The Web Hostess: Online manners, best new sites and must-see videos

Mar 24, 2010

A weekly chat about the best ways to kill time online. Our Web Hostess, Monica Hesse, sifts the Internet so you don't have to, searching for meaning, manners and the next great meme.

Afternoon, everyone, and thanks for stopping by.

Today Paul alerted me to a little narrative about a man who needs to back away from the Twitter, and how. Gawker had the story, about a dude named Jay Martin so angered by the passing of the healthcare bill that he Tweeted a death threat to President Obama. And then -- even after given every opportunity to back off and say he was just foolin' -- kept Tweeting it again and again.

The feds got involved.

Fair? How seriously should we take Tweeted or Facebooked threats? Take the poll -- we're eager for your thoughts.

Click here to jump to the poll.

The XX blog suggests that a "nerdy" environment (Star Wars, computer games, and junk food) turns women off from careers in computer science. Do you agree? What got you interested in being the Web Hostess with the mostest?

The "nerdy" simplification is ridiculous in every way, especially because everyone knows that a) Star Wars is cool, b) But not as cool as Star Trek, and c) "Nerd" is a totally arbitrary term, as everbody nerds out to something.

We actually had an education blog post that dealt with this just yesterday, discussing how it might be stereotypes of inferiority at math and computers that keep women away from careers in the sciences.

I'm guessing that a bigger issue than a few Yoda posters would be a general unwelcoming attitude toward women in said workplace, conveyed either through belittling her contributions or ignoring her outright. Yoda might be the symptom, but not the problem.

Could you recommend any currently decent dating sites you may have heard about? I'm only 22 and thus not too desperate, so I don't want to pay, but I'd like at least some level of quality from the rest of the user pool. I realize that's probably a tall order, but worth a shot.

OH! It can't be TOO popular either... I wouldn't want anyone I know in the real world to see me there and realize just how desperate I actually am. Thank you!

This site,, looks old, so I can't vouch that every site is up and running. But surely at least half out of the hundred mentioned are still good.


Also, have you thought about Craigslist? It gets a bad rap for being booty calls and erotic massages, but I actually know several couples who have met through CL. It's free, and you can make your description generic enough that no one will recognize you.

I loved your article on the market for tuxes for lesbians who are getting married!!

Why, thanks! I've actually had emails from several straight women, too, telling me they'd always fantasized about wearing men's suits, or they dug the look of men's suits on women.
Ladies, get thee to tailors.

Monica, A friend and I are having a debate, and decided that you will settle the matter.

I have too many "friends" on Facebook that I don't really consider friends, and I am willing to bet the feeling may be mutual. It's like an awkward high school reunion -- once I get past the "hey what have you been up to? Where do you live? What do you do?" I find I don't talk to them anymore.

I wanted to send a message to these sorta-friends saying that it's nothing personal, just paring down my friend list, and if they want to keep in touch with me I'd be happy to accept a friend request from them.

My friend said that I should just "un-friend" them, but I really don't want anyone to get upset about me "de-friending" them. Am I overthinking this?

Here's a bold move that I really like, suggested to me by a few people who recently did massive friend pruning:

Post a message on your Facebook wall that you're defriending everyone. Everyone! Say something like:

"My friend list is getting unmanageable, so I've decided to start from scratch. on X DATE, I'm going to de-friend everyone. If you'd like to keep in touch, please friend me again."

That way, you're not singling out any particular people, and it's not a personal move. The people I've talked to who have done this report that it's very freeing -- and that they are able to have much better relationships with those who do choose to re-friend.


After 15 years I have found one major gap in the Web's seemingly limitless collection of information - the Yellow Pages have no true online equivalent, at least in this area., maintained by Verizon's phone book vendor, is useless because of all the ads for non-local businesses. Local restaurants are easy enough to Google, but some categories of businesses present more of a challenge to find, such as party supplies or plumbers or laundromats.

Am I wrong in thinking that Verizon should simply have updated White Pages and Yellow Pages on its site for account holders? I would accept that if it meant no outside ads.

Has this bothered anyone else? I actually find that Google is quicker than thumbing through Yellow Pages, because it provides related searches rather than forcing me to know the exact word.

Yay or nay for an online Yellow Pages market?

