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

Nov 02, 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. My fingers are burn-free, I have no other infirmities, and we are good to go. At 2, that is. This is just the warmup period where you can get your questions in early.

There was an interesting story in the Wall Street Journal recently called "Why Texting Turns Us Back Into Teenagers." I've included the link to it. I don't think I buy it. If you don't either, then I'm eager to hear whether we don't buy it for the same reasons.

Now that election season is upon us, I feel that we should all be aware of this very important series of videos by Bad Lip Reading. Begin with Michele Bachmann. For parity's sake, you can then move on to Barack Obama.

When someone buys the farm, breaks his pipe, or is no longer answering his phone, or whatever euphemism you choose, what happens to their e-mail and social networking accounts? Do you recommend sharing passwords and some editing advice to a trusted friend or just letting things die or??? Or maybe there is an app for communicating from beyond the veil?

There are actually firms that specialize "Digital Estate Planning," as its called in the biz. You share your passwords with them -- not your family -- along with instructions on how you would like your online ephemera disperesed. Someone at the Post did a great story on this a year or two ago, but I can't remember who, and can't find it now. Hopefully it will pop into my brain again.

This is a fascinating topic, though. Let's assume that we're not all going to hire digital estate planners. What would you do as you prepared to shuffle off this mortal fiber optic coil? Pre-emptively delete everything yourself? Go to a friend? Which friend? With what instructions? We're anonymous here, so let's get specific.

Wonder how many of your readers/chatters are playing the annual November Nethack tournament?

Oh, lots of them, I hope.

November is also NaNoWriMo, in which aspiring novelists attempt  to complete a whole manuscript in one month. I hope we have some of them, too.

Is there anything else in the month of November I am forgetting about?

I'm inexplicably exhausted. And have to sit in front of my computer at work for another 3 hours. Can you recommend some internet extravaganza that will help keep me awake?

Clearly, someone needs to go watch a lion riding in a sidecar in a velodrome, or one of the other 90,000 historical newsclips and short videos available on

I now have a regular weekly meeting at 2:00. Sorry everyone.

I think your weekly meeting needs to change its meeting time. Or you all need to hold it here. Inexcusable.

No, I won't bring up the subject of ear pulling. But first: Rabbit rabbit (sent in advance on the first day of this month). There, you have good luck. (Google it if you don't believe me.) Now, for my serious question: I have heard bits and pieces that the future of computer operations for organizations is moving away from having later IT departments towards cloud computing. I am vaguely aware that cloud computer is shared computing. Yet, I do not know enough to yet grasp how cloud computer will reduce expensive IT departments. Are you able to please explain this, or please provide some links that would be helpful?

So, I was trying to come up with a concise explanation for you, when I found this piece from a tech magazine, which might do the job. The pertinent paragraph is this one:

"Cloud computing comes into focus only when you think about what IT always needs: a way to increase capacity or add capabilities on the fly without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software. Cloud computing encompasses any subscription-based or pay-per-use service that, in real time over the Internet, extends IT's existing capabilities."

Take a read; let me know if that helps.

Please, please PLEASE tell me you've been to . It is so funny that it's my new favorite, right up there with the Feminist Ryan Gosling tumblr. Good, good stuff.

I believe that everyone should be free to become obsessed with their own Tumblrs. It pains me to say this, but I'm not loving this one. The photos are great; the dialogue is often too longwinded and not sharp enough.

Maybe the other problem is that I originally thought the blog was Animal Stalking, not Animals Talking. Clearly, when you expect that the Tumblr will be more like Michael Buble Being Stalked By Veliciraptors, this is not it.

I buy it. I'm 33, and waiting for a response to a text to a woman I've been seeing, and feeling lots of annoying emotions that remind me plenty of being a teenager. On the other hand, I don't think the ability to text automatically makes someone manipulative (like the examples in the article). If you're inclined to be manipulative or play games, you'll do it using whatever communication mode you've got.

What was your text, and what response do you need, and are you afraid that reaching out to her via some other medium (telephone?) will make you look needy or something?

I am probably going to die unexpectedly at a fairly young age, or so my palm reader told me. Anyway, I doubt I'll remember to create a list of my passwords because it sounds like one of those things I will keep forgetting to do. So thanks for the reminder and now I will go change all my passwords to "password."

I think this so-called palm reader should be in charge of remembering all of your passwords.

Oh no, I am running behind. Day 2 and I still haven't written anything. Should I delete my account? Yesterday I said, oh you're just one day behind. Today I am telling myself, oh just do it next year.

