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

Sep 05, 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. Today we'll begin with a simple etiquette poll. (We'll probablyend very far from there). Here we are:


When you send someone a personal email -- i.e. non-business -- you are incensed if you do not get a response

A) Within the same day.

B) Within 24 hours.

C) By the end of the week.

D) Another unspecified time.

I assume there will be a variety of caveats, i.e. "It depends on whether my message is, "Let's have lunch tomorrow" or "Just thinking of that funny time we went to that restaurant.""


As much as you can, please try to generalize your expectations and think about when feelings of annoyance would first begin to infiltrate your brain.


Answer this question for email as well as the following mediums:

A) Voicemail.

B) Message via Facebook or some other well trafficked social networking site.

C) Text message. For Text Message, please also add on the following options: E) Within the hour. F) Within five minutes.




Submitting early because, you know, work sucks. Also, this may be less cheerful than our usual fare, but you seem to be the only one to bring this to. A high school classmate of mine died earlier this year after a battle with cancer. (Skin Cancer at age 35. Seriously guys, get your moles checked). I learned about this the same way I learn about everything to do with HS classmates I haven't spoken to in years: Facebook. In the immeduate aftermath of his death, lots of people posted pictures of him from throughout the years and we all posted our memories. It was actually pretty cool and a nice way for us all to remember someone we lost too young. However, in the months since, he still gets tagged in photos on facebook and thus I keep getting notices in my facebook feed that "x was tagged in a photo." In rarer cases he gets tagged in a post, as if he's with the person where ever they are making the post. I find this all a bit creepy. The structure of facebook is such that it gives an active voice to all posts so it seems to animate the people involved, as if they are actively doing something, even if they aren't. This obviously is inapproriate for a deceased person. I guess my question is, for how long after a person is dead is it still appropriate to tag that person in posts and photos? In the immediate aftermath, sure. But six months later? a year? I guess a broader philosophical question is whether its appropriate to include the deceased in posts on facebook. Should facebook be simply a forum for the living? ok, that was heavy. Sorry. I am going to eat a cupcake.

Yellow with chocolate frosting, please.

The process you're describing isn't all that uncommon on Facebook, and it doesn't bother me if it doesn't bother the people closest to the deceased. But if his parents or spouse were really disturbed by this, they probably would have already contact Facebook and asked for his account to be removed. The fact that they didn't likely means that they find some comfort in the fact that people are continuing to remember and think of their son after his death.


Chatters? Your take?

Email--within 24 hours. I have one exception to this rule, for a friend who only checks his email a few times a week due to his nutty schedule. But I KNOW that about him, so no biggie. Text--within the hour, because if I'm texting you, it's about something that is being planned or I need to get ahold of you immediately. Voicemail-Don't really use it. Facebook message-same as email. After the 24 hour mark, I start to get super annoyed, especially if it's about making plans.

Okay, you make an exception for the friend you know doesn't use email often. Do you make other exceptions for friends who might not often text, or who don't go on Facebook every day? Or does everyone in your friend circle use the same means of communication? 

Really- it typically depends on where *I* am coming from. It's more of - am I just hanging around and waiting for a response vs. I'm out and about and vaguely checking my messages from time to time. I try to remember that people aren't on facebook or email or whatever as much as I am. I *just* started to text a few months ago, and I don't see the big deal (I can *only* get texts on my phone, but my email/facebook are accessible from any internet device.

Wait, I'm confused. Your level of annoyance depends on how busy you happen to be at the time? But how would the people you're waiting to hear from know how busy you were? Do you include in the message, "I'll now be hanging out and waiting for a response" or "No need to rush a response, because I'll be out and about and vaguely checking my messages from time to time?"

My mother-in-law just discovered the honey badger video. Now everything out of her mouth is "honey badger don't care", "honey badger this", "honey badger that"...... HELP!!!

You think this is bad, but it's good. (No, really, bear with me). Your mother-in-law has already shown that she can have an appreciation for memes. She craves them. She wants to be part of the zeitgeist. She just doesn't realize that the zeitgeist she's living in is last year's. All you have to do is give her a bigger meme vocabulary, forwarding her new videos so she can start saying things like, "Let's do this Oppa Gangham Style" instead. Honey Badger is just a phase. We all went through it and we all grew out of it. 

"incensed" is a bit strong, no?

No. You could replace it with irritated, annoyed, disgruntled, etc, but all can be used to varying levels of unhappiness, and all imply the same thing: You are bothered.

(BTW, I'm getting some messages from people using words like "furious," so word appropriateness is in the eye of the beholder. I tried to choose a word that people could apply their own emotions to.)

Response times for online chats with Washington Post employees is RIGHT NOW!


Hilarious. One of the few non-politically charged events of last night (although I'm sure some will take it that way). 

It's just so elaborate. I think that's what makes it. It's not just a casual, "Let me get this hair out of my face and move on." It's very swooshy.


Anyone else have nominations for potential memes to come out of the conventions so far?


Besides, I don't know, Clint Eastwood talking to a chair? (Eastwooding?!)

Although I rarely get 'incensed' about non-responsiveness, if I have sent an e-mail that requires notification back, I would generally say (C) By the end of the week. That also holds for Facebook just because I know that not everyone accesses their computers daily (even with the advent of smartphones - I very rarely use my phone for the social networks). Voicemail or texting, I usually hope to have a response within the hour (even though you didn't offer that option for vm), barring circumstances such as the person being at a job where cell phones aren't allowed.

Thank you.

Part of what I'm trying to get at, obviously, is how much we expect other people to be tethered to their mobile devices, and how much leeway we give to people who have different behaviors and practices than we do. Several people have written in saying, "Well, I'm never on Facebook, so I wouldn't expect a Facebook message before a week was up." Others, who are presumably on Facebook every day, seem to expect a response within 24 hours.


I wonder how respectful we are of the communication modes others have chosen to use.

Everyone else I know is essentially glued to their phones and often on facebook . I don't email people who don't email often. What bothers me is when I use a person's preferred means of communication and they STILL don't get back to me within a day. I would think that if you have one prefered means of communication, you would regularly check this!

Thanks for writing back. I'm going to post a counterpoint below.

good grief. not cutting friends much slack here. what if someone's just tired, or doesn't want to email, or, you know, doesn't want to have to justify a 24-hour absence from technology to a friend.

This gets at a really interesting point, I think. Before cell phones and email, if we didn't get a call back, I think the default belief was that someone hadn't gotten the answering machine message yet, or there was a valid reason for not returning it, i.e. "Oh, Jane was at work all day, and then maybe she went out to dinner, and then maybe by the time she got home, it was too late to call."


In other words, she might have been too tired/not feeling sociable/etc but it was easier to justify absence.

Now, if someone doesn't make themselves available immediately, we don't cut them slack. We often just assume they're ignoring us or being rude.


Is there truth to what I'm babbling about?

Of course you've already seen this

What I really love about this video is that every time someone says "desert," they're clearly talking about "dessert," and there's tray of cake rolling past in the background.

I used to be (A) when I would send an email -- why can't they respond right now!?! But I've consciously tried to relax about it, and now don't really care - well, if they're not going to respond, why worry about it? This is problematic only in that a large portion of my work depends on email responses! Same with all other methods -- if they're not going to respond immediately (or at least within a few hours), I kind of just don't think about it. Much less stress involved -- and frankly, I kind of assume if they haven't responded in a day or so, they read the email and were going to respond but forgot to do so.

Thanks. That's why I specified "personal email." There's a whole different set of rules for business email -- and while it might be frustrating for a work email to not be returned, you're probably not going to take it personally.

My spouse and I have an informal contest about the animal photo-submission sites, in that it only takes about 3-4 pages of submissions before someone has to get their child's picture incorporated into the meme. If I wanted to see pictures of their children, I would be on Facebook. That is all.

Oh, has dog shaming become child shaming now? What a pity. For the public and the children.

Funny that you mention this. A friend and I had emailed a bit about light things, and he asked how I was. I went off on a bit of a rant (yesterday wasn't a great day for me). He hasn't written back. It hasn't quite been 24 hours, and I'm peeved. Particularly after seeing him post on Facebook (though I'm sure he checks that more than email). It's not like I wanted an immediate response, but a "there, there" would be nice. In general, though, as long as the email isn't anything urgent, I'd say 3 or 4 days is when I'd start getting antsy. Facebook and text, if the message warranted a response, if I didn't get one within 24 hours (Facebook) or 3-4 hours (text), I'd get frustrated.


"Particularly after seeing him post on Facebook."


Yes, I think this is part of it. We have so many ways to keep tabs on each other now: "I know he has access to the Internet because he's been Tweeting all day. I guess I'm not as important as Twitter."

She's practising to be the next Cher (the hippie-straight-hair one, not today's Cher).

I hope so. Her parents are obviously stunning.

A friend of mine on Facebook posted a picture of Karl Marx standing next to an empty chair, as proof that the President really IS a Marxist. :)

Are you saying that the president not only faked the country on his birth certificate, but also the time -- and he was really a mid-19th century revolutionary hanging out with Karl Marx? It all makes sense now!

Eastwooding, it's a bit like planking with some bro icing thrown in. I'd like to see a Bros Eastwooding Bros meme get started.

I don't even know what that would looke like, but I would fully support you starting it.

Unfortunately, I also have experience with this. A friend died a few years ago and immediately after the death, her page was a great place to post fun pictures and remember what a great lady she was. Then things turned weird. For months, an acquaintance was posting about how my friend would come to him in dreams and help him solve mysteries (no kidding) and it got to be too much for a lot of his close friends to handle. Her parents have kept his page up because they still like seeing the positive things, but I can't imagine that any parent wants to hear about how their daughter's spirit helped so-and-so find his keys. The other thing that seems weird about the whole thing (and I know it happens in real life, too) is the FACEBOOK SAINTHOOD given to those who are dead. People (who were not entirely close to her) write in a year later and talk about what a great friend she was and how she was perfect and honestly, one of the best things about her was that she WASN'T PERFECT. She could be super snarky and didn't entirely enjoy people all that much. She just knew how to work a room and then would delight in the rehash of the evening later. It's frustrating and sad and as I type this, I still can't believe she's gone.

I'm both incredibly moved by your testimony to your friend -- realizing that it was her imperfections that made her great -- and incredibly stunned by this dream-ghost solving mysteries. What a poor, disturbed man. Who should clearly stop posting on Facebook and dedicate himself to developing this idea into a pilot on CBS.

As someone who lived my first 55 years with only snail-mail -- where a domestic personal letter or post-card could take up to a week (or more) to arrive, depending on the part of the country, and foreign correspondence was via those old pale blue fold-up aerograms (do you even remember those?) -- I rarely get my knickers in a twist if someone doesn't reply to a personal email within a few days. Should my message be time-sensitive, I make sure to put that fact in the subject line, so the recipient doesn't have to be a mind-reader. This way there's less stress in life.

"Knickers in a twist" is such a fantastic way to describe irritation. I should have used it instead of "incensed." How long before you get your knickers in a twist?

This happens to me fairly regularly--I was friends with some people who had the same genetic condition I had, and several of them have died. However, on their birthdays, people still post to their walls. Pictures of one person's daughter are still tagged and placed on her wall, with notes about how the daughter is doing written "to" the deceased. After awhile it got to be too morbid for me, so I "unfriended" the person, because it felt creepy and almost voyeuristic seeing these sorts of posts popup. I think that memorial sites are fine, but when they veere into a sort of quasi-aliveness, it gets weird. Don't know if this makes any sense?

It does. I think you're saying that you don't mind when people are fondly remembering good times they had with the deceased, but it makes you uncomfortable when they're talking to the deceased. Although people often do this at gravestones, and I don't think we generally think that's unhealthy. A private activity, maybe, but not unhealthy.

I think she spotted herself on-camera on a TV screen and she was fascinated by seeing herself and what she could do. I doubt she realized that EVERYBODY could see her.

If her parents are worth their salt, they'll have a copy queued up every time a new boyfriend comes to the house in 12 or 13 years.

Maybe the parents don't know how to block on FB, and someone could help them out?

Yes, I meant to add this in my response: OP, if you know the parents and would feel comfortable doing so, you might consider sending them an email saying that you're thinking of them, that you've noticed this activity on their daughter's board, and if it bothers them there's an easy way to fix it.

G - None of the above. I just don't care if people respond or not. But then, I don't keep my phone with me all the time, I check the Facebook once or twice a week for pictures of kids in the family, and I answer email when I feel like it. Why would I expect more out of others than I will do myself?

Your last sentence gets at these questions of expectations. You don't expect more of others than you do of yourself. I'm guessing that's how a lot of people would respond. The difference is that they have their phones on them at all times, would response to a text within minutes, and don't understand why everyone else can't do the same.

So I have to move to a rural area temporarily and I have discovered that rural internet is not so great. I watch most of my TV on the internet. How will I cope? I am afraid I may go into withdrawal. Any suggestions for dealing with this lack of unlimited high speed Internet?

I think it's time to get acquainted with your friendly neighborhood library, which probably stocks back seasons of several shows you haven't seen yet. The move is temporary, you say?

Any confirmation of the rumor that your home-girl QE II is going to order Prince Harry into rehab?

Ooh, I hadn't heard that, but she's such a stone cold fox. 

I'm hoping for a flashmob of Clint Eastwood impersonators-with-chair gathering at a set time in Charlotte.

That's brilliant. Someone get on this. Maybe via a petition.

I love television. Always have! And because some (most) of my friends don't have the level of rapture I do for it, they tend to get bored easily when I want to discuss it. So I love TV episode recap sites. I love the AVClub ones and used to really enjoy TWOP, but they've gotten very negative and unfunny lately I'm about to remove it from regular rotation. I want a place where I can get some good writing, some thoughts on ongoing story lines or themes, and interaction with other watchers. Any suggestions, cupcake or chatters? (Just thought I'd throw this out there, since the new TV season is about to start - yay!)

I'm quite partial to a few on (though the shows they recap lean toward the trashy) and New York Magazine's Vulture site is reliably fantastic for Mad Men and other erudite New Yorky shows.  Any shows in particular you're looking to read up on?

Just wanted to tell you that a friend was wearing her Edgar Allan Poe T-shirt yesterday (EAP portrait silkscreened onto it in Andy Warhol fashion) and a colleague asked her why she was wearing John Wilkes Booth. I guess those brooding mustachio'd guys all look alike.

Where did this Edgar Allen Poe t-shirt come from, and how can I get one?

For me it would be a double weighted equation of how important/urgent is the question and how often does this person check that form of communication. If it is urgent, I try to go to the form of communication that he/she responds fastest to. For memes or random funny emails, I don't expect a response.

I sense that you may even have an algorithm written out to help you calculate this. I like you.

and his famous "and no one heard at all, not even the chair"?

I wondered the exact same thing. But those joke have to be out there, right? Because they're so obvious! (Are they too obvious?)

I feel pretty much the same way Aziz Ansari feels about it.

Oh, this is worth a watch. Good find!

Thanks for posting the Oppa Gangham Style video last week!! My family (boys ages 6 & 8) is now doing the invisible horse dance all over the house. Psy is awesome. I especially like his too tight suits and two toned shoes. Cannot stop watching!

You're welcome. I hope this becomes a thing at weddings. I'd like to see big crowds of people do this dance.

If I'm at my desk most of the day, I don't really check my cell phone and leave it in my bag. I habitually leave my phone on silent as well. I have missed text messages from my husband for hours. It drives him crazy. I don't get why he just doesn't email me. He has a blackberry and an iPhone.

I'm like you. I never respond to texts and have no good reason why. I'm all over email, though.

Alas, there is such truth. As your great colleague Judith Martin says, it is not an advantage to have people think you are available 24/7/365.

So many things Judith Martin says are great, said in great ways.

Not so sure everyone is over it. Three dogs I see frequently are all named Honey Badger and are all under 1 year of age.

Oh no, their owners are over it. But they can't go changing the names now. It's embarrassing for everyone.

In answering your poll question, I'd like to throw in another wrinkle. I get my knickers in a twist when people use the wrong medium for the message, at least the wrong one IMHO. I consider text messaging to be for instant bursts, often for those that are extremely time sensitive. They are the most interrupting to receive. If you send me in a text, what really was an email, then my response is much slower. I do think that texts should get faster responses, but only if used "correctly" (IMHO again).

This is correct. A text message should only take 15 seconds to read and no more than 30 seconds to respond to. If either of these times is longer, then what you have sent is not a text, but an email in text's clothing.

The reason no one's making the joke is because, other than "Sweet Caroline" playing (or not) in bars & at sporting events, Neil Diamond isn't socially relevant, and hasn't been for about 30 years now. It would be like someone making a Fatty Arbuckle or Glenn Miller joke -- nobody would get it.

Oh, I think people would. I say this as a person born long after Mr. Diamond's peak popularity had already begun to wane.

I have one of these, and her parents must have taken over her account, because I sometimes get "[Deceased Friend] is now friends with [So-and-So]," and posts about the friend's charity foundation, "[Deceased Friend] has posted a picture..." I like getting updates on how the charity venture is doing but the delivery of the message creeps me out. Surely there's a way to mark a profile as "posted on behalf of" or similar.

I'm so sorry for your friend's parents. But yes, there would be a better way to deliver news about the charity.

Now I'm obsessed with finding a John Wilkes Booth T-shirt!

Or making one. Group project! (Except it would have to be made abundantly clear that you thought Booth was a bad, bad man.)

A very good reviewer is Alan Sepinwall at One thing I really appreciate about him is the commenting rules system - he moderates strictly, so absolutely no spoilers (not even references to previews of upcoming eps) and no disparaging comments to others ("attack the show, not each other"). He also scores a lot of interviews with actors and series creators.

Thanks. Although, the OP was specifically looking for a recapper, which is essentiall one big spoil. If Sepinwall reviews but doesn't recap, I'm not sure this would fit the bill.

they are so underused. I can access the book and video catalog and reserve materials on line from any library in my county and it gets delivered to my local branch. I have to explain to my kids that it's like netflix for books.

My local branch has been under renovation all summer. Stoked to see the unveiling next month.

Since Betty White endorsed President Obama for reelection this summer, perhaps she could appear in the chair -- and talk back to an empty suit.

Yeah, BettyWhite is getting quite the groundswell of recruitment.

So, I wanted to answer "eh, it doesn't really infuriate me", but then I realized, "yeah, it does" -- but, in my case (and I don't want to get *too* personal, even though the forum is anonymous), it's not anger, it's hurt. I guess that not getting an answer same day or so really hits on my insecurities of not being important enough to my friends, or the entire world for that matter, to warrant a response. Yes, it's neurotic, but it's what I got -- and I'm betting that there are more than a few like me in the crowd.

I think that just about everybody is like you. That's what's so infuriating and confuzzling about the multiple modes of communication we're all juggling. People can be hurt so much for  so little. You take lack of response as a sign you're not important to me -- meanwhile my phone is in the lost and found bin at the gym and I have no idea you've been texting.

But that's probably based on my own usage. I really loathe the expectations of instant response and constant wired connections. I have facebook but probably only check it every 6 months or so. I hate texting because people expect immediate responses on the idea that you'll respond as soon as you see it, but then I get drawn into text conversations, which I really have very little patience for in my busy day (seriously - my last relationship fell apart in part because he would text me regularly, then feel ignored if I didn't respond right away, even if he knew I was in the middle of running a 3 hour training!). I check my email a few times a day to make sure there's nothing that needs my immediate attention, but everything that doesn't demand an immediate response gets replied to all at once that night or the next. My rule of thumb: whatever's in front of me right now gets my undivided attention, and everything else gets scheduled. That probably makes me sound really difficult, but I really can't manage the constant interruptions in my day, and this is the only thing that works.

Posting. (And as we're short on time -- or out of time -- I might post a few others without comment, just for their perpectives.)

I get annoyed when I don't get an email response within a day, because I know that my own mailbox gets full of crap (sales, Metro alerts, other random stuff) and if I don't respond quickly the email will fall to the second page of Gmail and let's be honest, I don't know how to find the second page without searching for old emails). And then I'd forget about it until the person pinged me again for a response.

I'm usually the person who takes a long time to respond to an email and is wondering if the other person is mad at me yet. I have a habit of checking out when I'm home on evenings and weekends. I don't want to write emails or return phone calls. I do that during the day at work. I work, too, but utilize lunch hour, breaks, stay late, etc. because that is my get things done zone. Home is my be lazy and not turn on a computer zone. If I have a particularly busy week at work, it may take me over a week to respond to a personal email. If someone leaves me a voicemail over the weekend on something not urgent, I'm much more likely to respond via email when I have a few minutes at work. Is that ok? Am I allowed to respond in a different manner b/c it's easier?

It would depend on the nature of the communication. If it is an emergency (ex. 'help, I fell in a well and the dog is not reliable' or 'I heard on the news there's a riot in your neighborhood, are you okay'), I'd prefer a response within 24 hours. If it's a general 'how's it going' or 'i have some odd news', maybe 3 or 4 days? But at that point I prob would have forgotten I had contacted you so there would be no passionate annoyance. If we had plans to do something on a particular day and I contact you for details at the start of that day... I'd prob be annoyed after 2 or 3 hours? (depending on when planned activity was supposed to start?) I prefer phone calls/ voicemails. I don't remember my login/ or the email i used to create my Facebook page and I only have 200 texts a month so tend to ration them out based on priority/ emergency.

I think a lot of this is probably tied to how connected people are to their phones, etc. ie, if you are playing on your phone while watching tv, riding the bus, etc, you see no reason why people can't/won't respond immediately. If you take a break from your devices (ie are not the girl who stops running on the treadmill to return texts--though, good safety call that she stops running!--or constantly looking at your phone while at dinner with other real humans), then maybe you are more willing to cute people some slack for not being immediately available all the time. I guess my problem with people getting "incensed" or any word is that it carries with it an expectation that people are somehow doing something "to" you by not reacting in the way you would choose for them to react. It's a very self-centered approach to life. And I remain convinced that just because I could respond to you at almost any moment of my day, that doesn't mean I have to or should. I mean, I could work 15 hours a day, but I don't. Because I do other things when I'm not working.

has outstanding tv reviews if you like them nasty. Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and particularly True Blood. They also occasionally sit a 20-something in front of an 80s tv show and make them blog about what they are watching. Super Mario Brothers show with guest star Cindy Lauper, for example.

Yes, meant to include Grantland.

You got that right. I've been downloading talking books and ebooks for free to my iPod!

(Rural poster? You still out there? Take heed).

And if it takes more than three exchanges, please pick up the darn phone and call me!

I sense that a flowchart is needed. And probably exists somewhere, though I haven't the time to find it today. (How many questions are we up to? Feels like a lot).

106.34 million views. Carly Rae has nothing on Psy.

Plus, the spoofs have the potential to be so much cleverer than endless sports teams lip syncing in vans.

Ask about the flip side - how annoyed do people get by repeated attempts to get in touch with someone via email, text, etc - how much is too much??

Mayhaps we shall.

And speaking of next week -- we're 10 minutes past already, so I'm logging off for now.

Sidenote: If any of you have signed up for tonight's Washington Post-sponsored movie-screening of "For a Good Time, Call" at E Street theater, I'll be there, co-moderating a discussion after the movie. I've done a couple of things like this -- they're always fun. Come up and say hi afterwards. Otherwise, I'll see you next week. GSTQ.

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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