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

Jul 25, 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.

I'm rushing to my desk after grabbing a sandwich after filing a story. No agenda as of yet, though I am sure one will emerge from the abyss. Be on the alert for impromptu polls. They may occur.

Can we have a moratorium on FB "age test" pictures? The first one or two may have been fun, but now any old object from the 70s is being trotted out for no particular reason.

This particular virus didn't take root in my Facebook community. There were a few Patient Zeros who tried to spread it, but it never caught on. Anyone else plagued by this? (Yeah, I watched "Contagion" last night. In addition to preparing yourself for impromptu polls, you might also want to shielf your immune system from some illness metaphors.)

I didn't think it was possible to love him more, except then I saw the pictures of his visit to CO. I'm approaching hero-worship here. What a great, classy thing to do.

Was it great and classy? I mean, yes, it was -- but I also think it was the basic human thing to do.  What an awful tragedy.

Nice piece on him. I've been reading the Slate series he's doing, Blogging the Human Genome. It is awesome; understandable for non-scientists (like me) and fascinating.

Thanks -- this is about a piece I had in the paper today. His new book is great. During our interview, I learned that we go to the same gym, and I shall now worry about seeing him here. It's a very strange relationship that journalists have with their subjects. You were never friends, but it might have felt like it, and your relationship verged between palling around and stalking. It's very intense for a few days, and then you disappear entirely.

What is the fascination with this? Am I missing something?

I could see staring at this for 20 or 30 minutes, just as a sort of brain vacuum. It's zen like a lava lamp.

Yes, agree. It's getting old (ha!) and it's not even that amusing. I was born in '82, but yes, I did have grandparents, I DID go to their houses, and I DID see a rotary dial phone! Shock!

I still own a rotary dial phone. It doesn't work anymore, but it's so pretty and there's such a nice weight to the receiver.

I read about Chik-fil-A supposedly creating a fake Facebook character to support them, but all the stories seem to have the same source - reddit. Any idea if it's true?

I haven't followed the story closely, but the Reddit story in question is this one.

Most of the assertions of fakery seem to be based on the fact that "Melody's" photos look like stock teen photos, not like  something a real teen would post on their Facebook wall. But even if Melody isn't Melody, that doesn't necessarily prove she's a Chick-fil-A spokesman, either. She could be anybody trying to protect their identity.


Has anyone else followed this closely?



I'm joining you live! from the west coast! I can subtract three!

Two weeks in a row!!

sometimes I'll run into people I'm connected to on FB but not especially friendly with. So I pretend that I'm unaware of the new baby/fab vacation/child's accomplishment/new tattoo, etc. It feels much to weird to preemptively announce, "so, I haven't seen or talked to you in ages, but I'm glad you enjoyed Botswana..." As for me, I don't post anything personal on FB, just links to things like Sherman Hemsley's obit.

I bet a lot of people do this, for the simple reason that if you don't know somebody that well, the things that you will be comfortable talking about in public are things like, How are the kids? Going on any vacations this summer? Are you still applying to law school? If you already know the answers to these questions, it's hard to know where to go next in the conversation.


So we play dumb, a little bit, in order to have more pleasant human interactions.

Even scarier if you're watching it on the plane and people near you cough occasionally.

My mother subscribed to the "It only has a little dirt on it" rule in raising me. If there ever is a mass airborne plague, my immune system is going to make me the passenger safely landing the jet while the pilot and passengers cough weakly in the background.

We need more.

A side benefit of this is that it immediately makes every site SFW.

Am I a bad person for not "liking in three seconds" the picture of the battered woman in the hospital bed? I really don't understand this meme at all. Frankly a lot of Facebook I don't really get these days.

Send it to me? This is another meme that hasn't touched my Facebook ring. It's always fascinating to see how some memes completely saturate communities but leave others untouched.

the new york times said you are a good parent if your kids get dirty and eat grass or such stuff. i prescribe to that (see, we only read stuff we agree with!) - and my kids are still alive. A low bar, sure, but still...

Where's the "but?" I totally agree with this. Because I, after all, am also still alive?