Guess what? For you, NaNoWriMo actually starts on November 2. I checked with the world, and it's cool with that. Start tonight. We will check on you on December 2.

I have told my husband for years that he has to appoint an electronic, or perhaps I should say a digital, executor, so that when he dies (which he will do before I do) I can find our tax records, bank statements, etc.

Now, this is different than passwords for private emails or whatnot, and just silly. Tell him to do it now, while he lives!

I'm in my mid 30s, and yes - texting does sometimes turn me into a 13 year old, although I've definitely not stooped to the level that some of those people in the article! My biggest pet peeve about texting: people who want to have entire conversations via text. If you want to make plans with me for this weekend and this will involve negotiations re: time and place, then please just call -- let's not exchange 15 texts on the topic! Re: Dr Turkle that the article mentions, I highly recommend her book, "Alone Together"! Monica, you should read it and we should have an online book club on in!!

I've read it! So glad you enjoyed.

Does it really "turn you into a 13-year-old," though? Or are there other circumstances in which you might also stoop to playing games (by not returning a phone call, by waiting a day before sending an email, etc)?

No, don't go! I say quit your job. We need you too much.


I saw this video of a dude performing Lady Gaga's born this way, and thought you'd appreciate it:

And you might like this one. And we could do this all day!

(I wrote a story last year about the interpreters hired to sign for the Lady Gaga concert in DC. They were just lovely)

I don't really get the appeal. If they were clever enough to make some sort of sense, it might be funny. As is, it's just substituting nonsense that vaguely looks like plausible lip reading.

Clearly I am being punished for not liking Animals Talking in All Caps.

I was a little disturbed to learn that many doctors check their patient's symptoms on the Internet. Now, if they are checking Internet versions of their medical books, I feel much safer. Yet, if they are googling for information, I fear they could be some wrong information out there. Or am I wrong? If it is on the Internet, it has to be true, right. Anyway, I have been feeling a little sick at work. I am going to tell the nurse I have a rare condition called Palhistinistra and, when you goggle Palhinthinstra, you will arrive at this discussion, where you learn that this is a rare condition that requires two weeks of vacation time to recover. Do you think this will work?

1) I do not think that doctors are literally Googling "My patient has a weird rash what is it?" (Doctors, if you are, please stop).

2) This Palhinthinstra plan is very good. I think it can be transmitted via the Internet. I think I caught it from you.

What does the Post do with a URL containing an expletive? I can muffle it in writing all I want (e.g. "What the Bleep Do I Make For Dinner," but readers can still see it when they hover their mouse over the link. I hope you can share this site, because it just helped me plan my menu for the week. Signed, Vegetable moussaka

I know I have mentioned this site before, in a profile I did of the Vegan Black Metal Chef. I know that I was not fired after mentioning it, and I know our servers did not crash. Therefore, I hope that the bleeping out I have done for you is sufficient, and that everyone can now go get some tasty dinner ideas.

I get it, you are using this story as an excuse to ignore my questions again, aren't you? Not gonna work. I'm still going to send you 5,000 questions per chat. Ok, not really. I'm just going to go eat a tub of ice cream now.

Now, I know this isn't my mother, whom I spoke with last night. And I know it's not my editor, whom I talk with more than my mother. It must be my dog. Sheba? Get off my laptop. I told you you could only use it when I'm at home.

I don't buy it because I don't act that way, either by text or IRL. The only people I know who do are, in fact, teenagers or very immature anyways. And, for the record, I'm a young female actively on the dating scene, so according to this article, I should be completely passive-aggressive neurotic. Then again, I don't buy into all those dating rules, either, so if a guy gets all cat-and-mouse, whether by text or phone/email, I'm likely to get bored and wander off rather than reciprocate. Technology is just a tool, whether it's used by idiots or sane people.

The last sentence of this post, I want to cross stitch onto a sampler and hang above my bed. This is what bugged me about the piece. There were no control questions. We didn't get a sense of whether the "I won't text you for a week" guy was previously an "I won't call you for a week" guy. Game-playing doesn't just appear out of nowhere; it's not like, "I got an iPhone! Time to jerk you around!"

Not responding for days is a power play? My daughter-in-law had me believing it was because of the 2 kids, the job and the daycare lady. Wow.

She's so crafty.

Is this the modern day version of if I die take all the porn out of my apartment before my parents find it?


