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

May 23, 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.

Hi gang!

I'll get a couple of links and polls up soon, before the 2 o'clock hour. In the meantime, peruse my latest Sunday column, which gets at something we've talked about here, namely, what memes are and what they're good for.

The Webby Awards were on Monday, and this year an inaugural award was launched: Meme of the Year. It was chosen by online voters.


This lost.

This won.


Please explain how you feel about this, what you think happened, and what slapshod meaning we can derive from this.

If you haven't seen this, go watch it now. Teachers go all dance-o-matic on unsuspecting high school students.


Alrighty. We shall get started now, especially since I have to duck out a few minutes early for a deadline.

you must be joking. I cannot believe that the Hilary meme lost to that vapid, repetitive hello kitty knock off. That is a travesty of justice. I am not sure who the judges are, but my guess is they are the girls in my son's 2nd grade class. Sigh.

No -- but the voting -was- done through Buzzfeed. So it would be self-selecting in that way. I suppose the question is, how representative are Buzzfeed readers to the rest of the Internet?

I love to read. Love to read books on my kindle and spend most of my day reading and surfing the internet. I would suspect on some level I'm addicted to my computer. Here's the problem though, I still subscribe to print magazines. I have stacks of them with interesting articles that appeal to me, but I can never put down the computer to read an actual magazine. Should I just drop all my subscriptions, and I suppose the biggest question I'm really asking is why can't I put down the computer/iphone and read a book or a magazine? Any tips to back away from the computer?

Interesting. Can you not read them at all? Or is it that you start a piece, but get distracted and want to go back to your computer rather than dealing with a medium in which you cannot flip back and forth between several screens?

So cute! I got caught in a vicious circle of "school assembly flash mobs" a few weeks ago (seriously, some of them are a hoot) so this is right up my alley!

I think this is so much more brilliant than the "Call Me Maybe" Harvard baseball team we discussed last week.

Its rare that we get to seeschool life depicted from teachers' perspectives, since our entertainment culture is so teen-focused. I love something that says, "Yeah, guys, we teachers are also stoked about summer vacation. Please leave."

The Webby awards were rigged by the North Koreans.

I want to see the Webbys longform birth certificate.

I hate people being all lovey-dovey on facebook. I don't care that you "miss your baby sooooooo much" or "your man is so sexy" or "you're the luckiest guy in the world" or that "it's finally nice to be with a man who loves the real me." How is any of this public information? Why can't people just post things that amuse me and don't make me want to throw up in my mouth? I'm happily married, so I swear this isn't just sour grapes.


1) Because it's the virtual equivalent of leaving flowers on your desk so that everyone can see that you are loved?


2) Because it comes from the same place of deep insecurity that causes people to brag about anything, ever?


3) Because it's a casual rejoinder to the "You never appreciate me!" complaint that a lot of partners have? I'll make broad gender assumptions, though this is by no means limited. I'm assuming that most of the people you see doing this are women. I'm assuming that they spend a portion of time grousing to their girlfriends about their boyfriends. I'm assuming that this -- "He's so dreamy" -- is a way to counteract that, publicly.

Are you serious? Hilary lost to that cat-thing? I'm outraged. I love the "Texts from Hilary." Those voters have a lot to answer for.

I am serious. I am confused, but I am serious.

watching those teachers dance has made it better

Thank you.

You should just subscribe to all those magazines online.

Yes, that's where I was going to head next. If the problem has nothing to do with concentration, and everything to do with discovering that you prefer the medium of reading on a Kindle as opposed to reading a piece of paper, then the easy solution is to just switch your paper subscriptions to electronic ones.


If the problem is that you can no longer focus on full-length articles, then that's a different issue.

Very fun. I just love the sorta chubby, dark-haired, bearded teacher dude doing a cross between moonwalking and rockin-out.

He is everyone's favorite.

Do you think people are doing a "vote for the worst" thing here, like has happened to American Idol?

Overcompensation? As in, the Nyan Cat tribe thought, "Well, we know we won't win -- but let's try not to come in dead last." And then they surprised everyone (and themselves) by winning?

I think Nyan Cat is much more pervasive than the Clinton meme, though the latter is much more clever.

And, obviously, different things will be pervasive in different circles. I can honestly ssay that if I did not have the job I have, I never would have heard of Nyan Cat. Whereas at least five different friends emailed me Texts from Hillary within two days of its founding.

A snuggie, a pot of hot tea, put feet up and read.

None of this does any good if the laptop is flashing at you from across the room.

A coffee shop with no wireless and squishy couches might do the trick, but only maybe.

