The Web Hostess: What you're missing (or not) on the internet

Jul 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.

Afternoon, everyone, and thanks for stopping by. In this chat, I will continue to rebuild your trust by showing up on time two weeks in a row, in atonement for my three cancellations.


Before we get started at 2, please amuse yourself by learning about the optimal military strategies for taking Cinderella's castle by siege.

I write every week!

I don't know. What do you write about? If it's vaguely topic-related -- inasmuch as we ever have "topics" for this "chat" -- and I never include your questions, then you're probably just the victim of an unfortunate coalescence of circumstances: the chat is either moving too fast for me to see your question, or your observations are too similar to someone else's observations that I've already posted.


If your questions are not topical -- if they are X-rated, cuss-wordy, would make my mother blush (Yes, I get some of those every week) -- then I will not respond to your questions because I enjoy being employed.


In short: Keep it cleanish, and write sparkly and engaging questions. Repeat as needed.

Sure, anyone can attack the castle at Disneyland, but how would you attack it at Disney World?

More importantly: If the residents of Hogwarts at Universal Studio's Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando were to engage in battle against the residents of Cinderella's Castle at Disneyworld in Orlando, which tactics would both employ, and who would win?

Monica, I want to like Personal Post, but I wish it worked more than an RSS feed where you could subscribe to specific features/columnists and not like content to be offered more or less of that content. For instance, I'd like to have the latest from you, Hax, Reliable Source, Celebriotolgy, Date Lab, Tom, etc. appear on the feed without all of the other "stuff" the algorithm thinks I might like. Maybe that's it's purpose and I'm the one in the wrong for not understanding, but for now I'll continue to subscribe via Google Reader to everyone at the Post with a blog, rather than using this feature.

I argue that this is better for you. One of my biggest frets about RSS feeds is that, if we're able to carefully select exactly what we like, then we end up only going further and further down our own rabbit holes. We only learn about what we're already interested in, rather than expanding our brains.


I'd actually love to hear stories from people who discovered something they didn't think they'd be interested in, just because they gave something new a chance.

How is the cricket? It could be more than one cricket you hear. Maybe the faint sound is one further away. I believe they are fine as they probably have found that your ceiling is a wonderful place to live. Better there than outside where they could be eaten by birds or stepped on (accidentally, I'm sure) by Bob Woodward. Please keep us posted on the cricket situation. You could try leaving some cricket food on your desk but I would fear the cleaning crew might not appreciate crickets running around as much as you do, I am not sure what crickets eat, but I am sure if you leave a dozen donuts behind, they'll be gone before you return.

You are obviously a Facebook friend who saw that I was deeply concerned about the fate of a cricket who was living in the ceiling at work.


Update: There was no cricket. A coworker's cell phone was set to the "cricket" ringtone. My stomach had been in knots over the suffering of a piece of technology. End scene.

The strategies all fail to realize the only 2 ways in to the park are via the Disney controlled monorail and the Disney controlled boats. As these areas are heavily defended now, there is no way to take the park.

You think Disney employees cannot be bribed? I laugh in your face.

Gotta love a 62-year-old air guitarist! (I was there, watching from the green room as I prepared for my turn on the stage...she rocked the house!)

Thank you.

I have to tell you, I am benefitting more from pinterest than any other social networking type site. I have found some great interval treadmill workouts, found really good recipes, and have found hairstyles that I like. I guess it's like the lazy person's google in a way. Like, I could google interval treadmill workouts and read through what pops up, but it's easier if someone's already vetted it for me. I know you occasionally get some "what's the deal with pinterest" questions, so I thought I'd share.

Thanks for sharing!

Beware the lazy vetters, though -- or at least keep in mind that not everyone has the same taste. After Googling "Best gingerbread cookie recipe" recently, I learned that other people have very different version of "best."


FWIW, I'm looking for something really chewy and dense, spicy and not too sweet. Anyone have a recommendation? A friend and I made this recipe from the internet a few years ago (We both swear it was called "Best Gingerbread Cookie,") but we have never been able to find it again. Sadness.