I know my husband's passwords because, well, they are easy to crack (he tells me), but I use variations at different types of sites because of security. I guess we maybe know each other's email accounts (mine was hacked, so it' snot my normal one, and while I told DH , I'm sure he's forgotten) so you can always go that route with finding out passwords... but yeah, it seems a little weird, like, what happens with all those accounts? I mean, I have an account that I only use for signing up at companies where I don't want their emails...and he doesn't really know about that one. Does it matter? I don't know. but it is an interesting question. But real life is weird too. My mom got a postcard from the dentist about her upcoming appointment. Almost three years after she died.

That's true. It's amazing how long it can take the world to realize that you're dead.

Yeah, and years ago they all said we would be running applications from the server. Only, that never happened because the speed was, well, not speedy. So, we'll see what happens, but you still need IT. Who is going to configure all those computers, each in their different way, so that no one else knows what's going on and they get to keep their jobs?

I want someone besides The Cloud on the other line when my screen turns purple and starts humming. That's all I'm saying.

Lifehacker just wrote about this the other day (week? month?):


My uncle put together a disk (!) year ago with all of his accounts, where they are located, account numbers, who is on the accounts, the beneficiaries, etc, and made several copies, made sure to put them in secure locations at the right temperature, and gave one to his son. You are going to kill him now that he has to worry about his online accounts. Oh, wait, he hardly uses email. Never mind. Oh, but maybe he'll start worrying about his *kids* accounts on line and when *they* may pass away. That's after he probably tells them how unsecure that whole internet thing is.

You probably definitely shouldn't tell him that it's going to be hard soon for people to have machines that will read this disk, so he should worry about that too...

Text was non-time-sensitive general small talk, and yes, I'm worried about looking needy. Though it's more that it was a two-day period of less balanced/requited texting/emailing than in the past, and I'm trying not to be paranoid.

But that's not about texting, really. That's about you being worried that the girl suddenly, after a few days, might not be as into you. Which could happen with any technology.

(Don't worry. She's just had a really busy couple of days at work).

Cloud computing is where you send all your data to Google. Then your office will reduce your IT staff. They Google will lose your data. Then Google will act like the phone company, and you will play hours of e-mail tag to find the clueful guy. This is known as Fog computing

Excellent, thank you.

Just got an email. So either I WAS being completely paranoid, or she's reading this chat...

I hope it's the former AND the latter. OP's girlfriend, are you here?

This has been going on for decades -- it's called dubbing, as in translated versions of foreign films. Some are truly awful!

Yes. But I thought these were funny!

No way. If you ask him what time it is, he tells you how to build a clock. I can't absorb the information he seems to think necessary. No, a fellow techie will have to do all this for me once he's gone (leaving instructions, of course).

Are you married to an engineer or a poet? Which one?

Thank you so much for that! I'm going to send it on to my lovely niece (a Speech Language intern) who's having an awful week at work!

I hope she likes it!

Well, but the postcard actually had an actual appointment on it. Like: next tuesday at 11. Which was the strange wasn't like: oh, you should call for your next appointment. As if she made an appt 3 years in advance.


Did you call the dentist? I bet they were embarrassed. I bet they were more upset than you.

Is stupid. It's just what all young people do, with the most up-to-date technology. Before it was the phone, now it's texting. Also, it's not all of us; it's twenty-somethings and as I said before, these kind of games are common to this age bracket - let's not draw conclusions across generations.

How about let's not make generalization about generations? There have been several 20-something who have written into this chat, appalled by the behavior in the article and saying they would never engage. This isn't about a birthdate any more than it's about a gadget -- it's about a personality and a behavior.

Texting doesn't turn people into teenagers. It just gives immature, passive-aggressive, and manipulative people another medium with which to share their lovely personalities with others.

Another lil something to be cross-stitched on a pillow in my bedroom. (As I mentioned last week, my birthday is in July. In case anyone needs ideas).


Last year my dad sat my down for several hours, went through all of his accounts, where they are located, account numbers, passwords, gave me printouts. I lost all of it. I blame the Kardashians.

Geez, first Kim gets divorced, THEN she loses your dad's passwords. Uncool.

I largely agree with that, but I also agree that we are underestimating the power of the Internet and communication technology -- it's too early to tell just yet how exactly it is affecting us. Let's wait till we have a good cohort of people "who don't remember life before the Internet" and compare them to people "who do remember life before the Internet"-- then we'll be able to determine with certainty whether the Internet and e-communication are inherently good or evil. :-)

And I largely agree with this.

Sometimes, technology shapes who we are. Often, it just reveals who we are. And more often than not, people think it's the first when it's really the second.

Yes, but I think there's something about the _potential_ immediacy of response with text messages that makes it more jarring (and triggering of adolescent-style angst) when response is delayed.

You couldn't have responded immediately to an email? You couldn't have called back promptly on the phone? If you're saying that the immediacy comes from the fact that we expect people to have their phones on them all the time now -- and be immediately reachable -- I'll buy that a little bit more. But I still think that's a different issue than being turned into a teenager. And I also think that it still gets back to two inherent personality differences:

1) People who accept that sometimes people get busy, sometimes you can't respond right away, sometimes an ignored text is just an ignored text.

2) People who over-read the tea leaves and see every movement or non-movement as a symbolic gesture.


1) Drama-mongers

2) Not.

However you cut it, I still think this is less about technology than about people.

Can I make you a puff-paint t-shirt with these sayings on them instead? I don't know how to cross-stitch.

Yes. My favorite colors are brown and purple.

That is the problem with written communication--it is far more strategic and manipulative than speech (unless your some kind of rhetorician). I relate the rise of e-mail to the erosion of social trust!

It's both more strategic, and it's more often misread. I've stopped in the middle of several email chains to send a message saying something like, "Wait. Are you mad? Or are we joking?"

My wife and I agreed to block all texts to our cellphones because we don't want to pay for the service and some friends would text us, even though we've told them we don't have texting, and we didn't want to pay the cellphone company $0.20 per message. We also would like to get the iPhone, but don't see why our monthly cell bill should triple just because we upgraded our phones. We're both under 40.

Thank you.

My dad told me his grandfather told him the first time he saw an airplane. It was in the 1910s, and it flew over their West Texas town. Everyone in town came out of their houses to look at it.

I love it!

Maybe's it's about self-confidence? Back in my college days I would be waiting by the phone for someone to respond to a text. Now I'm more assertive about contacting people who I really want to get in touch with (texting just seems very passive) and don't take it personally if they don't reply.

I'm sure it's about a lot of different things, and yes, I'm sure that confidence plays a part in that. Congratulations on your assertion!

Criminy. I don't think I was that immature when I *was* a teenager. (At least not past the tween age of "Do you like my friend/check yes or no" notes.) And no, WSJ writer, I *will* tell you that I never have called an ex repeatedly and hung up. Sheesh. If my boyfriend had tried any of these "techniques" with me, we never would have made it past the second date.


I'm late starting, too, so don't feel bad. I plan to write from 10pm to midnight tonight. (I like writing at night because I'm less inhibited. Also, I can drink wine.)

See? Plenty of latecombers to this. You can do it, Original Poster! And, as you probably already know, it's more important to make yourself write every day than it is to actually complete a manuscript. Think about setting time goals, like this poster, or word goals (which is what I do. It helps me write faster when I think, 'As soon as I write 900 more words, I can stop,' as opposed to 'I am stuck here until midnight, no matter what.')

Are you addicted to Words with Friends? You strike me like the kind of person who would have 20 games going with actual friends.

I do not know this game. Tell me about it. Or don't. Or do! I can't decide. How much of a timesuck am I looking at?

My husband has all our bank websites and passwords on a spreadsheet on his computer. I have a document that has non-secure websites and password,info as well as the contact information for all my clients (I'm a freelance editor/writer/researcher). I call this the ICE Document (ICE = In Case of Emergency) and I keep it on my desktop so that it can be found quickly.

Thanks, this is smart.

Was blocked on my work computer for the webfilter: Adult/Mature Content;Restaurants/Dining/Food. I'm sad, those are basically my two favorite things

I am sad for you. Your home computer will be much more forgiving.

The animals in all caps are also lame.

See? We all have our own bad humor weak spots.

The internet is a tool. While doctor's are fallible human beings, if you think they use the internet like high school students writing a term paper, i think you have bigger issues.

For one, you could be dead and your dentist could still be scheduling your appointments for two years in advance.

If the biggest thing we're all texting about and posting about on the facebookery is this cast video from Dr. Who?  Maybe it's not the texting that makes us 13, just our inner geeks.

This is entirely appropriate.

Are we really supposed to believe that people who send immature, appropriate texts would have been a shining example of maturity 20 years ago? Please. (I know u r but what m I?"

PeeWee Herman. Could never get into him, ever. I feel bad about this.

Would like to hear from the chatters how much they text, how much they consider a lot or excessive texting, and also as much info about themselves as they would like to give -- gender, married/single, kids/no kids, age, and so on. I know many couples (myself included) who have argued about what is an acceptable level of texting, when, with who, etc...

We're running out of time, but I'll throw this out there.

I'm a very infrequent texter. Once a day, twice a day, maybe, and then days without texting at all.