1. Magazines have become clutter and a chore. I don't' want to throw them out because I'm not reading them. 2. I have a hard time picking them up. 3. and when I pick them up, I find myself distracted more easily and like you say, want to flip between several screens. This just bothers me because I can have pretty intense powers of concentration when I'm into reading something, yet I can't get into magazines or even sometimes books I'm interested in. Plus, I can't help but think I'm not alone and wonder about the broader implications of this phenomenon for society.

Let them go. Let them go. Switch your subscriptions to digital first, and see if that helps -- maybe you'll be more inclined to read them if your Kindle is always on your person (in a way its difficult for magazines to be), because you can read them in line, on the bus, while waiting for a friend at a restaurant, etc.


If that doesn't help -- if you're still not interested in reading them -- then maybe this is the problem: We've always had a terrible time keeping up with magazines, long before the Internet. Unread New Yorkers stacked up by the boxful in the house I grew up in. The different might have been that we had no other options then. There was no Internet to distract us, so we eventually had to read the magazine.


Now, you create your own magazine every time you're online, picking and choosing the tidbits that you like. For example: Maybe your'e really interested in baby monkeys, Ukrainian serial killers, and gingham. There are no magazines dedicated to these topics -- but you can read about them endlessly online. It is easier for you to read online, because you can read exactly what you want. The magazines are no longer exactly what you want.


I think as long as your're still reading, you're okay. If you weren't reading at all anymore, that would be tragic.


Does any of this make any sense?

If you didn't vote, then you are to blame.

Its true in every election.

I have a similar issue, and the problem isn't that I prefer the computer, necessarily, or that I can't focus on a long article. It's just that when I am on the computer, it's always "Oh, I just want to check that one site" or "Did anyone leave a comment?" or "I haven't checked Tumblr today." Once I can pry the laptop away, I'm very happy to read a book/magazine.

Yes, for you, I suggest the coffee shop and squishy chair solution.

That's what we think, but you might discover otherwise if you open it up for voting on Buzzfeed.


I didn't have anyone send me links to either. I saw the Clinton meme mentioned a lot over a short period, then it went away (after Clinton provided her own, which was AWESOME). Nyan Cat just keeps popping up, but that may be because I subscribe to feeds of the LOLCats network.

One of the reasons -- the biggest reason, in fact -- that Clinton went away was because the creators made a concerted effort to stop posting new updates after Clinton herself rung in. I applauded this decision -- quit before your meme becomes too cheap and easy. But it did mean that the meme didn't have the chance to grow, mutate and spread as organically as it might have otherwise.

and loved it every time. I had not seen this North Korean cat before today's chat. Does this mean I'm old?

You've seen it now. Glad we could help.

I think I read somewhere that women post replies and comments on facebook much more than men do, but it's quite the opposite for me. My friends run about 50-50 men vs. woman, but I'd say 80 percent of my likes and replies to my posts are from my male facebook friends. Do I have the most communicative men friends on the planet or something? I'm a woman, btw, but these guys are all married. The single guys never reply at all (to me).

Married Facebook men (especially the ones with children) do appear to be more social-media involved than my single male Facebook friends. Perhaps they have just been socialized.

did they make NO noise behind those students? I mean, it's really cute, but NONE of the students turned around to see what might be happening behind them?

Well, the kids thought they were being filmed for a video project. They probably didn't want to look dumb turning around in the middle of it, even if they did hear something (which they probably did -- you can see looks flash across a few faces).

Anecdote, so take with a grain of salt: I've found that my eyes focus differently depending on the medium and I cannot go immediately from book-to-screen or vice versa without starting a migraine. I also have the pile-of-magazines problem, and find myself reading several weeks' worth in one afternoon. I will probably give them up at some point.


is it slapshod or slipshod?

I thin that I hybridized slapdash and slipshod. Don't hate.

I run into this problem often and here are two my coping strategies: 1. Read somewhere other than inside your house. Read a book or magazine in the park, on the Metro, on the patio, in a restaurant, etc. 2. Focus on the sensory experience of reading. Feel the pages, notice the weight of the paper or heft of the book. Pay attention to the advertisments or other magazine related items that you don't get with an online edition (if only to see where you can spot photoshopping); without looking like a weirdo (VERY IMPORTANT), try to smell the pages of the book (smells sooo good!).

I like all of these suggestions. Especially the last. Nothing beats the scent of a library.

Hmmm...I see a pattern: cat-related memes make up a disproportionate percent of memes (see: lolcatz, keyboard cat, bread on cats, nyan cat, etc). Just by sheer probability, it seems that a cat-themed meme would have a greater chance at winning. And I wonder if being a political figure hurt Hillary's chances... not that I think that buzzfeed readers skew right-wing, but perhaps they don't want politics (of any leaning) in their memes?