Are the etiquette rules for operating an iPad in public the same as a cell phone, or the same as a book?

Ah-ha, but you are leaving out vital information. What are you using the i-Pad for? If you're reading a book on it, then book rules apply. If you're using it to watch a movie, check your Facebook, etc, then device rules apply.


In either case, human interactions happening around you should take precdence over anything you are reading or searching.

Not to dwell on this, but do tell: Are they like 1970's style crank phone calls?

If a 1970's crank caller had done nothing but read 50 Shades of Grey on loop for the past several years.

I guess it's better the cricket ringtone than the duck or dog one, then. Imagine your consternation if you were unable to locate the duck trapped in the ceiling.

This is SO TRUE.

Seen this on George Takei's FB page?

I know that we've had some divisiveness regarding George Takei's online brilliance, but I'd like to state for the record that I just love him.

But if you use earphones? Then it's the same as a book. Cell phones = noise, so they're automatically rude in public. Just ask your former colleague, the great Judith Martin.

I'd like to open this to the floor.

You are sitting on a bus. One stranger is reading a paper-and-ink book. One stranger is watching a movie on his iPad, with headphones. Do you view these strangers equally?


Now. Same question, except instead of riding on a bus with strangers, you are riding in a car with your spouse -- you are the driver, spouse is the passenger. He/she is either reading a book or watching a movie on iPad with headphones. Do you view these activities any differently?

For years, I have been a fan and active participant of the WaPo Travel Chat on Mondays. Then, I started looking at some of the others and now actively read Tom's Restaurant Chat, the Food Gurus' Free Range, Dear Prudence, Carolyn Hax and, obviously, the Web Hostess. Good thing I work nights because I make sure I tune in to these weekly and feel so lost when someone (cough, cough) misses a week... or two... or three. I am growing my brain!

We are so happy to have you!

and missed your chat last week, but I can make it now. I have to do all that converting now, to west coast time, since everything (everywhere!) is on east coast time. I'm sure you're relieved that I know how to subtract three. I'm getting very good at it.

Congratulations on the move! I don't know if I could handle this chat at 11 am. I need to be fortified.

And it is terrible. And awesome. Terribly awesome and awesomely terrible.  (And historical, I suppose.)

Appropriately, the castle-ruin setting he has used for this video makes it appear that the whole thing could be taking place post- the Hogwarts v. Cinderella battle.

A light bulb has recently gone off over my head about people who complain about others' Facebook updates. While there are certainly some universally distasteful practices, most of them boil down to, "[PERSON] doesn't use Facebook the same way I do! She posts way too much about kids/lunch/politics/photos with bad filters/whatever! I don't do that, and I don't like it when other people do! They are doing it wrong!"

Well, sure. And couldn't we extrapolate that to how the world works offline, too? I don't like Person X, because they do things differently than me?


That being said, there are some things that are just bad manners.

We did a story on this. It's fantastic, isn't it?

Movie w/Ear Buds vs. Book in public = same treatment Movie w/Ear Buds vs. Book in car by spouse = same treatment

I'm waiting to see if everyone feels the same way...

If you are reading and book and someone interupts you, it is usually not a big deal as you can start again easily. In contrast the movie is a bigger deal to restart, thus you will be more annoyed at the interaction with people around you.

So you're answering this from the perspective of the user, not from the perspective of whomever has been doing the using?

I meant, "not from the perspective of whomever is around the user?"

Is All Recipes's Big Soft Ginger Cookie. I usually add a little more ginger and some nutmeg. SO GOOD.

Is it dense? That's important. I don't want a fluffy, crumbly cookie. I want something that borders on brownie texture.

Reading a book and watching a movie with earphones are equal, no matter where you are. If you are in the car with your spouse, and you want to talk (or have him/her be navigator, etc), he/she should put the book/movie away. If you don't want to talk, he/she can amuse himself/herself any way (quietly) he/she pleases.


