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

Apr 18, 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.

GUYS! I forgot it was Wednesday. I am here now. I am here, but totally unprepared. Please fill the queue to make up fore my spaceyness.

(Have you all be waiting for me? Talking about me behind my back? Again?)

I just got an email from Groupon letting me know earth is just 400 years old. If that's the case, and we know advertisers and companies like Groupon would never lie, does this mean my history books have lied to me?! Ok seriously- how does somebody let something slip like that?

What was this Groupon for, pray tell? Half off the remaining 4 bazillion years of the earth's history that Groupon forgot to include? (Seriously, what? Now I'm just curious to know how that tidbit made it in a Groupon ad to begin with).

How does one do it? How do you erase your mistakes once they hit the web? I just had a coworker forward me the Online Dating Spreadsheet of some guy. He was silly enough to forward it to a girl he went on a date with, who forwarded it to somebody, who forwarded it somebody- and so on. and at some point it has ended up on deadspin. In other words- this guy is now going to immortalized for his spreadhseet he made to help him keep track of girls he' s talking with online. How does one recover from that? (or other similar mistakes) And related- the spreadsheet has names, emails, phone numbers... how crazy are those girls emails and phones going to be? Some are def quite attractive!

To answer your question from a how-to perspective: There -are- sites that specialize in cleaning up your online mess. Reputation Defender comes to mind -- though I think they're more corporate, less personal accounts.

From a philosophical perspective, we can look at it from a couple of different ways:

1) The cultural metabolism digests information faster than ever before. This guy is news now, but he won't be in a month. He probably won't be in a week. He probably won't even be in a day. The Internet moves quickly enough that it will have found another poor shmoe to chew up and spit out by then.

2) Let's assume that as more and more people gain online presences, more and more people find ways to bung them up. Soon, not only will everyone be online, but everyone will have made a mistake online. These mistakes will be considered commonplace enough that we will not longer judge people so harshly for making them.

But those are just my thoughts (hurriedly typed, since I FORGOT IT WAS WEDNESDAY). What do you all think?

Also: You know that we want to see that Deadspin link now, please.

Do you and the chatters have any good book recs? I used to read only romance novels. For two decades I only read other books if someone forced me to. Now, I am done. In theory I still love romance but I can't stomach all the terrible writers out there. So, please suggest authors/books that you like. I am a voracious reader. Currently I am plowing through mystery/thriller books and I like them when I stumble on good ones. Thank you!

If you're into mysteries and thrillers now, I highly recommend Laura Lippman (Baltimore-based and her novels are set there -- so if you know the area, it's a special bonus), Harlan Coben (very twisty-turny. Start with "Tell No One") and Val McDermid (Scottish, moody. Start with "A Place of Execution," which became a BBC miniseries.)

Them's my suggestions. Others?

I'm usually good at these things. I usually know correct usages and resist correcting others when they mess things up. (Unless they're sufficiently close to me so I can point and laugh merrily). So I feel like an idiot in saying: I do not understand what is the difference between the traditional definition and the controversial newly added one. Can you please elaborate on the conflict? My self esteem is suffering.


(This is in reference to an incredibly esoteric and dorky article I had in the paper today, about a change in AP Style usage. In other words -- my favorite kind of article).

The old definition of hopefully was "in a hopeful manner." That means it described the way that something was said.  So: "Did you bake these Hunger Games cupcakes yourself?" he asked hopefully.

The expanded definition refers to your wishes for the future. "Hopefully, you will bake me more cupcakes."

Does that difference make sense?

I'm sure there's a grammarian who can do a better job describing.

OMG! If you like a little romance, but want actual, you know, writing skill, I highly recommend the historical fiction of Sharon Kay Penman. Start with "Here Be Dragons." It's a fictionalized account of Llewellyn the Great of Wales and includes just enough of the romanc-y angle to have me turning pages. Also, totally different genre, but I LOVE "The Tiger's Wife."

Thank you.

Everyone loves The Tiger's Wife! I haven't read it yet. I am going to be kicked out of humanity soon.

Here's the link

Apparently Jezebel spoke to the guy:

Okay. This is bad, but it could be so much worse. He doesn't come across as a total glassbowl, just utterly inept. I hope he finds a girl who is data-oriented, and who tracks his appearance and bedroom skills in a spreadsheet, and that they are very happy together.

Best new reddit meme?

Additionally, RPG  seems like a sweet guy, and his name is Zeddie!

As a hen lays eggs, my brain lays ideas. Here's one it produced today, although I didn't make a "bok-bok" sound as it did so. I saw a headline in a newspaper yesterday. I won't tell you which newspaper because the very mention of its name would likely provoke so much hostility among your readership that I fear you would be burned in effigy. And that is a thought that provokes so much disgust in me, that I fear I would be compelled to burn the said newspaper's editor in effigy in retaliation. And this of course would provoke so much fanaticism in the said newspaper's readership that they would feel justified in burning me in effigy just so it didn't look like they were taking things lying down. That's three effigy burnings already and I haven't even come to the point yet--you will appreciate my restraint. Anyway the headline in the newspaper was this... actually I don't remember exactly what it was but I remember it contained the phrase "pajamas-wearing." This got me to thinking about whether "pajamas" is one of those words that only exists in the plural form. To be quite honest, I can't think of any other words that exist only in the plural form but is "pajamas" one? Trousers, sheep...