What better way to get kids into yoga than with a new-age teacher and a Rastafari rooster?



There is no better way.

Have you been following the cake vs. pie bracket on Jezebel? I think birthday cake will take it all, what are you rooting for?

Thank you for this important question. Currently my loyalties lie with German Chocolate Cake, but only because Cherry Pie has not yet played. If it comes down to a GCC vs. CP smackdown, my head will implode.

Birthday cake is indeed a sentimental favorite. Too bad it never tastes very good.

I hope you're referring to TNG, and TNG only....

What do you take me for, a heathen?

I wouldn't re-add them because how annoying is that? Yo'u're overthinking. Just unfriend them. They likely won't care.

Oddly, they will care. They will care, and then they will write to me and ask me why you unfriended them and I will have no answer except to say, "Chin up, Buddy. Chin up."

People take the de-friending very personally, if they're picked off one by one rather than en masse.

Guten Tag, Monica! Okay, so that's the only German I know. I moved to Germany about 2 weeks ago. The laptop that I've had for six years suddenly thinks I'm fluent in German, and whenever I go to a search engine like Yahoo or Google, gives me stories in German. I can figure google out by myself, but I miss the stories in Yahoo. Do you know of any way to get them translated back into English?


The same thing happened to my Facebook page recently -- I looked at several European profiles for a story, and suddenly my whole pages was Italian.

For your issue, I scrolled down to Yahoo!'s "help" section, typed in several keywords ("English," "Change language," etc) and came up with several hits that looked like they might be useful. I'll play around with this more after the chat, if you want to email me personally.

I don't really get the point of defriending someone on Facebook. It's not like Facebook friends are actually in your home, eating all of your Cheetos. They're just spectral Internet presences, and if you don't like their status updates, you can just hide them or look at the next one. Defriending strikes me as pointless, immature and slightly hostile.

I think the people who feel the need to defriend are the same people who feel the need to have a clean storage room. You don't go in there often. You don't technically need order in that location -- it's for STORAGE, for pity's sake -- but something about your brain would just be more at ease if everything was tidy in there.


Is it me, or has etiquette completely disappeared from online forums? I'm a huge movie fan, so I'm a frequent visitor to IMDb. And in their discussion boards, many of the discussions descend into childish name-calling and personal attacks at the drop of a hat.

People who disagree with someone's opinion (for example, say you NOT like Star Wars) will call the original poster an idiot, a troll, and plenty of other slanderous names that shouldn't be mentioned here. And that's just for something as small as movies! It genuinely scares me to think how bad it gets in the political arena! (One of the reasons I don't read the comments in any of the Post's political articles.)

The (probably unanswerable) question that I frequently ask is how we can bring civility and, dare I say it, grown-up behavior back to discussion (online and offline) without resorting to childish and extremist rhetoric.

Online, we can go a long way toward bringing back civility by requiring everyone to register with and use their real names in discussion boards. But when you do that, you're also going remove the experience of witnessing people's raw emotions at their basest and most visceral -- which, believe it or not, can occasionally be useful.

Gene Weingarten had some interesting discussion about this on his (sadly too infrequent) chat yesterday. Worth a read through.

That is very nice of you to consider people's feelings, even those you don't speak to. I was defriended once unexpectedly and it does hurt, especially when you think that person is still your friend and it turns out they are not. or that they will stay FB friends with people you know he/she doesn't care for but they chose to defriend you.


A journalist I follow has coined the term "Twurder" after someone wished her dead via Twitter.

It's not funny. But it kind of is.

The plural of anecdote isn't data, but the first commenter might be interested in this story of a transgender male scientist who noted quite a few differences in the way he was treated when he was still living as a woman.

Also, TNG is great, but DS9 is objectively the superior Trek.

This story was before my time at the Post, but after a quick glance-through it looks fascinating. Can't wait to go back and read the whole thing.

And DS9???!!!

I guess we will let you stay, because you provided the awesome link.

OKCupid and Plentyoffish are both free. I haven't met the girl of my dreams yet but I'm clicking away looking. Four dates in six months...girls get the benefit of being barraged by the men and being selective (as always). The ones I think I have the most in common with never respond :(.

Thanks for the suggestions. And maybe the original poster writing in for sites is actually the girl of your dreams, who you will now meet online!