You're onto something -- many things, actually. The fact that cats are the recognized mascot of the Internet means that voting for Nyan Cat was an implicit acknowledgment of community. It's also like if the Oscars suddenly decided to give an award called "Best Depiction of God." If Morgan Freeman was nominated, you would have to vote for him. Even if he wasn't the best, you would have to say, "Okay, but this is what God should sound like and be like, and the inaugural award needs to go to him."

Bad news: I've been going to my therapist for 10 years with no breakthroughs. Good news: I'm finally up to date on back issues of the New Yorker.

Maybe your therapist is practicing stealth reading therapy. You just don't know it.

OK, that is actually real. The pixels on a screen move/vibrate MUCH faster than the molecules on paper, so it really is a different experience. One of the first things I learned in graduate classes for a masters in education.

Thank you. This makes me want to get a masters in education.

Are just checking you (and your friends) out without repercussions.

No! No?

Even if you generally like the magazine, they are limited and sometimes only have a few items of interest in them. It used to be that when I got my monthly subscription in the mail I couldn't wait to glance through the magazine. Now, I'm usually left disappointed after reading one. I'd rather browse online because if I'm interested in a certain topic I can explore it ad nauseum.

Isn't that what I just said? It's what I was trying to say, at least.

My husband is (clearly) married with a child and hates Facebook with a purple passion. He's just not into small talk and claims that Facebook is basically a large cocktail party with lots of chitchat and he's not into that. He has a page but rarely posts or checks it or posts on other stuff. I'm always updating him on family and friends. I think it just depends on how communicative your male friends are.

True, which goes back to a common thread we visit multiple times on this chat: The Internet won't change who you are so much as it will reveal who you are.

I find myself flipping through to only the articles that I'm interested in, reading those, and then recycling like 6 magazines in one day. To be fair, the magazines I get are "gift subscriptions" from my grandma, so there aren't usually too many articles I'm interested in...

Is your relationship with grandma not one in which you could suggest a replacement gift? Instead of magazine of the month, chocolate of the month?

I didn't know about the election! I would have voted, I swear!


Have you already posted?

So soothing!

Is back with the D-team. Mama Ayumi (from the very first puppy cam puppies in 2008) gave birth to her first litter on Monday. Circle of life and all that.

Thank you.

I wish! But the gift subscriptions are free to her, and since I live out of state (and my mom can just read my grandma's copies) and I'm the only granddaughter, I get all the magazines. Ladies' Home Journal, anyone? Goodhousekeeping, perhaps? Better Homes and Gardens - for a renter that has no yard or patio? She means well!

Have her send them to me! I love a good "Better Homes" -- Signed, a fellow apartment dweller (who also does not cook or garden)

Okay, maybe it's because I never post small talk and chitchat. It's mostly witticisms, sports talk, and the occasional cool picture or meme, with some mild ribaldry thrown in. Come to think of it, maybe that's why the women never reply. I've got a dude brain.

You are correct. From what you describe, I would be a slim-to-never contributor to your chat. Depending on the meme quality.

But why is it a problem? We haven't forgotten how to read. We're just reading differently.

Well, it doesn't have to be a societal problem for it to be a problem for the OP -- She is paying for magazine subscriptions that are going to waste, and needs to know what to do.

If that were true, they'd be terrified of revealing themselves to their significant others by posting so much. I get more comments on my page from my friends' boyfriends than other male friends. I think it's just that the guys who are most likely to be paired up are also more likely to be chatty and social with women in general.


So the single guys who post frequently on other people's pages but neeeeever on mine do so because...?

They are intimidated by your wit? (We've reached levels of abject lunacy, people)

Have you seen the discussion forums on They have groups for states and regions such as Northern Virginia that are informative and fairly polite. What is really weird is that they also have a Politics section that is Birther central and contains some of the most hateful, racist, anti-Obama, Latino, Muslim, Democrat, etc. garbage anywhere on the net. I can only assume the operators of the site put up with this dreck because it brings in traffic and helps support the high minded sections.

I actually haven't seen this. I'll put on my hazardous waste gloves and check it out. Thanks.

OP here: just searched for digital magazine subscriptions for all those magazines that I have piling up, they require an iPad to read. That may be exchanging one problem for another.

Oh dear. You are correct.

Have our discussions of this given you any thought-inspiring guidance at all? Or are you wondering why you ever showed up? We can do better!

My hockey-watching and -posting gang of girls take offense. So would my aunt, who posts rabidly about futbol.

Oh now. You know what the gentleman was saying -- sports fandom was used as one of many examples for the things he posts that are not smalltalk.

As long as you don't use "willy-nilly" for "helter-skelter." That burrrrrns.

And now, I have to run. Sorry for the early dash, and the lengthy answers on certain topics. I'll be beack next week. Until then, Tweet me @MonicaHesse or email me at


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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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