Why do we put 'www' in front of our URLs? Is there any other web beside the 'World Wide Web'?

It's true. When Star Trek becomes real, we are going to have to revisit this whole "worldwide" concept.

A network security expert (programmer, too) who also writes poetry. And composes music.

What a lovely, maddening combination.

"It's both more strategic, and it's more often misread." It's one of the many sad realities of my workplace that people here will often agonize over the meaning of what a co-worker has said in an e-mail when all they have to do (but seemingly never do) is pick up the phone and ask them.

You all are so, so wise today.

since everyone else seems to know: what are Angry Birds? Is it a game? How do you play it? I have seen an Angry Birds video, so I thought maybe it was like a cartoon soap opera. Yet I keep overhearing people talking about "playing" Angry Birds. I ask, and people stare at me like I am from the 20th century.

It's a simple game, available on smartphones. If you Google it, I'm sure Wikipedia has a more extensive page than you could ever possibly need.

I experience it everytime I go to visit my Dad who thinks that call-waiting is new-fangeled technology that isn't worth the money. (When was the last time you heard a busy signal?) We look up movie times in the newspaper, I have to get restaurant phone numbers from the phone book to call and see if they are open and we watch the local news to get the weather report. It's actually pretty refreshing.

I think your dad should consider opening a bed and breakfast. Seriously, he is cutting edge. Plenty of high-end resorts are going low-tech for better relaxation.

You really don't know about this smartphone-based scrabble game? I'm genuinely shocked. It's a big timesink until you learn that all of your friends have better vocabularies than you do. Then it loses some of its shininess.

Words with Friends is apparently my Angry Birds. Everyone else has been playing it without me.

Duly chastised; you're right. My only defense - I was typing in a rush...

That's okay. People of your age often do.

(Kidding, KIDDING)

The plane story reminded me of how my aunt told me of a neighborhod who hated when airplanes first started flying near where we lived. Every time one flew over the house, she would take a pan and a spoon and bang it to scare the airplane away. It worked every time.

Were these "airplanes" actually "birds?" I am confused.

I'm old enough to remember when faxes changed the way business was done (ie, sending drafts back and forth for comments became a far faster process); then email sped it up even more. I loved the advent of the answering machine because I no longer felt compelled to pick up the phone when it rang and could return the call when I felt like it. Ditto email. Why should my cell phone or texts be any different? Just because it's convenient for the caller/texter right this second, doesn't mean I have to respond right this second.

Exactly -- just because it's convenient for one end of the conversation does not mean that it's convenient for both.

Remember every one: Palhinthinstra: A rare serious health condition where the body needs approximately 14 days of rest in order to recover. Cut and paste the above in blogs, tweets, and social networks everywhere.

Yes. It shall be our homework for the week. Spread this disease, and spread it wide.

I think I'm probably towards the high end of the texting spectrum. I'm 27, single, employed, have my master's, and probably send 30-50 texts a day. Since I got my new phone in August, my best guy friend and I have exchanged over 1300 texts. I just hate talking on the phone. Slightly tangential, but I also love the HeyTell app.


How do you feel about Josh Charles? I've loved him since clown dog in Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, but his Twitter feed makes me love him even more (see how I tied this into the interwebs?)

I was not a fan of Josh Charles in Don't Tell Mom. But perhaps my tastes have matured and improved. I will investigate this immediately.

Interesting article by your colleague J. Freedom du Lac today about the increasing number of people dining alone at restaurants and using their mobile devices (phones, iPads, etc) while they eat or in between courses/while waiting for food. The article was mostly geared towards diners at higher end restaurants and gave the impression that chefs might be offended that you aren't really enjoying the experience of eating the food they've prepared for you. Also interesting that I was still able to enjoy the flavor of my salad, for what it's worth. Wondering if others have thoughts about this. Given that I read the article from the non-mobile (i.e. print) version of the paper while eating lunch by myself today, i think those of us who eat alone usually do have something else "to do" while we're eating and don't necessarily need mobile devices to distract us.

I mean to bring this up, and completely forgot. Now that it's closing time, perhaps we can table for next week -- your solo public habits with technology.

You just reminded me of a boy I really really loved (haha, no, just infatuated with) in college. We were going to a Dave Matthews concert and Dust in the Wind by Kansas came on. I love that song probably because my brothers played it or something. Anyway, I turned it up and closed my eyes to really enjoy it until he changed the channel after commenting "what is this crap?" Uh, we didn't last much longer. He clearly had bad taste.

I'm glad you are rid of him.

Thanks for stopping by, everyone -- I'll talk to you next week.


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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