At a rock concert last night, I was approached by a guy who asked if I was on a certain online dating site. Surprised, I said I was, and he said he'd seen me on the site, and then added that he had messaged me but I never responded. I had no memory of his message, but stammered out something about how there must have been a reason that probably had more to do with me than him (I have a number of religious and drug-related immediate deal breakers), and looking vaguely hurt, he melted back into the crowd. I felt bad, but how the heck was I supposed to respond to being put on the spot like that?

It sounds like you dealt with this exactly correctly. And maybe your instincts in rejecting his advances to begin with was spot-on. Because a person who would approach you with that kind of accusatory introduction seems pushy and potentially aggressive.


On the other hand, if he had approached in an organic way -- "Great band!" -- and eventually circled around to the dating site -- "I know this will sound weird, but you look a lot like a woman I've found interesting on" -- then he might have proven himself to be someone you were actually interested in dating.


Chatters? What would you have done?

View them differently in both situations. When you have headphones on, you can't hear anything. On the bus, that means you don't hear me say "excuse me" 1,000 times so you will get out of the way. In the car, that means you can't hear me say "do I need to get off at this exit?" You are less aware of your surroundings, so I view it as more rude. Unless it's a person with a full-size newspaper who is spreading it into my personal space on the bus, then the iPad wins.

I was wondering if anyone was going to bring this up. Reading a book is a solitary activity that still exists -in this world.- Watching a movie on an iPad is something that requires multiple senses. It takes you out of this world, which makes it more difficult for the people stuck on earth to interact with you.


I'm not saying that books aren't transporting, but I think it's a different thing.

I disagree that book rules apply if the user is watching a movie with earphones. Say, for example, you have the iPad propped up in front of you playing a movie (with earphones) at a restaurant. The flickering of the screen would be distracting to other diners. And I would weep for humanity.

Yes. This is the other point I was waiting for someone to bring up. Books (whether read on paper or on Kindle/nook/etc) are static, black and white pages that do not immediately draw the attention of people nearby. But have you ever sat next to someone watching a movie on an iPad on the Metro? It's nearly impossible not to look over their shoulder -- no matter how much you want to respect others' privacy.

I don't want to interact with the subway rider reading the book or watching the movie to interact (unless you're the cute brunette with glasses on the Yellow Line - call me maybe!). As long as they're not disturbing me, I don't care if they're reading a book or watching a movie or playing Angry Birds. I may occasionally wish to engage with my (pretend) spouse while driving. A book lets me say something and get a response. Headphones discourage conversation and it almost makes it seem like you're a chauffeur.

Thanks. This is why I posed the two different scenarios. Our expectations for interacting with strangers are different than our expectations for interacting with friends or spouses. So an seatmate's iPad might not annoy you, but your friend's iPad might.

I would have found my friends and slowly made my way out of the concert, while checking over my shoulder to make sure I wasn't being followed. I'd also be slightly scared.

Yes, yes. An escort to your car after the concert could be a nice safeguard in those circumstances.

He is an adult, he will get over it. Yes you handled it fine. One question... I understand having religious & drug related deal-breakers, but what kind of an initial message was this? "HI! Wanna get high after Synagogue?"

I think the chatter just meant that he sent a message, but when she scoped out his profile, he was listed as "Evangelical Christian" or "Avid smoker," or any number of other things she knew would be a deal breaker.


Then the question becomes, I suppose, Did she owe him a response to that initial message? Something saying, "Thanks for your note, but I'm looking for someone who shares my faith?" Or would that have opened him up to trying to convince her to give him a chance?

I lean toward the latter, but.

So there is a subcategory to the great cookie division (people who like crisp and people who like soft), eh? Do boxed brownie mixes still have separate directions for "cake-like" and "fudgy"? I believe the former required one more egg.

The secret to good brownies is to not only make them according to the "fudgie" directions but also to take them out of the oven 5 minutes early. Obviously.

Next you'll be telling us the moon landing was staged! (Man, I wish I could "like" your answers in the chat)

The moon-landing was not staged. It was just manned by a cricket. Or rather, cricketed by a cricket.

