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

Sep 26, 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, everone, and thanks for stopping by. I'm writing to you from a cafe where my chai bought me precisely one hour of Internet access, meaning that we'll have to wrap up a tad early today, and that if I abruptly cut off early, you don't have to sent the dogs after me.


Let's get started at 2. But before that -- all of our chatting last week about Amazon Prime pushed me over the edge to sign up, at which point I learned that the entire West Wing series is available for streaming. Glorious election viewing, don't you think?

Monica: Have you followed the story about the Patriots fan who posted two nasty tweets about Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith after her team lost to the Ravens on Sunday? Smith's younger brother had just been killed in a motorcyle accident and this person thought it would be "funny" to tweet about it. Well, of course, the twittersphere went nuts, people easily discovered her real name and found out that she works, of all places, at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. She's gotten death threats. People have posted her home address and, as of this morning, her supervisor had received nearly 200 emails demanding she be fired. What makes it even more remarkable is that she has a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's in creative writing. Yet she knows so little about how the web and social media really work that she thought she could get away with this unscathed. If she does keep her current job, she had better stay there forever, because this incident will be enshrined on Google forever and no one would hire a person with such poor judgment, or such a callous attitude. What's amusing to me is that she know claims to be the victim of cyberbullying? What did she think would happen?

For those of you who missed this, here's an article the Baltimore Sun ran on the tweeting.


Obviously, this user made a wretched decision that showed both a profound lack of social media understanding, and, even worse, a profound lack of empathy. You raise an interesting question in wondering how long this will follow her, though. Is this career-ending? I don't think so. I'm curious to know what the rest of you think.


Here's another story the includes the apology issued by the offender this morning.

A friend of mine is trying to fund a project on Kickstarter. I think it's kind of dumb, but that's besides the point. The point is that he sends around regular messages to all of his friends asking us to link to the Kickstarter page on our own Facebook walls, to encourage our other friends to donate. I don't feel comfortable doing that, so I tried just ignoring the message -- but he followed up asking again if I would do it. What should I say?

Is your friend this man? Because I would probably fund this project.


Otherwise, no -- you don't have to feel any more obligated to let him rent our your Facebook space than you would let him put a sign in your yard or bumper stickers on your car. It sounds like your issue isn't with his particular project so much as its with the idea of advertising other people's stuff in general -- in which case you have a solid moral ground to stand on. Just tell him that he's not your only creative/entrepeneurial friend (He's not, right?) and that you don't want to set a precedent of turning your Facebook page into a billboard. You can't blame him for asking, and he can't blame you for turning him down. Badaboom. you know where the entire Babylon 5 series is available for streaming? Netflix doesn't have it, for what it's worth. :-(

Are you issuing a challenge for us? Surely someone here knows...

What does this even mean?

It means that typing in the name "Emma Watson" is more likely to lead you to an infected, virusy site than typing in any other celebrity's name. In other words, people are using Emma as bait.

I find this rather fascinating. Only one of the top 20 celebrities is a male -- meaning that the malware-creators are, in a sense, targeting the dudes they perceive will be hunting around for Emma Watson pictures rather than targeting, say, the ladies who might be hunting Robert Pattinson pictures. It's almost vindictive. I wonder what it says about  either Emma Watson or the people who would theoretically be looking for her.

In just 2 1/2 months, PSY has garnered 282.94M views of "Gangnam Style" to become the most-viewed hit of the summer (which does not include over 10 million views of the live Summer Stand concert performance, or the 55 million views of the duet version with Hyuna Kim), surpassing the early summer's viral hit, Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" which now stands at 271.06M views. All hail the South Korean wunderkind!

I think we can all feel good about this. I know I do.

Have you found anything on the lending library worth reading? I can see the advantages of the free shipping and even streaming (though it won't play on my wii so I doubt I'll cancel Netflix). If the lending library were more robust I'd probably join but I'm not sure it's worth the $6.60/month just yet.

I haven't even gotten that far. Did I mention it's the -entire- West Wing series?

What she tweeted was callous. But death threats? Demands she be fired? Posting her address? Of course that is cyberbullying.


Would you say that what she did to the Ravens player also constituted cyberbullying? Or something else? Would you say that in order for something to constitute cyberbullying there has to be a power imbalance -- and this woman holds no power over an NFL star?

Cupcake! Will you be reading JK Rowling's new book? I think I shall, but I'm worried that it just won't be as good as Harry. I mean, how can real life compete with Whomping Willows and Horcruxes and flying cars?

My review of said new book ("The Casual Vacancy") will be posted online tomorrow -- and my lips are squished shut until then.

Hi--i have a 2 pm meeting (again! Seriously, don't these people know you're on at 2?), but have two questions re a newer facebook friend that is doing two things I've not encountered before: 1--when he posts something, he tags a bunch of people in the post. But he posts as least once a day, and they're inside joke kinda things that I don't think my friends will want to see me posted in. I have the "approve tags of you" thing on, so does that mean unless I approve it, he's not spamming my friends' walls? 2--he's also apparently going through a time of it with someone, and working it through via odd facebook posts. I kinda want to say, "you know everyone can see that!", but then I think that's the point. He's a friend through an activity -- classes together, so we see each other a lot, the community has jokes, etc. -- and I never would've gotten the idea he was such a drama queen. I don't know him well enough to know if he is doing this for attention or if it's a real cry for help or what....

This guy sounds like a dangerous Facebook friend to have. Seriously. He's already shown that he doesn't have any problem naming names online -- whether to tag you for an inside joke or to lay out his own heartbreak. Your tag-approval settings should keep you safe, so there's that answered -- and if you're genuinely concerned about his behavior with the other emotional problem, then I might casually ask him about it: "Steve. It seems like you're going through something really rough online." If he's genuinely hurting, he might appreciate the opportunity to unload. If he's not, then you asking him about it might be enough to make him realize that his attention-seeking is starting to make him look weird.

I wrote a friend an email the other day. It wasn't time sensitive, like, "Do you want to have lunch tomorrow," but I thought it was pretty obvious that I'd like a response. She didn't write back, but in the meantime I received a mass email from her, sent to several of our friends. Thinking that maybe she hadn't seen my email, I wrote her again. This time she responded, but only to say, "I'm sorry -- I haven't been on email in days so I'm just seeing this." Um, obviously she -has- been on email, since she sent a message to a bunch of us that I received. Maybe she forgot I was on that list. Do I call her out on this?

Nah. She lied, which was weird, since it was an obvious lie that she probably immediately felt stupid about. It's possible, though, that she didn't see your message until you called it to her attention again (Have things ever been buried in your inbox?), or that she did see it, but was thinking through the best way to respond. Give her a break.

Mashing up two things that haven't been seen in over a decade: Ben Folds Five and Fraggles. The song loses me occasionally, but... Fraggles!

I'm going to admit that I was never a Fraggles fan or a Ben Folds fan -- and yet I realize that this video will exist so squarely into someone's wheelhouse that they shriek with delight over its existence.

I think we've gone over this (or something resembling this) before, but, is there a proper correlation between "type" of post and social media outlet? For example, a dear friend's spouse spends much of his/her time posting things that read like Facebook status updates on his/her Twitter feed. I don't know why this bothers me, but every time I read "Slept in this morning, snuggling with the cats" or "At the ghetto Safeway with the crazy lady ranting out front" as a Tweet, I instinctively want to reach for my yellow flag and give the penalty signal for "improper use of Twitter". I ge tthat this is *my* problem, not hers, but, am I at least correct in making the observation that "SHE'S DOING IT WRONG!" ?

This is absolutely correct. There are absolutely different messages that are appropriate for different mediums. However -- and I'm aware that reasonable minds might disagree -- I would argue that the messages you cite as examples are in a grey area, and could comfortably fit in either Facebook or Twitter. Twitter's original intent was to have people answer the question "What are you doing?" which is exactly what your friend's spouse is posting. The site has transformed  -- a lot of people use the site now to post links, commentary, etc. -- but plenty of people still use it like your friend's spouse.


Maybe this should be an Activity that we do here -- I'll post several examples, and we vote on whether they belong on Facebook, Twitter, email, etc. Hmm. Would this work? Would it be even remotely entertaining?

If you like him, his new app holds a number of his video bits, easier than maneuvering through the ABC website. His charicature is frightening though. I don't think the Emmy bits are there, but the Handsome Mens Club is. And music performances.

Thank you.


Nevarrrrr. (Hi Dan Zak!)

I really need me a big bowl of happy. What's the happiest place on the Interwebs?

Get thee immediately to Reddit's "aww" forum. I think you can guess what's there. Please take a moment to appreciate the Belgian Malinois puppy who has just joined the police force.


I don't know if I could call this bullying. To me, bullying is something that has an effect on your day to day life. I was bullied as a kid, and yes, it made going to school miserable, because it was constant, daily interaction that was inescapable. I don't think one tweet, like one nasty comment (from one person) on a blog, or anything else that's a one-time thing, is bullying. Bullying is a repeated thing, in my book. I also don't think this is fire-able worthy. She said something stupid, she's learned her lesson, and it didn't involve her employer at all. When you are off the clock, you're off the clock.

Thanks. This covers a lot of important points.

He is not going to get fired. His salary covers the cost of fame - of half-wits yelling out horrible things about his parentage. It's cyberbullying. She was trolling.

Ding ding ding.

I think we're swimming toward a dictum that acts of trolling should not be met with acts of cyberbullying. Two nasty Internet acts do not make a right.

Have you seen the story on the breakup of the Politico couple that happened on facebook over the weekend? Clearly an example of what not to put on facebook. What do you think about the story being picked up? I suppose if you put it all out there like that, you're fair game. On the other hand, I cringed while reading it even though I don't know them.

I've seen it. I even thought about linking to it here, because it so neatly illustrates things we talk about here all the time. Ultimately, I just felt to squicky about the whole thing. I'm not going to link to it here, for that reason, though the story is easily Google-able.


Without using names: an engaged couple broke up. The man poured his heart out in a series of ill-advised Facebook postings. It was a train wreck.


I'm not sure I buy the "If you put it out there, you're fair game" in this instance, though. One could make an argument that -he- was fair game. But his postings implicated his former fiancee just as much, and she hadn't done any chit-chatting.

I can take or leave Ben Folds. Ben Folds WITH FRAGGLES is beyond excellent.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts?

Is the only thing keeping me going through the election season! They've got all of Battlestar Galactica as well. (Hulu Plus does too)

I do not think that the previous poster will see Battlestar Galactica as an appropriate substitution for Babylon 5. But we'll put it out there nonetheless.

My son is 7, and so he dismisses a lot of my old bookmarks (, as "too baby", but his current favorite is not exactly the kind of "sneakily educational" experience I'm looking for. Do you or the chatters have any advice?


I have a FB friend, who is a real-life friend-of-a-friend type. Notwithtanding some annoying (but not odious or otherwise noxious) political views, this guy does something that I find really annoying: he'll post a status update, then *immediately* elaborate on the update as the first comment to his own post. I don't get it. Couldn't he just have included the extraneous info in the original post -- it's not like the info in the comment is of the "oh, I forgot to add" variety, and the posts are always overly long-winded, so there's room in the post to have included the info from the comment. Am I getting riled over nothing, or is this a thing?

I don't know if it's a "thing," but I've seen it done and it doesn't bother me. Maybe your friend-of-a-friend is a journalist. His status update is his headline. The comment is the story.

Here's  a UK blog describing some comedians who *encouraged* that response to trolling (or even things that weren't trolling, just uncomplimentary). (Please read the postscript since some of the celebrities have repented and mended their ways.)

This is fascinating -- thanks for sending it our way. It's too long for me to read now, but in skimming it I definitely know I want a closer look later.

Op here. You are correct -- these were bad examples. I think the distinction is supposed to be that Twitter is supposed to be "in the moment", and Facebook is about talking about what you've done or are about to do. I think it's about the "verb tense" of the activity, which is what I think my friend's spouse is getting all wrong (like I did in my question).

You're saying that "I'm so excited about going to Six Flags tomorrow" would be a Facebook post and "In line for Superman at Six Flags!" would be a Tweet?

Available through Amazon

You are absolutely correct. It's not free with Prime, but the episodes are there for $1.99 apiece. OP, did you not see? If the internet had existed when I was a kid, I would have not left this website for any reason.


How about National Geographic Kids? is good too

Posting. Several people have suggested National Geographic.

I'm guilty of that--in fact, I did it yesterday--and usually it's just because I wrote the status, then realized I left something out, so posted the comment below, because it was easier to do than rewrite the status itself.

Yep, that's another thing I was going to bring up. Facebook is entirely remiss in not having an "edit" function in addition to "delete." I can't count the number of posts that have haunted me because of a misspelling in the middle.

I have Amazon Prime too. Is the West Wing worth watching? The most I've seen of it our clips my friends have posted on Facebook which seemed awfully preachy. However, I like Dule Hill.

Oh, it's preachy. I still recommend it. The second season is better than the first, but I always like to watch series from the beginning.

My sister loves that her kid loves Minecraft. Slate had a column recently about kids using it:

Thankee. (And apologies for the long cut-and-paste. I couldn't get it to hyperlink for some reason).

I think a good public shaming and unfollowing of the stupid twit is sufficient without needing real names or personal details. Death threats and career suicide seem way too severe. She was a jerk for insulting Smith about something he's probably vulnerable about, but ultimately, sports taunting routinely rises to the level of personal cruelty without any ruffled feathers. It seems to me that the angry mob's feelings were hurt far more than Smith's. TLDR: public shaming of jerk behavior is a valuable lesson in social decorum; threats of real harm over a lapse in sports judgment is a witch hunt.

Posting. Although I'd argue that this type of "personal cruelty" should and probably did ruffle feathers. It's hard to imagine something more insensitive.

But wait! Facebook now has an Edit feature. I think it's somewhat new. Check it out!

It does have an "edit" function -- but that only allows you to change the date or time, or hide the update. It does not allow you to change "calander" to "calendar," which is all I really need out of life.

The internet has introduced a lot a "keyboard thugs." Death threats are not acceptable, but she does deserve to receive the wrath of the internet. No dear, your every utterance need not and will not be received they way you think it should.

Keyboard Thugs = good band name.

One big problem she faces is that she's certainly cost her employer money. Once things escalated to death threat level, I'm certain JHU Medicine had to make adjustments to its security team, and her supervisor has had to deal with media inquiries and email. So what she thought was a private tweet has had business ramifications. Not to mention the fact that there's now a Facebook page named "Run (NAME) Out of Baltimore."

This is an interesting point. Lots of people have brought up the "She can do what she wants with her personal time" aspect, but there is a point at which your personal-time activities can end up causing issues for your employer. As Johns Hopkins's media department is surely discovering today.

I can't believe someone would get worked up enough about "improper" social media usage enough to ask a question here. Really? How does it harm anything if someone decides to use Twitter to post War and Peace a little bit at a time with a comment on what every phrase means? I also can't believe I was moved to post this.

Fortunately, you posted it in the correct format, in the correct medium.

WHAT?! No way the second season is better than the first. The first is Epic Television. It's like the Gold Standard for Season1 of TV.

Unfortunately, Season 1 has a severe Moira Kelly problem. They took a likeable actress and made her all screechy and irritating the whole season long.

I am still in the process of mending from a recent break up of a long term relationship. This has been especially weird as it was my first break up in which a good many photos, messages, and friends were on Facebook (mid 30s). I haven't said a word about the break up online (and neither has he) and found myself deleting photos, entire albums of our vacations, status messages about the birthday party he surprised me with, staring at mutual friends and wondering what to do about it....But the kicker for me was when he changed his relationship status to "single" and just how many people *liked* it. It was such kick in the teeth for me because some people were giddy about it in a "whoo hoo! I liked her but now you can date me!" or "we can drink every single night!". Or other were people I knew liked me and still approved of the relationship change. I just hid my status so no one could see it. I find I always learn how to conduct myself after mistakes and this one has been a doozy. (And no, still haven't defriended him...seems I am bit of a masochist.)

Both of you have been admirably adult -- and I would urge you to try not to be upset by the "liking" of his single status. The Facebook like is a clumsy and complicated thing -- and often people use it to mean, "I see this. I acknowledge it. I'm here for you."


You know how, in real life, some people are prone to give long speeches of encouragment, and some people are prone to just offer a hug of condolence? It's like that. The people who "liked" his status change are the people who wanted to show their sympathy, but couldn't think of anything to write on his page. The "Like" was their hug. It had nothing to do with you.


And I'm sorry.

Actually, it's even more confusing: you're allowed to edit a post you make on someone else's wall/feed for a certain amount of time after posting it. But you're not able to edit the text of something you post on your own status. Very odd indeed.

Right, right. This.

Yeah, it's cyberbullying. What she did was rude, but what the twittersphere is doing is scary, socially and possibly professionally damaging and designed to harass and intimidate, if not actually result in physical harm. And if you think about the socially-accepted smack talk of sports fandom, what she did was still rude, but hardly that egregious. But even if it was egregious, it still didn't harm Smith or show a pattern of harassment against him. There's a big difference between being rude and bullying someone.

Posting. I think this just about covers it.

...also has Mister Rogers.

What else do we need, really?

All right, I'm going to go ahead and wrap up now, a bit early, because I fear the impending end of my Internet access is about to shut me down anyhow.

Stay out of trouble, on Twitter and elsewhere, and I'll see you next week. And GSTQ (who really needs it this time, since she's going through a spot of bother with the British press).

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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