I love this chat.

I'm telling you, I literally died when I read that AP was accepting the common usage that "hopefully" has enjoyed for nigh on 4 decades now. But, honestly, isn't it a greater crime when literally everyone is misusing a word to mean the exact opposite of its meaning, rather than just a slight misinterpretation of its meaning. I wish I could come up with an example of the former, but I am literally tongue-tied here.

Again. I love this chat.

For American detective fiction - Robert B. Parker's Spenser series. Although, towards the end, I think he was trying to see how few words he could put in a book. For English detective fiction - Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey series. If you keep with it there's even a bit of romance. They're both wonderfully written as well as engaging reads.

Thank you! (I'm going to post, without comment, some more suggestions as they come in).

I like a lot of romance ajacent books, and the Pink Carnation Series by Lauren Willig are quite enjoyable.

P.D. James! Also, why not tackle some classics with mystery novels as a break?

Hopefully this change will be overturned.

I support the new usage. But I'm one of those loosey goosey types who would perish without a copy editor. Literally!

Never forward any kind of online date tracker you've developed to anyone. Not your best bud, not family members...and definitely not any curious females.

Yes, it's really the fact that he thought it was fit to forward that make me pity him more than anything else, and think that he is socially maladroit more than socially malicious.

And I quote from the actual Groupon e-mail... "The Earth is celebrating its 400th birthday—Groupon and Edward Norton want to help it reach its 401st by promoting green living and eco-friendly practices!" I don't get it either- can one of your loyal readers explain!! you get a discounted Edward Norton? I hope so. I would like his teeth, please.

What's creepiest about the spreadsheet incident is that it shows that you don't even have to be the one making the dopey mistake for your life to be screwed up. I'm extremely cautious when it comes to my privacy on the internet, but I've gone on online dates with guys where I've given them my number and some personally identifying information before meeting up. How do you protect yourself against being subject to the mistakes of other people without living your life in a completely paranoid manner?

This is such a huge question -- and it's not really about the Internet, but about life. It's about whether you think the world is essentially good or bad, and how much faith you are willing to invest in humanity. Giving your phone number to someone you're going to meet up with for a date does not seem like excessively risky behavior -- presuming, of course, that you have been corresponding with the individual for awhile and engaged in basic, precautionary measures. The only alternative is to gird yourself so completely against danger that you never take any risks at all. And that, in itself, becomes another kind of risk: the risk of shutting yourself off to human experiences. Which is often a bigger risk than the thing you were worried about to begin with.

Former official use of the word: adverb describing the subject's action "Am I in the will?" he asked hopefully -- describing how he asked. Formerly incorrect usage -- "Hopefully, he put me in the will" . This was technically incorrect because you're not saying "he put me in the will hopefully" (describing how "he" did it), but you're saying "I'm hopeful that he put me in the will". So now the stuffed shirts agree that "Hopefully I'm in the will" is okay to say. Why do I know stuff like that?

I don't know. But I am posting it.

I'd suggest Hellmouth Happy Hour at the Black Cat. Fun place, nice crowd, and I feel like everyone who reads this chat would watch Buffy, even if they never sat down to see an episode in the past.

Truly, when I first read WH, I thought, "Why would we have a White House meet up?"

But yes. This is an excellent suggestion. Even though -- be gentle -- I never watched Buffy.

What about "Please fetch me my pajama bottoms, for I am cold" Pajama-singular, sort-of


I shall not ask why you are wearing no pants in this scenario.

Encyclopedia Brown - only because no one will know what an Encyclopedia is in 10 years, and no one in history has ever deciphered that one perfectly obtuse clue to solving each mystery.

I have distinct memories of getting the answer right to one Encyclopedia Brown mystery. One. Let's all read them again, shall we? Maybe we're smarter than our 11-year-old selves.

If you're only going on one date with each woman, you might want to run a regression analysis on the reason why you're only going on ONE date with each woman. There probably is a variable that's perfectly correlated.

And what do you do for a living?

do the pay ones differ from the free ones at all? or are you paying for something you can get for free?

I think the pay sites do differ, at least somewhat. The specialized ones (ChristianMingle, JDate, etc), obviously differ in that they cater to a specific audience and have narrowed down parameters for you.

The broader paid ones -- eHarmony, etc -- differ, I would think, in terms of investment. If you are willing to put down moneyfor your efforts to find a relationship, one might presume that you are taking this search for a relationship more seriously than someone who signed up for a free site as a lark.

I think we've had some perusers of both pay and free sites before -- I welcome your perspectives.

I can live with this one, as it's a relatively harmless accommodation of spoken English. I will not ever accept, however, that one "could care less" when they clearly could not care less. Makes me want to slap someone!

