The Washington Post

The Web Hostess: Online manners, memes and must-see video

Jan 19, 2011

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.

Thanks for stopping by, everyone!

I'm going to kick this chat off by presenting two polls.

First, please go watch this video. Use earphones; the dialogue is not safe for work. The background? In 1964, President Johnson needed to order some pants. So he made a call to the tailor, which was recorded, as all White House calls were.

Once you have watched the video please share whether you found this recording to be amazing, and why. Possible choices:

a) Yes, because the President uses vaguely dirty words we did not know existed.

b) Yes, because the Internet has allowed this to be widely disseminated throughout the land.

c) It is not amazing.

Second poll:

Late last week, Facebook went through another round of privacy misadventures, when it appeared to briefly consider allowing third party apps access to your contact information. 

Is Facebook evil?

a) Yes

b) No

Some people have stated that the obvious answer to these misadventures is to make Facebook a pay site. Would you pay for Facebook? How much?

a) Nothing

b) Between 1 and 10 dollars a month

c) Ten dollars or more a month.


Okay. Let's go.


In wake of all the way we belittle people who make youtube videos that are overdramatic, I felt a little bad about laughing about the ginger MLK video where some redhead seriously talks about his hair color like its a race. Thoughts on people who make a fool out of themselves on youtube and are trying to be serious?

I believe the video that this chatter is referring to can be found here.

There's a long history of this on YouTube. All the way back to Leave Britney Alone? I feel bad for anyone who unintentionally becomes a meme. I also wonder if it's part of a cycle of necessary backlash, one that many people must be wounded by before we begin to reconsider what to put online.

At the very least, maybe we need a buddy system. Before posting on YouTube, please get an honest assessment from a trusted third party. One who, preferably, believes gingers have souls.

Is it evil? Yes. Would I pay? No. But I would love it if they started charging so that I can invest in the free competitors that would pop up.

The general knee-jerk reaction to the "would you pay for Facebook" question always seems to be "No way," which always surprises me.

Why wouldn't we pay for it? You might consider it to be a time waste, but many consider television that way, too, and people are willing to pay $60 or $70 a month for that. Most people agree that it's useful. Most people get some pleasure out of it.

Let's here more explanations.

Hi Monica, I don't think this counts for the manners or memes categories, but I'd highly recommend the "Grad Student Rap" as a must-see video, at least for anyone who is irresistibly and unfortunately drawn to higher education.

My brain first registered this as gingersnaps and milk and I thought, yes, it's time for my afternoon snack. See you in 5.

Bring back enough for the class.

Yes. If they ever insist I pay for it, I'm gone. It's nice to be able to share photos of my kids with my husband's Aunt Fifi, but I don't want to pay $10/month for the privilege. I will go back to being a recluse. And I'll become one of those people who claims they don't know what Facebook is.

Yes, but why not pay? Before Facebook, you might have spent $10 on stamps to mail photos to Aunt Fifi -- an expenditure most of us don't have anymore.

I can't help but wonder if some of our reluctance to pay has to do with embarrassment. A small part of us still feels like Facebook is not societally acceptable. It's not ingrained enough. We want to hide it like a nasty addiction.

I think I watched "grad school rap" too many times. Next, I shall quote Foucault.

I would consider myself a moderate user of Facebook. I check every day, update my status at least weekly and maintain relationships with certain people only because of Facebook. I would not pay however. It is a community and works because it is easy and accessible. There isn't a single relationship I have on Facebook that I couldn't maintain in some other way if I needed to.

Hmm. So for you, it sounds like the issue might be the ease. If there's one more thing you have to remember to pay a bill for, it has crossed your threshhold of usefulness?

Here's Pomplamoose helping Ben Folds on a tune from his new record, with lyrics by Nick Hornby.

I have died and gone to a heaven populated only by hipsters. Chloe Sevigny met me at the gate.

Is that Facebook would require the other people pay, too. If you knew my cheap relatives ...

That's really interesting. Solo activity vs. a group buy-in. Maybe the Facebook people should talk to the Groupon people.

I'm not a hipster, I just love Ben Folds. Ugh, I'm hurt.

Nobody's a hipster anymore. It's gone from a term of pride, to a term of derision, to a term that has lost all meaning to the point that this guy invented a social network ironically named Hipster, and 10,000 people joined without knowing what it was.

Same reason nobody wants to pay for anything that they used to get for free unless they are super attached to it, I suspect. It reminds you of the money issues, it makes you think, "Can I afford this? Am I THAT addicted to it?" Yes, most people are addicted to Facebook, but if they had to think about paying $10/month to use it, would they still be? Especially if their friends stopped dropping off the site?

Do any parents out there make their children pay for the privilege of watching television or using computers? I could see this tactic working.

Saw this a couple of days ago and shared it around. It's one of those things that sounds SOOO like a fake... but it's not, RIGHT??? Beyond just his use of words like "nuts" and "b-hole," I was fascinated by the comment that his weight fluctuates 10-15 pounds per month. Stress of the job or PMS?

I know! I had visions of LBJ scarfing boxes of chocolate alone in the Oval Office, then putting himself on a punishing diet of shame.

unwatchable, unlistenable that's wuss music is what that is. you can keep yer hipster crap.

Should that be Pomplafoldsby?

Pay for Facebook, Yoda will not. Have email addresses of all real friends, I do. Care what old high school friend had for breakfast, I do not.

Well, this logic is clearly flawed, because Yoda's Jedi mind probably wouldn't need Facebook -or- email.

Maybe they need to go the way of Flickr, and make certain aspects only available if you pay a fee. Or like the dating sites. You can post a profile, but you can't interact with anyone unless you pay. I'd pay, depending on the cost. I already pay for netflix and a phone through my cable company that I don't use, why not pay for something I'm addicted to.

I can't see a walled version of Facebook working well, but also can't put my finger on why.

Where are my underpants, where are my underpants, where are my underpants? Ah, there they are, in the refrigerator, where I left them. Evil deeds are done every day, but I suggest all evil deeds spring from two main evils: overbearing mothers and overwarm underpants. Imagine then the evil that would spring from an overbearing mother who dresses her child in overwarm underpants? Surely a mind cannot be that inhumane. That is why I keep my underpants in the refrigerator when I'm not wearing them. Which means they not only look cool but also are cool. And they make me a better, less evil-doing person. Underpants: Soon everyone will be wearing them.

This maybe, possibly, has something to do with LBJ's pants ordering. That is the only reason I am posting it.

Do you pay to be a member of your family, your church, your neighborhood, your school (tuition is for the learning not the friendship)? Of course no one would pay for FB except those who use it as a dating site or a portal to the world of commerce.

No, but you do pay for a phone bill, Internet access for an email account, plane tickets, etc. You're not paying for a social network. You're paying for ways to keep in touch with the social network you already have. That's what Facebook does -- not magically create you a brand new network.

But she is just oh so adorable!

Dunno. I thought she was totally adorbs with the Single Ladies remix. Now I'm just worried something is wrong with her darting eyes.

TV used to be free, but cable added exclusive content - current movies and MTV. Maybe it will be a game that everybody plays? Maybe it will be the Washington Post?

And when you figure out that last part, come work here for us.

Now there's a paradox.

Zooey D = voice of an angel. Surely she will be in heaven.

As a grad student I'm on a tight budget so if I have to shell out $10/month for Facebook that means I'm drink one less bottle of wine per month. If I have to choose between addictions, I'm going with wine.

What about one dollar a month? 500 million members paying one dollar a month is not a small some of money.

But it DOES magically create a brand new network for you. I'm keeping up with people I wouldn't call or e-mail. Like my husband's cousins. I met them a few times at weddings and I like knowing how they are doing. But honestly, without Facebook I wouldn't be connecting with them until the next wedding/funeral.

So maybe you would pay!

This is a serious question: do people look down on others who aren't on Facebook? I ask because I'm wondering If I'm in a job interview and it comes up that I'm not on Facebook or any social media site, will they think I'm out of touch or behind the times? It's not that I don't know how to sign up for Facebook, I just don't care to.

I wouldn't put it like that in a job interview (If it came up. I'm not that it would), because the chances that your interviewer -is- on Facebook are pretty high, and your "I just don't care to" phrasing would come across as smug.

If someone asks why you're not, the best phrasing is, "I'm pretty good at keeping up with people without another site to worry about. What's your email address?"

As for looking down on you...chatters, what's your opinion of someone who's not on the Book?

Your church, yes. People do pay their church.

Well, they don't -have- to.

Good polls, and while I understand you can't include all possible answers in a multi-choice poll, I think you may have overlooked some things in the polls, including possible answers that would have garnered more than just a few responses: Poll 1 -- d) Not surprised at this revelation, since we alredy knew LBJ was a carzy, foul-mouthed Texas sumbich. Poll 2 -- I think the question should have read: Is Facebook *still* evil? Poll 3 -- d) I would heartily endorse a fee on Facebook, becasue it would give me the perfect excuse to quit Facebook. GSTQ (SANHB)

Hahaha. Maybe Facebook knows its members are a hare-trigger away from an exodus and it must keep them happy.

kind of end Pomplamoose from being hip any more?

Sigh. But who can blame them?

