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

Apr 06, 2011

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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. An impending government shutdown means that it is more important than ever for us to be able to fill aftermoons with Internet time wasting.

I don't have anything particular on the docket for today, so let's just get rolling.

Oh wait. I do have something particular. This is Julian Assange dancing. If you haven't seen it, you probably should.

Everybody go there when the chat is over!!


Internet and Prince William! Is there a place where I can watch the wedding livestream on a computer?

Darlin', on the morning of the wedding you won't be able to avoid coverage. Most news sites will be live streaming, or, since the wedding will air around 6 am our time (most people seem to forget this), you can always watch at home in the comfort of your PJ's.

Jacqueline Howett? People are still posting bad things to her Facebook page. Someone needs to give that lady a lesson in privacy settings. These things are fascinating for me to watch in a car crash way, but I can never in a million years understand people flaming someone they've never met to this degree. Can we channel all this energy/time into a good cause and cure world hunger or something?

I see her blog hasn't been updated since before The Uprising. Has anyone else seen her pop up?

Your bafflement over flame wars is interesting. What do you think people get out of lambasting someone they've never met, over something inconsequential? Is it just catharsis?

Ms. Hesse, So good to see your smiling countenance again. As Hedley Lamarr would say, I cannot find the words to truly express my joy at the rekindling of our association. I would also like to ask you your opinion on an ever-so-slightly delicate matter. I am thinking of entering the marriage market but I do not use social media. Will potential partners think I am a colossal weirdo? What are my chances of finding a partner under the age of 85 (I am a third of this age)? Am I bound to a life of celibacy? By which I mean no wife and no rumpy pumpy, not the green stick-like vegetable with a somewhat similar-sounding name.

Fear not, aspiring suitor.

Lack of participation in social networks should not preclude you from finding a suitable mate, so long as when potential partners ask you why you are not on Facebook or the like, you have a reasonable and non-judgmental answer. (You do have a reasonable and non-judgmental answer, yes?)

"What is Facebook?" for example, wouold not be a good response.

Chatters? Your thoughts on this matter?

Laughing owls:  Snowy Owls apparently have an expansive sense of humor.

My, this is soothing.

Did you see any good AFD pranks last week? I saw one bar in Arizona posted a "Pliny the Elder on Tap" -- for non beer fans, that'd be like seeing a sign saying "Beatles Reunion Tour" almost -- and they got KILLED for it on their Facebook page.

My favorite was from my alma mater, of which I have never been so proud. The Bryn Mawr College homepage was this on April Fools.

What did you all see online?


Cruise the Metro, looking for mates who are reading books. Avoid the ones texting. What about ebook readers?

The trouble with ebook readers is that you can't spy on the book covers and then come up with a witty opening line. You just have to ask, "Whatcha reading?" which can come across as annoying. Also, you run the risk that they will be reading "Twilight."

If you're not on Facebook, at least make sure you text. I dated a guy once who didn't use any social networking sites AND didn't text. Made him seem at least 20 years older than he was.

The digital equivalent of prematurely gray hair!

My fiance does not do facebook, twitter, etc. And I am going ahead and marrying him anyway, so I would say you have a good shot. Of course, be prepared for years of sitting on a couch w your significant other while she/he laboriously fills you in on the lives of all your mutual acquaintances and family members, since that is the only way these people keep in touch anymore, and be prepared for your significant other to find this REALLY ANNOYING. Perhaps best if you just join freaking facebook already. Ahem.

You are presuming, of course, that said suitor wants to know the whereabouts and whatabouts of long lost relatives. Maybe they don't.

This morning I opened a hallway door (in my apartment complex) on my toe. My toe was stuck and my dogs were standing there helplessly squirming with full bladders as I pushed and pulled the door trying to get my toe out. I stopped and looked at the closed apartment doors all around me and wondered if I'd need to ask someone for help. Ugh - there was my toenail lying on the carpet. So I finally yanked my foot out and it was a bloody mess. This thing hurts but it is also very embarrassing. Do you have any embarrassing injury stories? It's not like I broke my toe when an elephant stepped on it while I was on vacation in India. I opened a door on my own foot.

This is amazing. Thank you for this. I will now open the floor for embarassing injury stories. If you can make them relate to the Internet, you will win extra points.


I have no injury story, but I have this: Last year I came to work and took off my scarf. Then I went downstairs, got coffee, went to a meeting, started on a story. Then I started to get hot, so I reached up to take of my scarf. Then I thought, "but I already took off my scarf." Then I realized that what was wrapped around my neck wasn't a scarf. It was a bra. It was a bra that was static-clinged to my scarf in the dryer.

So see? It could be worse. You could be me.

If the government shuts down, can we have a chat every day? It's going to be a boring few days/weeks/months/years.

Glad you brought this up: Next week we will be chatting as usual. The following two weeks after that, we will hopefully be chatting as usual. However, I will be in London for the Wedding, so there is a chance that I will have to cancel, if there are international issues. I'll try to let Paul know as early as possible.

But Moses didn't have Facebook. And yet he still had a couple of wives!