Um, hi, um, I'm Annie Hall. Been there.

Different. Subtly, but still different. The Annie Hall look was about appropriating masculine styles and reconfiguring them as women's clothing. What these women are interested in is men's clothing.

Isn't Battlestar Galactica really the best Star Trek?

You have exposed me for the poseur-nerd that I am. I have never seen the Battlestar.

It's on my Netflix queue, I swear.

Look, nobody threatens the president or other public figure unless they're looking for attention. The question is to what degree the attention is desired, and there's no way to determine a real threat from a blowhard without taking it seriously. So yeah, if he was offered a chance to retract the Tweet, and declined? Take him seriously.

Thanks -- this seemed to be the ruling opinion on the blogosphere as well.

(Sorry if you've covered this before, I just discovered your great chats.) Do you have any advice for someone wanting to redirect their career to a Web-based one? That is, working as a Forum moderator, blog writer, etc.?

I already have a strong communications and writing background; unfortunately, my experience hasn't included much social media (only writing copy for more traditional websites and an internal company blog). I do have personal Facebook, Twitter, etc. experience.

Finding work as a forum moderator or blog writer is going to be tough. I wrote a story on a brilliant kid/man last year who had founded a site drawing millions of visitors every day...and even he couldn't find work as a forum moderator.

Most bloggers who live solely off of their blogs went about it the old-fashioned (read: 2003) way: they started a blog about something they felt passionate about, they cross-linked with everybody, they built up a following, and the ads came to them.

Wish I had some quicker solutions. Anyone out there have thoughts?

hey cupcake, just thought i'd chime in with this one. its been almost 10 years since me and the wife met on match. the site was so basic back then, not technical etc. never saw someone i knew on that site and it took a few years to admit we met online. now it doesn't sound creepy or desperate and we are proud to admit it. seven year anniversary coming up. hope this chick finds success. i was only looking for a date and ended up finding my wife. who knew1

As has gotten more popular, the chances might have decreased that the OP won't find someone s/he knows. On the other hand -- if everyone s/he knows is on there, then isn't that a sign that there's really no need to keep the online dating a secret?

Seriously, everyone's looking.

Oh, and it was something like $24 for 3 months. We met after 2 weeks (she had signed up the day before I contacted her.

I figured $24 was going to be more economical than buying a drink at a bar for some random. Not sure what it costs now but I found it a deal.

(follow up from the one I just posted)

If we're talking about other SF shows that did Trek better than Trek, Farscape is up there. As is Babylon 5.

And the Netflix queue keeps growing...

The Yellow Pages problem is that "yellow pages" has become a generic for which there can't really be an online equivalent.

For years, the "official" Yellow Pages was contractually tied to the local phone company, which had the monopoly on phone numbers and advertisers, even to the point of turning off a merchant's phone if he tried to cancel his ad.

Once we all started receiving new "yellow pages" several times a year from unaffiliated companies, the books became as meaningless as they are outdated.

Google has, whatever else you think about them, created a simple way to get local ads for whatever you need: type in "pizza+20009" and you're going to get some choices.

One of the things searchers forget is to look at the "sponsored results" on the right of the screen. That's the modern equivalent of the "real" Yellow Pages.

Wow, thanks for the mini history on the yellow pages.


Although I don't post a lot of status updates, or uberpersonal ones, I do think about who is going to see them (plus my pictures, or pictures in which I'm tagged), and so on, and I don't really want to share that much with people who are pretty much strangers at this point, but from whom I accepted a friend request out of politeness because we saw each other at a reunion or something.

So yeah, if I don't feel I have some kind of ongoing connection with them, I will defriend a batch of people from time to time. I've never had one contact me to ask why (I doubt they miss me either), and it's not at all intended as hostile. Sheesh.

Just posting...

The "nerdy" simplification is ridiculous in every way, especially because everyone knows that a) Star Wars is cool, b) But not as cool as Star Trek.

You are my ideal woman!

Wrong. Deanna Troi is everyone's favorite woman. Until they grow up and realize that Beverly Crusher is also hot.

You're too young to remember, but on the epi of the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" where Ted Baxter and Georgette got married, they both wore tuxes, prompting Georgette to joke that they looked like figures from the top of a gay wedding cake. And that was back in the mid-'70s!