The guy who owns it is already a gazillionaire. So no. Not even $1.

This logic makes no sense. "I will not pay someone for inventing something, because I feel they already have enough money?" It could be applied to literally anything you spend money on when you consider that most CEOs of big companies are probably millionaires.

Would you pay if it was an extra charge on your cable bundle?

Ooh, interesting twist! If it required no extra bills on your part, just an extra dollar or two on a bill you already pay...

In the Census Bureau sense of the word? Don't only spirits go to heaven? As opposed to physical manifestations of beings, which could be more rightly said to "populate" a given area.

I stand by my terminology. We regularly use phrases like "populate the mind with ideas," which are not tangible.

Plus, what if someone's soul was just really big?

I met a girl through a friend a while back. A few days afterwards, she sent me a text asking why she couldn't find me on Facebook (how she got my number is still beyond me). I said I didn't have an account. She then asked how on earth she was supposed to stalk me.... and that was the end of that.

There are many creepy things about this scenario, but none of them are your non-involvement on Facebook.

Is there still anyone around who doesn't use email? They've all retired.

Thanks. I actually would love to hear from someone who managed to work in an office environment but didn't use email. That would be fascinating.

I pay for phone, cable and internet. If they said just $10 more per month and you can have unlimited access to FB, I'd probably do it.

A convert!!

I can't imagine the cost being as high as $10, even.

Oh I know it's not logical. But something about the Facebook CEO rubs me the wrong way. He's a really young gazillionaire who didn't seem to do a whole lot to get where he is, and every week his product is in the news because they are "improving" something that is actually not an improvement. I feel like I'm being experimented upon.

Is it the shower shoes and hoodies that rub you the wrong way? Just throwing it out there.

I suspect the girl used "stalk" in an ironic, humorous and disarming way rather than as an admission to being a dangerous felon. That NFBU didn't get it or appreciate it says more about him than the girl's unsolicited text and stalker reference says about her. Yes?

Yes. Agreed that "stalking" was probably used in a jokey way. But I still think that if someone doesn't give you their phone number, and if you then acquire said phone number through other means, then the correct way to reach out is to say, "I hope this isn't stalkery, but Emily passed on your phone number, and I wanted to know if you wanted to grab coffee sometime." It is not to text someone and say, "I already have more info on you than you do on me, so the balance of power is already unequal, so now please send me a link to your Facebook profile so I can make you even more uncomfortable."

Somone who did not use e-mail at work would not be reading your chat (or any other chat) or on the internet. So you'd have a hard time getting that interview.

Oh, I know. I just thought that maybe an irritated coworker could rat them out.

... but I *might* be willing to pay a small amount. But it would have to be less than $5 a month. I like it, but could live without it, and I think my tipping point is probably less than the cost of a triple venti latte.

What about a Trenta latte? Did you see Starbucks' new insane beverage size?

If they do, it's a slippery slope, no matter where it starts. $1 for everyone turns into $1 for limited use, $10 for all you can upload, message, etc. And so on. Not only that, but that gives free startups the opportunity to chip away at the user base. They're not going to charge users in the foreseeable future.

Just posting...

Yeah, I would pay 1 buck a month. FB has connected me with old friends and co-workers and I have found out about their quirky likes that are similar to mine. For instance, one ex co-worker I found out loved the sci-fi show FRINGE as do I- we chat each week about the underlying themes, the Easter eggs, etc. No one that I know in "Real" life watches Fringe, so FB gives me an outlet for my nerdy pursuits. This is just one example, but I have more...Anyway... a buck a month, Sure!!! ...(ps I am a single mom, ft worker and pt grad student, and believe you me I have no extra money!)

Posting this, too.

"I'm keeping up with people I wouldn't call or e-mail ... I like knowing how they are doing." Why? Why do people like knowing about people they're not bothered to call or even email? This is why I'm not on Facebook and never have been. It just gives you the illusion of having friends when you really don't. And I'm the kind of moron who would actually think that all those people are real friends and then get upset when I find out they're just voyeurs.

Oh, but there are many levels of friends. I think the above chatter had a good -- and fairly typical -- example of something she built through Facebook that wouldn't have existed otherwise.

in the late 1990s, there was partner who refused to use email. He was very old and very distinguished. A Fortune 500 General Counsel told him to get on email or they would take their business elsewhere. He was on email the next morning. . .but he the proceeded to require his secretary to print them all out and file them!

I cannot tell if this is adorable or ornery.

I'm not sure that wouldn't sound smug either. The problem is Facebook is like a religion now. So I don't know if there's anyway you can tell someone you're not on it without possibly offending them. The fact is I'm not on FB because ... well, if I were to put my life on Facebook it would depress the hell out of me. Unlike the people I went to high school or college with I'm not married, don't have kids, I'm not in a successful career or career path, I don't even own a house or a car. I'd rather people from my past wonder about me than know I"m a disappointment. How on Earth do you tell people that? I think I'd rather tell people I was kicked off Facebook for posting kiddie porn.

I swear to you, your life is just as interesting as most of the people on Facebook.

Yeah, if you like your chick lead singers all autotuned and looking like Justin Bieber....

OMG she DOES! She looks just like Justin Bieber!

Not me. I'm all for selling out. Those commercials made me infatuated with her (who is that spaz dork she's with?). Still, I wonder if anyone told them that those ads would be on TV every two seconds.

I'm sure they'd like it even better if those ads were on TV every half a second. Royalties and all.

I'm the person who posted that and it's because they are extended family members who I'd like to be in touch with. When I see them at the next wedding I'll be able to talk to them a lot more easily than if I didn't stay in touch at all. But really, I'm not going to take the time to write and e-mail or call them because that takes time I don't have for the level of involvement I want. I can read their posts and look at their photos (or not), as I have time and when I choose to.

Thanks for the elaborated explanation.

Really, you're going to be happy if Comcast starts mucking with Facebook billing practices? I guess you'd be okay paying the Friend Request Tax, Like Recovery Fees, and Status Update Service Charges that would get tacked onto the bill? Not to mention that you'd have to pay for premium tier service to get access to Farmville or Mafia Wars. Angry Birds would require an additional subscription to the Avian Package. And, you'd probably have to pay to have a service technician make a house call to "install" your password and reboot your computer after every software update. Careful what you wish for....

My Dish installation was lovely this weekend. So I'm just going to plug my ears and go to the happy place.

Thank you for defending me. You were always my favorite. Well... second favorite since Hax responded to one of my questions.

Which question?! I will respond faster! I will respond longer! I will respond in person! I must be the one you love best!


I think he's pretty hot. But then, I like Ben Folds too.

Spaz Dork: If you are listening, we have your back.

I wonder if it's the same guy I used to be a paralegal for. He had a computer on his desk but didn't know how to turn it on. "Just for show" he proudly told me.

It was literally the electronic equivalent of the fake leather-bound books in lawyers' libraries. Is nothing for real with you attorneys?

that was actually a pretty good answer. I can see being curious about my cousins but not actually wanting to talk to them.

"Keeping up with" is a really useful phrase when it comes to Facebook. It's not so much about corresponding with, or having contact with -- it's more about the occasional, voyeuristic peek that makes you feel aware of someone else's life. Which sets off brain pleasure centers for many different reasons.

no no. Why? What's hot about him? That he hasn't bathed in a month or doesn't own a comb! Or that he's so hyper you want to punch him?

Not saying that I understand the attraction. But some people seem to.

I thought I was a complete FB addict, but then I cancelled my home internet to save money. Now I can't get on during the weekends and find that I don't really miss it all that much. If I had to pay for FB, I'd go back to email and be fine with that. While there are some friends I wouldn't hear from much, the fact that we ONLY communicate on FB probably shows something about how unimportant our friendship actually is.

Thanks. I've noticed similar emotions when I forget my Blackberry charger on a long weekend. The first day or two is odd, then it becomes normal.

This gives me a speck of hope for humanity. At least, my own humanity.

is a good excuse for not being on Facebook. Use it.

So true! Just bizarre and confusing enough that no one will question it!

Why all the Facebook talk and nobody's commented on your fab-u-lous Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather story? I, for one, refuse to believe that this important subject is any less fascinating than the current Facebook "fad". GSTQ (SANHB)

This is true. It is a pageant for leather fetishists, after all.

What is SANHB? I finally learned GSTQ and you're changing it up on me!

I was hoping one of you all knew.

SANHB, email me offline and explain yourself.

Society for the Advancement of New Hampshire Businesses ...maybe.

Or maybe it's Society for the Advancement of New Hampster Business. Really, who's to say?

Totally agree with the "keeping up with" perspective. That, however, loses its charm when said acquaintance has the regrettable TMI drunk-update. Sometimes there's a price to pay for voyeurism, and it's often one's innocence. Or eternal soul. Or cookies.

Cookies. On that note, I'm off. Sorry if I didn't get to you today -- posts ran pretty fast and I was no match for the Facebook passion.

We'll be back again, same time next week. In the meantime, you can email me at, Tweet me @MonicaHesse, visit the Style Tumblr page at, or friend me on Facebook, which continues to be free, at least for the moment.

Thanks for stopping by, and GSTQ.

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.

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