I'm curious - has there been any uptick in WaPo traffic since the NY Times implemented its new policy limiting the number of articles online users can read for free? If I see similar articles on NYT and WaPo, I pick the WaPo one, but I'm also extremely cheap. I was just wondering if there were enough frugal news junkies out there to create any noticeable difference in site traffic.

Mmmm. I don't know anything about spikes in our traffic. I do appreciate your frugality, though.

I think I love this. I think others here will too.

I think you are right. Geekiness, faux science, Internet = win.

I once got a concussion from falling off a barstool. In my defense, I fell because a waiter bumped into me. But ever since, I've been dying to start a band called Barstool Concussion.

I would see this band.

Not mine, but a friend's. You know how Popeye jumps up and clicks his heels together? My friend saw that on TV (at age 25, mind you) and thought "Hmm, I've seen people do that. I wonder if I can. He jumped up, clicked his heels, landed ... and broke his foot.

Are you feeling better yet, original poster?

Personally I married a spouse who was not on facebook. It didn't bother me in the slightest. In fact my spouse combined with continual privacy fiascos got me to leave Facebook. I did hear a radio morning show DJ this week saying that she was wierded out that she couldn't stalk a guy she'd been on a couple of dates with on facebook. She felt like they weren't at a level where she could ask him about things like that might show up in facebook pictures and associations but she wanted to see. Her immediate question was "what are you hiding?" So if you're entering the market with a whole lot of people you don't know at all this might be an issue. One obvious solution is to become friends with people before pursuing dating/marriage. That way they already trust you and aren't wondering what your non-facebook-presence is hiding.

I'm just posting a few personal experience responses like this.

I have a friend who is only 41 but is the king of old man fuddy-duddy. He skipped my Superbowl party to take a nap, he throws his back out weekly, heck, he probably even has a hearing aid he turns down when conversations get unpleasant. A lot of our happy hours and group meetups come up at random via Facebook. "So and So is thinking she will have bourbon and bad ideas for dinner." "Awesome, let's meet at 5:15 at Discount Booty Bar!" Whenever he catches wind of these things, he always says we should have rung him up to see if he wanted to come. But, 1. Whenever we invite him to something, he makes a production out of it. "Sure, I could be PERSUADED to come, what's the bar again?" and, 2. He's not on Facebook and that means we have to take the extra step to track it down. I almost never call anyone, anyway, because I hate phones. Do we really have to check in with him regarding every impromptu outing? He's invited to everything we organize in advance (cookouts, book burnings, ritual sacrifices, etc). I've also told him the "I could be persuaded" routine is, well, kinda fuddy-duddyish. What's your take?

It sounds like the issue is partly about him not being on Facebook, and partly about him being a drag. Am I correct in surmising that if he was always interested in meeting up, and lots of fun when he got there, that you wouldn't mind the extra step tracking him down?

It's fine to draw lines in the sand based on principle, but it sounds like you need to decide what this particular line is. Are you saying, "I will send out a Facebook invite, but that's it, no exceptions?" Or are you saying, "I will invite fun people only, and that's it, no exceptions -- and if the fun people are not on Facebook, then I will track them down through other means."

In general, I actually do think it's okay to exclude people from casual, last-minute gatherings based on whatever technology the group is using. But you should make sure that's your principle, across the board, so that 41 year old can't rightly ask, "Why did you take the time to telephone X but not me."

Maybe Rumpy can meet his wife in your chat.


...because they were too busy covering both the men's and women's Final Four appearances, and the men's national championship. Now, of course, the school's Facebook posts are thisclose to getting their feed blocked.

Your alma mater would have given my alma mater noogies in high school, am I right?

Oh, no these are not long lost friends and relatives. I have to give my fiance updates about his brother and his wife/kids, his best friend from college, our mutual friends who moved out of town recently... He wants this info, but since he has me he has no need to join facebook for himself.

I think you need to cut him off. I think you are enabling.

How soon in a relationship should the person you're seeing friend you on FB? This is the first time I've been in a new relationship since the onset of FB and all I want is to update my relationship status!

If you've already had The Discussion and both decided that you are in a relationship, can't you update it even if you're not "friends?" Am I missing something?

I was a summer intern in an office when I was in high school. One day while bored stupid I was playing with a stapler -- seeing how close I could come to stapling without actually doing it. Well...I did it, and thanks to the way I had been holding it, stapled my thumb and index finger together. I had to stifle a scream and walk swiftly to the bathroom where after much scrutiny and light pulling in hopes of a painless removal I realized I was just going to have to yank the staple out. So I did. And it hurt. A lot. That was 20 years ago and I am proud to say I haven't stapled any body parts together since.

I cannot even picture the logistics of this injury, but I think we can all agree that, 20 years later, it is marvelous.

What if you got carpal tunnel from too much surfing?

I have, in fact, seen nasty cases of  "laptop burn" on people's legs...

This April 1, NPR's "All Things Considered" did a bogus story on a DC Internet cafe called "Drip" which offers only dial-up connections, in homage to nostalgia and, one supposes, the slow-food movement too. Would've been funnier, except we still use dial-up at home, being frugal sorts.