Ooh, MTM. Always so ahead of her time.

"The (probably unanswerable) question that I frequently ask is how we can bring civility and, dare I say it, grown-up behavior back to discussion (online and offline) without resorting to childish and extremist rhetoric." Someone tell this idiot troll to shut up.

Everyone knows that last line is funny, right? Everyone knows this?

You choose a username that doesn't give away your real name, and you set your profile so that only other subscribers can access it. Then, anyone who comes across your profile is, by definition, just as "pathetic" as you and in no position to judge. Problem solved. Besides, all my single friends have done or are currently doing it, and I know several married couples who met that way. There's no shame in it (unless you're just ashamed of being single at all, which is a separate problem).

It's funny that our first reaction when caught doing something "embarrassing" is to worry what the person thinks. When what they're thinking is usually, "Crap. He saw me."

so my ipod touch has a [.com] button. how long before there is a keyboard version? or would there need to be one for .org, .biz,.tv .etc ?

C'mon, Lazy Pants. Give your fingers the workout and just hit those three extra keys.

they're actually a match." Oh noes!

It's true. But then your story would be called "You've Got Mail," and Meg Ryan would be playing you at the cutest hair phase of her life.

As a grad student in a physics, I wish the reason that there are few women in the field is due to the nerdiness of my male colleagues and myself. However, every female in our department has at least one story of a professor subtly or not so subtly telling them that physics wasn't for them. And I've heard of similar things in other fields of science.

Thanks for the inside perspective. I know we're running low on time, but I'd love to hear some of these stories.

Troi doesn't even rank when compared to either Kira Nerys or Jadzia Dax (Ezri Dax can eat it).

I would put this to a poll, but I seriously fear that we're scaring the normal people who come to this chat.

When I was studying CS, barely a year ago, there were a few girls in the curriculum. Most were the female equivalent of the male nerd, but there was one who actually seemed like a normal girl. I never understood why she was in that major... I mean: she dressed like a normal college girl, talked about normal college girl things, and may have actually been in a social sorority. But then one day she mentioned wanting to take a summer course on operating system kernel design and I was really blown away. Turned out she was deeply interested in CS and hadn't just picked that major on a whim (as most of our freshmen did). Just a side story I felt like sharing...

Don't judge a book by its cover also appeals to the very, very pretty covers out there.

... why do we still have phone 'numbers'? We could just as easily have phone 'text'. I never use the yellow pages. Cell phones aren't in it, and I always google to find where a business is - they even draw me a map!

I'd love to have a cell phone directory for other people's numbers, but sort of relish the anonymity mine not appearing anywhere printed.

"Defriending strikes me as pointless, immature and slightly hostile. "

Really? You take a few key strokes personal? I may be an old fogey but l don't really understand the point of keeping people who my only contact with were a few lines on a social networking site happy.

I much prefer to keep real friends happy and real life manageable. My cyberlife? Not so much. Clean out your "facebook friends" - the ones who object you aren't people you know in real life anyway .

Just posting.

I had a falling out with a friend but I thought we might make up some day. That person defriended me so quickly. Go figure.

And this one, too.

My girlfriend was chief operating officer of a state psychiatric hospital in Maryland. She told me that, routinely, patients would mail threats to federal officials and, just as routinely, the Secret Service would come out to the hospital to personally interview the patients. So this guy tweeting is in a mess of trouble, believe me. One other point--both the London Telegraph and Daily Mail cited a UK study that showed that those parts of England where Facebook is used the most have shown the sharpest increase in syphilis cases in the past couple years. "Social" media, indeed.

The statistician lover in my wants to cry out "Causation or correlation?! Causation or correlation?!" in response to the Facebook and syphilis relationship.

But since we're out of time, all I can do is say that we'll all chat next week, same time, same place.

Lots of good questions I didn't get to this round -- save 'em, re-submit 'em, and we'll rehash on Wednesday. Unless we again disappear into a TNG black hole.

Bye now!

In This Chat
Monica Hesse
Monica Hesse is a staff writer for the Post Style section. She frequently writes about culture, the Web and the intersection of the two.

Read the The Web Hostess Archive .
Recent Chats
  • Next: