lync can do many of the same things as GoToMeeting, but is dependent on other people having the program. I use it more for instant messaging with co-workers and occasionally sharing a screen. Some coworkers run meetings using it.

Web Help Tools

I can export HTML from Confluence and use it to build web-help files. These are the tools that help me do it.

Advanced Renamer

I use this to rename large blocks of files. This allows me to get rid of special characters in the names that could be problematic for some browsers.

TextCrawler

I use this to make edits to large blocks of files. Once I change the names of a block of files using Advanced Renamer, I need to change all the links. TextCrawler also allows me to change headers and footers quickly.

Zoom Search Engine Indexer

I can create a search engine for a set of HTML files using this program.

NotePad ++

If I need to edit HTML for a file, I use Notepad++.

Xenu

If I need to check for broken links on a web site, I use Xenu.