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

Mar 07, 2012

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.


We'll start at 2, just posting a few things now...

 I'm beginning the chat with some shameless self-promotion that, I swear, relates to this chat. Last July, I was chatting with you all and made an off-hand comment along the lines of, "It's like this novel I always wanted to write, blah-blah." Immediately after the chat, one of you emailed me and said, something like, "You're a writer. If you have an idea for a novel, then write it! No excuses!"

So I did. I turned on my laptop that night and wrote the first chapter. And now, eight months later, my agent has sold this book to Hot Key Books, which is a new British publishing house headed by the woman who oversaw Harry Potter in the UK. I'm incredibly excited, and I thank you for kicking me in the butt.

Now, onto the Internet...

As I'm sure you've all heard, Rush Limbaugh got in a spot of trouble last week when he called Georgetown Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" for speaking out in favor of birth control. Patricia Heaton, best known for playing Debra on "Everybody Loves Raymond," also jumped in the fray, albeit on Twitter. She Tweeted, among other things:

"Hey GTown Gal: How about only having sex on Wednesday? (Hump day!)"

The backlash was swift and severe, and Heaton deleted her account (it has since been re-established, Heaton has since apologized).

My question: What do you think about deleting inappropriate remarks? Is it responsible, to try to scrub them from the record? Or is it whitewashing? What kind of public record should be kept of misbehavior online?

I admit, I've done it -- but not for whatewashing noxious statements, but rather for realizing that something I had meant as "joke-y" that might be read in a way other than intended. In retrospect, yeah, that might make me a little doosh-y....

Interesting. I've deleted comments, too, for this reason, i.e. "My friend Amy and I have this inside joke, but her other Facebook friends might not realize it's a joke, and they'll just think I'm a jerk."

So, do we think that intent matters in these cases? It's okay if you realize something just came out sounding funny, but it's not okay if you're trying to cover your own butt?

I have been noticing something funny that directly relates my television watching to the internet. I love the site Television Without Pity, and Jacob, one of the site's writers, is amazing. For the past few years, he recapped/analyzed American Idol, and his snarkiness and his ability to draw themes about where we, as a country, are based on reception to things on the show were brilliant. Now he's no longer recapping the show, and I find I like the show less. It's just very interesting to me how an online experience of reading affected my enjoyment of hte solitary experience of watching a show.

I know exactly what you mean. I feel the same way about a recapper who used to write about "Sister Wives." (Leave me alone, okay? I have a fascination with that show, and a friend of mine has appeared on it a few times). She stopped recapping, though, and now I feel that the show has lost a level of meta that it had before. The recaps used to be a layer of icing that made the flavor of the show more complex. Sans recaps, I am forced to confront that the show is bad.

I might steal this idea and write about it.

What's up with again not appearing on the main page pull-down menu of Today's Chats? I swear, Cupcake, if it weren't for the fact that I've been trained to some uber-Pavlovian standard to look at the "Weekly Schedule/Past Shows" link, I would never know where to find you, uh, I mean your chat. I know from past experience in other chats that you can't talk about traffic, but, honestly, I've got to believe that hiding your chat from the main menu has to be driving down reader participation in this chat, and, frankly, if that ends up causing your chat to go on "permanent hiatus", well, then here are 2 eyeballs that would stop viewing any other content soon thereafter....

You know what, this is partly my fault. We get regular emails telling us things we should do to bolster our chats' presence, and then I just...don't. This chat is like Ali Baba's cave. You have to know the password.

We all try to cover up our errors, so I have no problem with Heaton deleting the tweet. However, you cannot cover up an error made on-line.

Correct. And Heaton must know that -- by the time she'd deleted the account, her noxious tweets had already been spread all over the Internet. So it cannot be a matter of believing that you can keep a lid on the information and prevent it from getting out. What we're talking about becomes more of a question of the meaning behind the deletion. What does it signify, to remove something -- more than, "Can you prevent it from spreading?"

Hi Monica and Happy Wednesday, I'm looking for ideas to entertaining things I can listen to at work during the day. I enjoy turning on things like Flight of the Conchords and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and listening while I get down to business. Any suggestion for new equally entertaining things I can explore? Thanks and GSTQ!

Podcast ideas for this lad/lass? Or Web series that can be enjoyed aurally, without a lot of visuals?

Is it fiction? non-fiction? fatasy?drama? comedy? da-daist?

It's young adult science fiction. Here, wait, I'll see if I can find the description that Publisher's Marketplace put up in its official announcement.

Any brief plot hints you can drop?

Here's the PM blurb:

Stray,” about a teenage girl raised in the Path — a virtual reality experiment designed to replicate perfect childhoods — who learns that members of the program’s first graduating class are mysteriously dying at 19.


(It's a series. There will be at least two books).

is that it teaches people to think in 140 character terms. How many of the outraged Fluke critics and Limbaugh defenders understand that she was testifying to explain that Georgetown's policies were hindering her friend's attempts to get coverage for treatment of ovarian cysts, which even the Catholic Church theoretically supports as a legitimate use of the hormones? The debate is that there was a gap between theory and practice that makes it more difficult for women to get the prescriptions they need. If Heaton had tweeted, "Hey, GTown Gal, you'll all be rich lawyers someday, you can pay for this yourself" I'd still think it was wrongheaded, but I wouldn't think she was uninformed at best and slandering someone at worst. That's all a leadup to say that deleting Tweets is essentially pointless because someone will save them in some form. And so pretending it never happened by just deleting is stupid (Chris Brown). But I don't know how else one effectively apologizes without removing them from the public sphere. Maybe that's the difference. An apology means it's okay to remove them, because there's still the admission of guilt. No apology just means trying to get away with it and hoping people will forget.

Interesting. So perhaps the Tweet removal, by this logic, should have been preceded by some sort of apologetic statement, i.e.

"The things I have been Tweeting are hurtful and wrong. I am deeply sorry and am removing my posts in an effort to minimize the spread of my bile."

Is that what you're talking about?

(And no, I don't know if what I just typed was less than 140 characters.)

as an extension of the right of privacy. I love it and I think America should embrace it...our privacy rights are precious few as they are as "penumbras" of various Constitutional Amendments. Deleting comments I make is my right. Maybe I changed my mind...maybe I feel differently now...maybe I thought it would be taken as humor. But my comments are my speech and I reserve the right to amend.

"Right to be forgotten." I've never heard of that phrase, but I love it.

And, to be clear, no one would argue that we are legally prevented from deleting our own comments. This gets into a thorny Internet ethics world.

I've done this on Twitter when I noticed a particularly egregious grammar or spelling error. My theory is that if we're all accepting now that anything you put online is fair game for employers to review, it should be ok for me to review and edit myself.

Treat it as a resume. Extremely prudent.

I feel the exact opposite. Reading his recaps was like being someone's therapist for an hour but never getting paid. There's reaching for social resonance and then there's "here are my ishoooz, let me show you them." I have this theory that no recapper should stick with a show for more than three seasons, because then it becomes about them and their investment in the show and not whether "invested but not crazyflakes involved" fan thinks that New Storyline Q is reasonable character development.

Attention. The Recapper has gone native.

This might seem far out, but to me it is getting "less far out" all the time: one of these days when you aply for a job, employers are going to be able to search a database and find out what websites you have been going to, and use that info to make hiring decisions. We know the information is already tracked. And once info is gathered, it can be sold. What can we do to support privacy on the interwebs?

I'm glad you mention this. There has already been a lawsuit (ACLU, I believe?) related to whether potential employers should be allowed to ask for their prospective workers' Facebook passwords. Not just access to their public profiles -- their passwords.

Depends on what you like. For pop culture: Extra Hot Great, Pop Culture Happy Hour, the Film Pigs Podcast, Firewall and Iceberg (if you are into a lot of TV - or even if not - I am not, and still enjoy). Educational but still fun : Stuff You Missed in History Class, How Stuff Works, Leexicon Valley (Slate's podcast for word/linguistic nerds). Random - the Moth, Mike and Tom Eat Snacks (small doses, heh - no pun intended - these podcasts are fun to intersperse among other listening, but I can't listen to too many in a row), Wait Wait Don't Tell Me (yes, I'm an NPR girl), WTF with Marc Meron (pick strategically - there are gems, but the quality of this podcast varies dramatically depending on the guest), WNYC's Radiolab. Sports - ESPN's The Sports Guy, Slate's Hang Up and Listen

Beautiful. Just beautiful.

Original poster, are you there? How do these look?

"The things I have been Tweeting are hurtful and wrong. I am deeply sorry " But how many times are these evangalistic peopld actually NOT sorry and still believe they are right but removing the tweets since their "handlers" said this is a PR nightmare.

It's a fair question with an impossible answer, since we know not what exists in people's hearts. There's also the middleground, "I am deeply sorry...because I got in trouble."

Oh. c'mon, you can't drop something like that in a chat response and then not elaborate. So, dish.

She is not one of the wives.

A good friend from college is an Episcopalian priest who became friendly with the cast when she invited them to come out to Boston and do a panel on religious tolerance.  She's been out to visit them, and appeared on the show once or twice.

I wonder if she would have made these cracks if she had any daughters instead of only sons. From my observations, it seems that the mothers of sons tend to view available young women with a jaundiced eye. Still, for a woman to pile on the locker room humor of Rush Limbaugh seems really gross.

I've never, ever thought of this before. Has anyone else noticed a difference in the way moms of boys talk about girls? One would think that even moms of boys would have memories of what it meant to be young women...


For the OP who likes American Idol less without his recaps, try Mark Lisanti writes about AI and a bunch of other really terrible shows (the Bachelor, Survivor, etc.) and always a) makes me laugh and b) makes me feel better about watching.

Thank you.

That would make a great band name, particularly for an English post-punk power trio. Just sayin'.

Or Tumblr. I saw a cartoon recently postulating that "That would be a good Tumblr" is the new "That would be a good band name."

Did you hear? Stuff You Should Know (from How Stuff Works) is getting it's on tv show! Podcast to tv! I can't wait to see it.

I didn't! Congrats to them.

FYI...  I follow Free Speech stuff a lot even though I'm an environmental attorney.

Thanks, can't wait to read.

Seriously?!! Why not just ask for my housekeys and the combination to the wall safe, while you're at it? What employer would hire someone stupid enough to turn over their password(s)? When I'm hiring, if I find the candidate is smart enough to restrict access to their social media accounts, I see that as a *good* thing.


"May I please have your Facebook password now?"


"Congratulations. You passed the test."

When does it come out? How can I pre-order it?

I'll have more updates later, and I will provide them (in a non-annoying spammy way).

I think that "minor" mistakes should be deleted, by figures public and non. There's no reason to be tarred forever with something you jotted off while braindead. I do think, however, that public figures that have crossed over into "horrendous" have a duty to leave it as-is so the resulting furor has context, and to only append their revised attitudes/thoughts/feelings to it.

I'm a big fan of giving things context, which is often difficult online. For example: The larger context is, she said horrible things, she took the Tweets down, she apologized for them, she opened her account again. However, for the readers who only see her Tweets reblogged elsewhere online, they only have the context of "She said horrible things." They don't know what happened next.

It gets complicated, because we lack chronological timelines online. It's all just splatter paint.

Thanks for the great suggestions. I'm familiar with a few of these suggestions but also see several I've never heard of. I will be checking them all out in the near future. Much appreciated!


Good writer, in need of an even better editor. Or possibly extensive (offline) therapy. While his assessments of shows like Gossip Girl are often spot-on and hilarious (Nate wandering around Manhattan waiting for his next cougar girlfriend to fall out of a tree gives me the giggles)'s like he forgets he's recapping Gossip Girl. Childhood booboos rear their ugly heads and arrange themselves like some sort of chessboard of self-indulgence. So it all turns into this big therapy session where an insipid breakfast scene is recapped for pages on end and is the most meaningful thing on Earth. This recap in particular is absurd in its self-indulgence:

Chessboard of Self-Indulgence would also be a good band name-slash-Tumblr account.

I don't have the means to go back and delete comments on WaPo. Maybe you could advocate for us...

Really? I thought you -could- delete your own comments. Only the moderator can?

I find women with confidence to be sexy.

Actually, that was just a fact-statement. The publisher has purchased two books. So there will be at least two books.

Often when I read articles on the Post website, I scroll fast past the byline, or avert my eyes, in a little game I to play called "Guess the Byline". I am always 100% identifying your pieces. Just throwing that out there.

You will have to tell me how you do this identification. It will be the first step in me training my dog how to write my articles for me.

I regularly delete things on FB. Sometimes I will quickly respond to something then realize it sounds pompous or stupid or just not that interesting. So I will erase it hoping no one saw it yet. I don't see why that would be an issue.

If nobody has seen it, then it's not an issue. But if people have seen it, then they start to wonder whether you deleted it because you realized it was dumb (acceptable, as we have discussed) or because you were trying to cover your own butt (less clear, as we have discussed).

In the particular case we've been talking about, Heaton Tweeted several of these comments over the course of a day, so the "I realized it was stupid as soon as I posted it" argument becomes less believable.

My dream would be having a recapper recapping Jacob's recaps. Confusing, yes, but I think it would be hilarious. "And, once again Jacob has jammed his head into an infant's onesie while he bleats anxiously for the approval of everyone he has ever met."

I am going to have to meet this Jacob person. And possible start watching American Idol.

I am soon to have a mastectomy and will have some time off work for recovery afterwards. Any recommendations for light movies, books, websites? I thought I might take this time to watch some of the TED talks that I never have time for. Anything else?

First, I wish you a quick and easy recovery. My thoughts are with you.

Second, I cannot imagine spending my recuperation time watching TED talks.

Third, it seems like this would be an excellent time to watch both seasons of Downton Abbey, if you haven't already.

I also finally got around to reading Tom Perotta's latest book, and I find him appropriate for almost every occasion. He's the perfect blend of absurd, funny, wry and tender.

What other suggestions do people have? And, Poster, if you could give us a few suggestions of things you enjoy reading and watching already, that would help.

A young 20-something applies for a job at a large multi-national corporation; during the interview, she's asked for her Facebook password, which she gives up. Next thing she knows, someone within the nameless mega-corporation has hijacked her Facebook account, and, without the constant reaffirmation that her life is interesting that she used to get from telling all her Facebook "friends" about them, the young woman must battle an overwhelming sense of ennui as she fights to recapture her online persona....

Wait. They did this. It starred Sandra Bullock. It was called The Net.

so - I'm fairly new to facebook and I recently posted a photo with a bit of my finger on the top - so I wrote "excuse my big figure in the photo." I very much wanted to edit the post, but couldn't figure out how. I though to delete, but that would seem weird. So - I just left it, hoping people wouldn't notice and would read over the typo. Sigh.

Facebook needs an "edit" button, pronto.

I liked the person who recapped American Idol BEFORE Jacob took it over. I just could not make it through his recaps because he seemed to need some therapy so badly. And then I stopped watching AI, so it all became moot.

This is the online version of "I only watch Mystery Science Theater episodes with Joel in them."

I read the article on and am now deleting all the references to my life. It is alarming how much information they gather and can be easily accessed.

Haven't read it yet; looking forward to it.

Because I believe every film/book pitch can be summarized into the ____ meets _____ meme (sometimes _____ meets ______ meets ______), would it be fair to say: Hunger Games meets Tron meets, I don't know, umm, Logan's Run....?

Not so much hunger games. More "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep." But, you know, for kids.

Is the internet my "permanent record" and if so...I'm #$^%^ed.

Yes. And I'm sorry.

I don't understand the concern with employers viewing your facebook wall. Can't you alter you privacy settings so only friends can view your information? The only thing employers would see then is that you're on facebook, but no wall, pics, info, etc.

What they are asking for is enough access to see everything your closest friends would see, everything you have posted online.

So, if a prospective employer asks about my Facebook account and I reply that I don't have one, will that be held against me? Will I even be believed? (Hint: I'm an older chatter).

They can't ask you to prove a negative ("You don't have one? Please scroll through all six hundred million active Facebook accounts in order to prove it.")

Do you know where we can watch the second season of Downton Abbey? It's not on Netflix or Hulu that I can find... Thanks!

As of now, they're all free on Act quickly, though -- I don't know if they'll stay up forever.

Alternatively, I've got them all TiVo'd at my house...

How can I point prospective employers to all the witty comments I make in this chat? Because I'm sure that would get me my dream job as a subsitute replacement recapper on TVWoP (which, for the record, was so much better before they sold it to NBC/Universal and it was run by the folks who used to run

Excellent question. I would be happy to act as a character reference, although I have no idea who you are.

This may not be what the poster had in mind, but rereading comics is one of my favorite feel-better things to do as an adult. The Calvin and Hobbes anthologies have a treasured place on my shelves.


Not to make this all about him, but he has clearly lost the purpose of his writing. I missed an episode of Gossip Girl, went to the recap, and had absolutely no idea of what was happening on the show. When he did mention characters, he used odd names for them, which means I find it hilarious that a lot of the moderators on the forum forbid posters from using nicknames in the show threads.

This frankly sounds genius.

I believe that deleting a twitter account does not delete the twit. She is and nothing she can do or say will change that. When these famous people apologize, I hear "I'm sorry I got caught" and not that they are truly apologetic for what they said (i.e. they realize that what they said was wrong). I, unfortunately, will not be watching "The Middle" anymore and I hope the producers replace her as the show's ratings drop.


Is there any ice cream whose serving size is one quart? I would totally buy it.

Starbucks ice cream comes in quarts!

It pleases me that someone thought to ask that question on this chat, and further, that I had an answer.

Re: Password to prospective employer, have you followed the case of a woman who has been ordered by a court to decrypt her computer? She just appealed the order. Fascinating because of the Constitutional issues on self-incrimination; it's nuanced because we don't have cyber equivalents to physical precedents. For instance, police have a right to break into a safe, but not to force you to give up the combination. How this relates to forcing someone to type their decrypting code (without giving up the code) has yet to be settled. Google defendant's name, Ramona Fricosu, for details. I love the web for this stuff, even when I hate the ultimate decisions, as with poor substitute teacher Julie Amero a few years back.

This is why the Web is still a frontier for thinking about so many things, and for reframing questions of morals and ethics. Sometimes, the rules of the physical world can be easily transmitted to the online world -- but often, we need to go back to the beginning and ask oursevles basic questions about values, law, meaning.

Recently googled an old email address of mine (if you are worried about a Google problem dont forget to google your commonly used usernames/email addresses) and found a site I made when I was 13 or 14. It. was. awful. But could not remember username and password. And at the age, I was convinced the internet would come and kill if I revealed any personal information, so of course all the verification info is completely made up. Sigh.

Hahahahaha. I'm sorry. Hahahahaha.

This is just delightful.

Monday was the last day for DA Season 2 on! I missed it! I am inordinately devastated.

Oh, sadness! I think you should buy the DVD. I think its worth it.

Does anyway actually watch this?

I did not know it was a show until the poster mentioned it. Full disclosure. Clearly it needs a good recapper.

All of this about him is the reason for my original post. His writing about Idol was wild and I (unlike apparently everyone else) enjoyed reading it. It wasn't necessarily a recap for me, but a companion to watching teh show. I would watch and have my feelings, and then read and see how someone completely differently and with a platform of sorts felt.

I had no idea there was such a Jacob subculture out there. The queue is clogged with posts I don't have time to get to either praising or booing him.


Compared to Little Children, maybe. But compared to almost anything else that crosses my desk on a given day? I still love him. I just do.

I've already gone over time, so I guess I should let us all get back to work. Or "work."

Thanks for stopping by -- see you next week. 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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