The Slow Internet movement. Isn't that prescribed at some ashrams as, say a patience building exercise?

Knowing you won't be hooking up with the guy you shared your first braces on braces kiss with in 5th grade because you found him on Facebook is a major bonus for you in my book! I bet others might find this appealing too.

Ha! Posting...

While washing my dog in the front yard. I spilled some soap and slipped and twisted both ankles and went down on the sidewalk - hard - for all the world to see (townhouse development). All I could think was "don't let go of the leash".

Did Lassie at least run into the house and get you some help?

I am a private person and I don't like making a lot of information about myself public in the social-networking way. How's that?

I would probably feel judged by that answer.

However, if you met another person who was not on Facebook for the same reasons, you would be a perfect match.

In a rare moment of not knowing everything about everything, I must confess that I don't know who either Judith Griggs or Jacqueline Howett are. Is it safe to assume that they're the women behind the Post's new and atrocious software? I'd gladly join a flame war about that.

I don't have time to grab the links now, but Judith Griggs and Jaqueline Howett were both people who spectacularly and obliviously behaved like idiots online. Googling their names should give you backstories.

(1) If this is how you talk in real life, you may as well give up on marrying anyone who isn't a character on one of those stupid British sitcoms your local PBS station shows when they aren't begging for money. (2) You should open a Facebook account and connect with your current friends--if you have any, since you talk like a a character on one of those stupid British sitcoms your local PBS station shows when they aren't begging for money--and family. That way, when you meet someone at the tea parlour, you can say that you really only use Facebook to keep up on friends and family, and then you can find out if the lass you just met is who or what she seems to be.

1) Hey, some of us are really into people who talk like extras from Downton Abbey...

I happened to come across a couple of recent examples of total insanity among Facebook users (perhaps I shouldn't be surprised) over Japan relief items from J Crew and Kate Spade. In the case of J Crew, it was a tee shirt that controversially labelled the water between Japan and Korea as "Sea of Japan". In the case of Kate Spade, it was a limited edition tote bag for $18 that sold out in 10 minutes, causing mass hysteria. It's amazing to me how ugly it can get out there, especially since FB lacks the usual internet anonymity. For a while it was amusing to read the comments, then it became just plain sad...


Right, but you had to go to school in Connecticut. Who does that sort of thing willingly?

And you are from???

equals the Tantric Sex of modern communications.

Ba dum bum.

Here is the complete list of the 2011 National Magazine Awards Finalists, including links to the winning articles

Ooh, yes. There are some lovely and long good reads here.

Loved your review last week. It was torture to try to finish that book, wasn't it? My nostalgia for the characters is the only reason I made it, otherwise I probably would have put it down after the first chapter. I really wonder why Pascal made all the characters we loved so hateful now. The book should have brought back warm and fuzzy memories, instead of ruining the characters we grew up with. And Facebook, Perez Hilton, and Twitter references all within the first 100 pages? Clearly this book will age well...

Thanks! It is weird how attempts at "modernizing" technology in books often just seems painfully retro. Technology changes too fast for the sluggish book industry.

I really like GSTQ. But we could also use TTFN (Ta-ta for now).

Possibly. But not until after the Royal Wedding. Then we can discuss.

So today marks the 4-week point of my self-imposed hiatus from Facebook. As a military wife and a stay-at-home mom of a 2 1/2 year old and a 7 month old, FB really is my lifeline to the outside world and to a lot of friends all over the world. But I was spending way too much time on it, so I said goodbye for Lent. Well, then the tsunami in Japan happened and I have several friends that live in Japan or are getting deployed there to help. Then a military helo crashed in Hawaii and I have several friends in that squadron, including the pilot and his wife. So I really feel like I'm missing crucial information since I'm taking a break. When I return after Easter, I'm going to do a massive overhaul of my "friends:" unfriending people that I really don't care about, hiding those who I might want to check in on every now and then but don't need to know every moment of their lives, and keeping better in touch with the people who are my true friends. And to fill the void of no FB, I've actually read like 10 books, baked my first loaves of bread, planted two trees, and wrote several letters (like the kind that need a stamp). Yay me!

Yay, indeed -- especially since it sounds like you wisely learned that you do miss certain things about Facebook, and that you have an idea of how to strike a better balance for yourself when you return to it.

What's up with the proliferation of the pound sign in online dialogue?

It's called a "hashtag." It's used to categorize topics in conversation. For example, if I wrote, "Reading the new Sweet Valley reboot," I might want to either hashtag #SweetValley, because a lot of people might be talking about it. Or, I might want to add on something like, "#nostalgia" or "#1990s," to show that those categories also described what I was talking about.

Oh yeah, chicks are gonna dig you. Just go to a bar and ask any hot babe if she'd "fancy a little rumpy pumpy." Then while you're in the hospital recovering from a beating, maybe you'll meet a nice nurse's aide.

Well, different strokes for different folks...

what is GSTQ?

GSTQ is "God Save the Queen," and it is the traditional sign off that we use at 3 o'clock in these parts.

And speaking of -- I'm late for a meeting. GSTQ, and talk to you next week!

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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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