Not necessarily so. When I read, I get very absorbed and tune out everyone. I frequently surface to find people standing in front of me saying they had been trying to get my attention. Therefore, I still think reading/watching a movie with earphones are equal.

For you personally, maybe (and for the record, I get this absorbed in books, too). But I'm still unmoved by this argument.

You know, I actually totally disagree that reading a book or a newspaper still places you "in this world." At least for me, if I'm really into what I'm reading, I HAVE to block out sound otherwise I can't keep two thoughts together. I try to be as polite as I can, but if I'm reading, it would take someone 2 or 3 times of saying Excuse Me before I heard them. Not intentionally! As an aside, why do people sometimes call you cupcake? It sounds so belittling and rude... why do you put up with that?

Again, I get that absorbed with books. I get it. I really do. But in my experience, the people who get that absorbed in what they're reading get even more absorbed in what they're watching.


Furthermore, when someone does get your book-reading attention, all they have to do is say, "This is my stop," and your'e immediately on the same page. Whereas with headphones, there's the signaling, then you saying "What?" and then you're taking out your headphones, and then they're feeling really bad that they made you take out your headphones. Not to mention the fact that you think your headphones are quiet, but we can all hear whatever you're listening to, anyway.


I'm not saying people should never watch movies in public. I just think it's different than reading a book.


As for Cupcake: Since the chat is called "Web Hostess," someone asked me early on if that was like "Hostess Cupcake."


I rather like it.

I'm sure this has been discussed here or elsewhere on the internet: is there a word or phrase for the phenomenon of watching a TV series years after it airs on TV and feeling a sense of loss when you don't have a community of other watchers to share the latest developments? For example, I just finished Season One of Mad Men and never got to have a "Is Peggy pregnant or not?" discussion with my coworkers.

There should absolutely be a word for this, if there isn't one already.

Because humans are hard-wired to look around them at moving things, so that that saber-toothed tiger doesn't creep up on you unawares. It's why knitting at church or the opera is rude; people around you can't help being distracted.


Ugh, a fear I have is seeing someone I've "rejected" online, in real life. Side story, I did see a dating profile of a friend of mine from earlier in my life. That was weird and the reverse of seeing online people in real life.

It is weird, isn't it? A little bit like seeing them naked -- knowing what they're most proud of, what they think will put them in the best possible likght, etc.

I think Jiminy Cricket is in charge of defense of the Magic Kingdom.


as someone who dabbled in online dating, I found that "explaining" rejections got burdensome. My rules were revised to respond to those men who put thought into their inital contacts (ie mentioned something in my profile) rather than those who were like "nice smile" or "hi". Of course, the "wanna *****?"" ones never got a response (though perhaps they are the ones submitting cuss words, etc. to you now?) Regardless, one of the "hi" guys I never responded to is now in a very serious relationship with one of my good friends. that was initially awkward on its own level. DC--such a small town.

This is a good rule of thumb -- the people who put thought into their initial messages deserve thoughtfulness in your responses.

When I started internet dating, I thought (like you) that each message received should be given a nice little response, even if I wasn't interested. However, I received SO MANY follow ups to my "I think we're looking for different things, good luck with your search" that I quit writing them at all. Responding to my "not interested" with a "WHY AREN'T YOU INTERESTED IN ME?" only leads me to be SUPER not interested.

On the other hand, they all completely validated your non-interest. Check!

Then there are the people who are convinced they will not at any time go on FB because they "couldn't care less how many times a day someone goes to the bathroom." Maybe people post that kind of thing but I have NEVER seen a post like that. If they won't go on FB then how do they know anything about what people post? There is much to be gained from FB, including getting mildly reacquainted with old friends.

I've made this point repeatedly, but thanks for making it again. Complaining about something you know is one thing. Complaining about something you don't know at all is completely ridiculous.

I frequently measure cookie density by whether my teeth marks (if you ever had braces, you bit the heck out of things to see your straight teeth- or maybe I am a weirdo) stay in the cookie after a bite. Do you think this would work as a barometer for you? If so, THESE ARE DELICIOUS.