Interruption. Confidential to the person whose posting to me began, "I am sorry if my pesterings are burdensome."


I am never going to address the topic you want me to address here. Not ever. There are about seven hundred different forums devoted to that topic. This isn't one of them, and I think you know that. We can talk about just about anything else in the entire world. Thanks.

This has nothing to do with the internet, but everything to do with stranger-to-stranger interactions. What is proper etiquette for a communal table? Treat it like movie theater seating and leave space inbetween strangers? What if it is so crowded we're sitting elbow to elbow? Continue to ignore the people next to you? What if the napkins/salt/pepper is on their left and you are to the left? GAH this is why I sit at bars. Much more socially acceptable to strike up conversation with the person next to you.

Hmm. I would say that, if the table seats, say, eight, and there are seven empty seats, then it would be weird for you to take the seat next to the sole occupant. If the table is mostly full, then of coure you may sit next to a stranger.


And feel free to make polite conversation, ("It's raining like mad") but be sensitive to cues -- one-word answers, averted eye contact -- that imply your table partner would rather be left alone.


That about cover it? What else to add? (I'm sure Tom Sietsema's chatters have been all over this, or would be all over this, too).

 Courtesy of USA Today's Pop Candy. My mileage - Read it, read it, didn't read it, read it, OOH - need to go get that one!

Right in my wheelhouse, thanks!

Speaking of: Next week will be my last chat in the Post building before I head out on book leave to work on my own YA novels. This won't effect the chat at all -- I plan to carry on from my living room -- but my column will be on hiatus.


Again, if you only participate in the chat, you won't even notice a difference. Unless I begin saying things that lead you to believe I haven't left my house in five weeks. In which case, someone needs to stage an intervention.

Ha, try it with the link to this chat. You've been turned into a cat.

Thank heavens.

That wouldn't have something to do with a certain sparkly vampire and his girlfriend's cheating ways, would it?

Oh, of course not. Twilight is totally an appropriate discussion topic! What kind of monster do you take me for?


I'm so disappointed in Kristen Stewart.

Well that teaser is tantalizing. But telling us the topic would run counter to the "never discuss it here" stance you have taken. I'm sorry you're being pestered. It sounds more annoying than burdensome, but I could be projecting. Just want to let you know that we love you! And your multitude of topics! And I did a quick poll behind your back and none of us want to talk about that "topic-that-shall-remain-unnamed." So thanks for catering to your masses and not caving to that one person in the minority.

Thanks, guys!


And yes, as I suspected, everyone now wants to know what the topic is. I am not going to talke about it because I am not going to talk about it. Suffice it to say, the topic is NC-17, the topic has been presented at least once a week for several months now, and the topic is always presented in a way that feigns innocence while coming across as quite predatory. Which is what led me to finally address it -- if only to say, "I'm not going to address it, stop wasting your breath."


I mean, really now.

Yes, I'm a little surprised she did this (assuming she cheated on him). Do not understand the though process here. Hoepfully Rob will forgive her, otherwise the press tours for the last movie are going to be awkward!

Isn't this what happens? Stars fall in love with whomever they're doing a project with. Robsten will exist only in the vagaries of our memory several years down the  line.

maybe treat it like an airplane? if you're near someone, maybe start to talk and see if they're interested? they may just want to read their book (but probably not sleep...:)


Just finished The Fault in Our Stars by John Green--anyone that thinks YA fiction is lightweight should pick up this beautiful, devistating novel. Definitely one of my top 10 in the NPR poll


I don't know if this a meme per se, but I think I know what the other chatter was talking about with the battered woman picture on FB. Lately it seems like there has been an epidemic (contagion term!) of pictures of kids with cancer, anything soldier-related, old people holding hands, etc., with urge to "like" the picture if you agree that "cancer sucks" or whatever. I don't understand the point of these and as far as I can tell you can't just hide them from your feed since they come from all different places. I'm even more dismayed when some of my friends fall into this trap and like the stuff (which is why I'm seeing it in my news feed)...