I think that "could care less" has to be spoken dripping with sarcasm -- revealing that, though you are saying you could care less, what you mean is that you couldn't.

It's so complicated.

Better yet, you could send out a random survey to the dates gauging their feedback and suggestions for improvement. Sweeten the deal by offering a random drawing for all participants to win a $25 iTunes gift card.

I mean, if he really wants to self-improve and maximize his chances of landing a relationship.

I'm taking this question as serious, though maybe the OP is just trolling. Anyway, if you read enough of Groupon, you will come to understand that it throws a bit of nonsense into every description. I know tone can be difficult to get in writing..... (it seems to me that the tone is obvious, which is why I put the disclaimer about trolling).

Oh, I totally get that about Groupon -- it's one of the things I like about them. And I'll stand for a good bit of nonsense (do I need to submit this chat as evidence?) so long as the nonsense results in something funny. That's the problem I saw with the Groupon posting. It just wasn't funny. It missed the mark.

Am I weird for thinking this isn't all that weird/creepy? I'm a 27-yr-old female, did the online dating thing for about 3 months, and it was completely overwhelming. Too many messages to keep up with and easy to forget about plans.

I don't think that you're weird. I did a story a few years ago, actually, about a couple that tracked all of their lives in a spreadsheet, from their blood pressures to their intimate activities to what music they listened to on any given day.

The problem arises only when you are a spreadsheet creator trying to date a non spreadsheet creator.

A few days ago when paying for my meal at Chipotle I noticed at the counter that they had fax order forms. 1) Does anyone use fax orders for Chipotle? 2) Why are we still using faxes?

Believe me, I'm already anticipating the brilliant Style piece that will be written (probably not by me) when the last Fax model is discontinued.

I have found the difference between pay dating sites and free dating sites is with pay dating sites I pay to have dates not show up whereas on the free dating sites the dates don't show up for free.

I hate your dates.

I agree that I don't think there's anything uber creepy about this--it's more than keeping a spreadsheets of dates connotes gathering statistical information on their performance rather than simply tracking contact data. If he simply had a list in MS word, I don't think people would be as perturbed

This is so true. It's the essential ickiness of the spreadsheet. People think it means something.

is not that he used a spreadsheet. It's that he was enough of a doofus to (a) tell a first date about it, and (b) actually forward it to her. THAT is the part that is creepy/weird. We all have our little organizational methods for keeping people, appts, etc. straight. We do not forward our mental notes about our dating history to women we've only met once!

Maybe he thought they were soulmates.

Ogden Nash penned: "The one-l lama / He's a priest. / The two-l llama / He's a beast. / And I will bet / A silk PAJAMA / There isn't any / Three-l lllama.* / * *The author's attention has been called to a type of conflagration known as a three-alarmer. Pooh."

Thank you.

Friends and family members sometimes get hired by new businesses, or work as contractors for businesses! Yay! They are employed. Cue congratulatory FB comment. But beyond that, if they ask for "likes" on the businesses' FB page, and I have no reason (because of geography, demographics, etc.) to expect to ever use the services of said business, do I have to do anything more than ignore those entreaties? That's what I'm doing now.

You need not do a smidge more. Ignoring is a perfectly acceptable response, until and unless they escalate by emailing you personally and asking directly for the like. At which point you can say no. and OKCupid, to me, were like cattle calls. I met one nice guy, but I had to go through a lot of frogs, so it was a big time investment on my part. On EHarmony, I had fewer choices, but they were ALL closer to what I had in mind in a partner. For what it's worth, the guy I am dating (exclusively) now I met through friends, so it's funny how it worked out. Also, I kept a listing of the guys I was seeing, with code names, so I could keep track. I would never tell one of them OR send it to them though.

Excellent report, thanks.

If you would like to share any particular code names with us here, however, you are more than welcome to do so.

I've done on-line dating once 7 years ago with e-harmony(paid)- no love connections made but met several nice people, couple of quirky ones, and only one real jerk. Fast forward, and a couple of years ago I was on Plenty of Fish (free) met some people who were just out for a one-night stand- but met a few men who were great, and one, well and one who will hopefully be "the one" we have been dating for over a year. Anyway, the differences between the two, to me at least, that the free one had more men, and from what I understand, women, who are looking for just sex, while the other did seem to have more people who were looking for a relationship. As far as a spreadsheet- I am not that organized but I did keep a notebook. just with, names dates we have in future, simple things. It does get quite daunting dating multiple people at once.

Another, thanks.

Because it's our neighbor, it's easy to forget that Mexico is largely a developing country.

Are you saying that people in Mexico are faxing their orders to the Chiptole in Columbia Heights? I hope so.

If you think telling a date you keep a spreadsheet of girls is creepy, I once had a man on a first date tell me he used to kill squirrels when he was younger and has had sex with over 200 women. And he was surprise when I declined a second date! I'd take spreadsheet guy over him any day!

If he was spreadsheeting the squirrels he had killed...

I find this is a useful rule to live by at all times; not just in this chat...

Indeed. And with that, let us be off.

See you next week, when I promise that I will not forget that it is Wednesday.

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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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