These -do- look delicious.

One big assumption is that I can't hear the sound even though the iPadder is wearing headphones. Too often, the sound is still annoying in common waiting areas (maybe wouldn't be a problem on a noisy bus?). With that assumption, though, movie = book to me. No prob in public. On a car trip, there are too many variables; short rides are good for spending time together and talking, while long trips would be different. I favor audiobooks for all on vacation drives, but whatever suits the travelers is fine by me.


I remember once on the metro I was standing next to this beefy could-be-intimidating-in-an-alley guy. Piercings, Tapout t-shirt, head nodding. What was he listening to? Avril Lavigne's "Complicated." Dude. We can all hear it.

I love those moments.

Thanks for your thoughts! I was alone at the concert but not really scared - he seemed more awkward than dangerous. Deal Breakers: I'm a Jewish non-smoker who shares a lot of entertainment preferences with stoner atheists who list any kind of religious practice as THEIR deal breaker. But if I write back with a "no thanks", they just swear and whine that they'll be willing to quit pot and go to Seders with me, and insinuate that I'm being narrow-minded and unfair. So I just don't write back, because I'd rather not anger all the guys who don't fit the bill. Especially if, as this incident proved, they can sometimes recognize me in public. Dangerous for a lone woman.

Thanks for writing back. And yes, as an earlier poster pointed out -- anyone who responds to "I'm not interested" with "Yes you are, you just don't know it yet" immediately goes in the discard pile.

If you are watching an iPad while wearing headphones on the Metro, there's a good chance someone will rip the thing out of your distracted hands as the door opens for the next stop. Never heard of anyone doing that with a book.

If someone was that desperate to read a book, I'd actually be rather tickled by this theft.

I met my wife online after some years of internet dating (yes, I'm a male). I got many of those "Sorry, not interested" replies and I always responded with some version of "I understand, thanks for your reply + honesty." A few women actually wrote back and I ended up going out with some (no, not my wife). Never take rejection personally... ESPECIALLY in on-line dating.

See guys (and gals)? This is how its done.

Little did you know the pierced Tapout guy was headed downtown to a concert to find out why he keeps getting rejected on online dating websites....


I vote for the Universal studios employees win. They can have tatoos, piercings and longer hair so they look more menacing.

Inside perspective!

On Monday I have two veterinarian appointments and an eye doctor appointment. Is it fair for me to take a sick day instead of a vacation day?

I vote yes. And since it is too late in the chat for many others to ring in, my vote reigns supreme. Hope you feel better.

Well, I have. but I use FB anyway. I just block people who post that kind of thing.

Another suggestion.

I agree people shouldn't criticize that which they know nothing about, but this chat has had plenty of weeks chock full of examples of people posting way too much shiz I don't care anything about. More than enough to reinforce my opinion (also gleamed from personal experience with friends/family who talk about their FB experiences) to know that I'm not missing any posts that would improve or amuse my life. Also, getting mildly reacquainted with old friends sounds as fun & useful as an enema. But I know I'm in the minority, so I keep my grouchy opinion to myself for the most part. Current post excluded, of course. :P

I appreciate your thoughtful response. And yet it is impossible to "know you're not missing anything" if you have never tried said thing. Good heavens, even I'll admit that about cocaine. I know I don't want to try it, but I wouldn't say that I'm "not missing anything." I'm sure I'm missing lots of stuff.

Shouldn't this kind of whiny stalking be reported to the site authorities? So they can contact the whiner to remind them to take no for an answer?

No. Unless the person is being threatening, it's not worth reporting to the authorities. It's just the kind of thing they need a good friend or a big sister to address. "Dude. Knock it off. You sound desperate and creepy."

I thought they were the same but I totally agree with you and poster. LOOK, someone's opinion has been changed on the internet!

This chat has  accomplished the impossible. We probably never need to come back again.

But, of course, we will come back. Next Wednesday. See you then.


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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