I'm reminded of a picture that my colleague Dan Zak posted to the Tumblr account we co-run. The picture was of a malnourished kid in Somalia -- Dan posted it in order to send people to a fantastic article. The picture got a lot of reblogs, which was great -- but soon the reblogs began to take on a life of their own. They went from being, "Isn't this sad," to "You are an unfeeling jerk if you don't reblog this," which made both of us uncomfortable. People confusing reblogs with actual action-taking. It was very strange.

She DID cheat. Both she and the director have now issued statements. Hers ended with something like: "I love him, I love him, and I'm so sorry." The 'him' there being Rob... also so disappointed.. and such a middle-schooler statement. yeesh...

Aww, but heartfelt. I appreciate that more than some chipper, "We are working on strengthening our relationship" statement, which is what stars normally do, if they do anything at all. (Not that they have to. Since it's, like, none of our business).

In the case in today's paper of the alleged long-term sexual predation of a teenaged swimmer by her coach, which 25 years after a settlement the victim has now revealed: Will she (or her parents) be required to refund the payout from the coach that was in return for their silence? Or can they claim coercion by his side, which would nullify the confidentiality clause?

You believe me to be more highly educated than I am.

I see communal tables as restaurants as pretty much falling under the same rules as sitting at the bar. If the bar is almost full, of course you're going to sit next to a stranger, but you would probably leave an empty seat if there's plenty of room. And you usually can tell the people who want to have a conversation with the other people at the bar, and the people who just want to eat their book in peace with minimal interaction with other people.

"Eat their book in peace" is my favorite typo in the history of the universe.

I had a tv show shot in my house, so i started to talk with some of the crew, and saw how it went, and spoke with a friend of mine who used to work with some of the people involved. basically, filming is a whole lot of waiting around. a shot can take an hour or more to set up. makeup takes a long time. all of the process is about hurrying up and waiting. most of the people involved don't really have a life - because they are on call for what is goign on (really - they were filming almost 24/7, going from shoot to shoot, with changes and all happening all the time). so - they're doing a lot of nothing, together. it's no wonder that 'stuff happens' on a set...

Right. It's a combo of the long hours together doing your job, and the fact that your job frequently involves pretending to be in love. There should be some kind of mandatory waiting period for stars who want to date each other. Like, they're welcome to do it, but only if they wait six months after wrapping.


(I promise, guys, when I said we -could- talk about Robsten, I didn't mean that we -had- to. Next week I really need to get us back on track, don't I?)

Thank you.

Dunno if this is the original poster or not, but you're welcome. And I'm glad to have you here. To talk about anything but that thing.

I think it likely falls into the category of "there are some things you just can't contract away." That's the official terminology, btw.

I was trying to make this into a "some diseased you just can't contract," to bring back the Contagion thread, but I just couldn't find a way to make it work.

1. This discussion reminds me that I've been wondering what is up with all the communal tables at restaurants? When/why did this become a thing? 2. I take a bit of contrarian pleasure in refusing to like or repost any of the kid-with-cancer/abused-woman/brave-soldier/etc. stuff. Not because I wouldn't support those various concerns and causes IRL, but the Facebook phenomenon is pointless and snowballing. I treat it like telephone solicitation, where, even if it's a great cause, falling for it just validates the use of that method and ensures that its continued use.

2. You know what? Me too.

So that's why I'm so healthy? Because my mother didn't bathe me? I thought it was because the alcohol I drink kills germs.

Totally that, too. If you make sure to occasionally lick doorknobs, you'll be extra innoculated.

Weingarten has stated that there's just one topic he won't discuss, nor even identify. So you're in good company, Cupcake!

For the record, I'd probably even talk about this topic I've just said I won't talk about. Just not in the context that the poster was asking in. You know how you can tell the difference between someone being good-naturedly curious and someone being leery? That was the problem.

Can I friend you? I could always use more interesting people on my wall. Which makes me sound a little like a serial killer.

You bet. I think I'm friends with a lot of chatters. One day we're going to realize there's no point for us to get together on Wednesdays because we've all been talking all week.

That day has not yet come, however. For now, we chat.

Sorry for things getting derailed today, with all of the discussions of things we shall not discuss.

Next week we'll be back to abnormal. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter, @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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