Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Jan 16, 2013

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. Thanks for stopping by. Due to a technical mishap (by me), this chat was not built or promoted at all until about an hour ago, so we may have a very small group this time. Small but mighty, I hope.

Some of you might have followed the story of Katherine Webb story when it rose and fell last week.


Webb, in addition to being Miss Alabama, is the girlfriend of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron. At last week's game, announcers found her in the stands and spent awhile commenting on how attractive she was. 

Webb had a Twitter account, which, at the time of her spotting, had about 2,000 followers. Now @_KatherineWebb has more than a quarter million. 

Here's an ESPN piece that gives the full story. 

The Poll:


Katherine Webb's meteoric Twitter rise is:


A) Disturbing. It's objectification on a mass level, and I feel bad for her.


B) Fine, given the circumstances. Webb was already somewhat of a public figure, given her pageant involvement, and she obviously had a Twitter account because she wanted people to follow her. If she was a private citizen, I would feel differently.


C) Fine, in any circumstances. It was all in good fun, and this is what happens when you have an online presence.


D) Other (and please describe)

(And we will start at 2, as usual)

And, in the one small piece of good news to arrive in the wake of Aaron Swartz's death: the Westboro Baptist Church has cancelled its plans to protest the Internet icon's death, potentially because the Internet vigilante group Anonymous got involved. Anonymous both promised to form protective ring, shielding mourners from WBC members, and also hinted at doing a deep investigation into the Church.

Simply because now she has to provide those 250,000 followers with content. I'm sure she feels a lot of pressure to be interesting or funny. My 70 some Twitter followers don't care what I do, and that's how I like it.

Truly. It must be exhausting to be famous, especially if it emerges out of nowhere like that. 

I vote D! Nothing can be learned from studying twitter trends. But you can have fun observing them. They are as random as Starlings in flight...

Is this a line from a poem? Or is it somehow a reference to Jodie Foster's performance in "Silence of the Lambs?"

I hope its the latter.

I have seen Musberger defended as having 'complimented' Young Miss Webb. I'm sorry, but that's no more complimentary than construction worker lunch time wolf whistles. I watched with my daughter, the same age as Webb, and who has been subjected to being 'drooled over'. It's not a compliment, it's creepy.

I would like to see a dual study -- and I'm sure it's been done before -- focused on what men intend when they "compliment" women, and how women perceive these "compliments."


Take the regular occurence of men encouraging random women to "smile." This offends me more than any wolf whistle or other public address. I am also quite sure that most men who do it do not understand why its so offensive. 

I would almost be OK with them protest Swartz's funeral if it meant that Anonymous DID start digging around. That group needs to go.

I've never understood how they have the money to travel around to all of these funerals. They can't be hoovering up donations from outsiders, because everyone else in the country thinks they're wackadoos. And I know they're all trained lawyers, but it seems like they're mostly representing themselves.

I'd have to go with B). Given the circumstances and from what I've seen of her public persona, I think she's fine with it, and the amended golden rule (do unto others as they would like to be done to, as long as it doesn't mess with your own karma) would apply.

What if she was a public figure still, but found the attention uncomfortable? If she said, these Tweets have gotten out of control and I don't want the attention?

But not really. I must force-feed my foster cat during this chat. I'll try to get back, but I'll probably be covered in wet cat food so please excuse the smell. Oh, and as for the poll: answer is C or D.

Why is your cat not eating? How can we save this animal?

I really like the "Total Responses" and "Currently Online" counters at the top of chats, but would like to recommend one more be added: "Questions Submitted." It would help me take things less personally if I knew you weren't answering my question because it's one of a million you're trying to sort through, instead of worrying that you just don't like me. Also, ref. the poll, my answer is "D. boring." The objectification is nothing new, the brouhaha about sexism was typical and... whatever. I just hope that her tweets prove interesting enough for her to *keep* that big audience. Make it count, Katherine!

Right now, this is one of about 20 questions in the queue, just so y'all know what it looks like from my end. This is a very participatory chat. In other chats, there are a bunch of lurkers and a few commenters. Here, you all want to talk. Which I love. Keep it up.

She's a public figure and an adult. If she were either, a) a minor, or b) a private figure, it would have been more creepy.

Let's compare this to another case. It's similar in some ways to Allison Stokke, a teenage athlete whose picture was widely traded around the Internet in 2007 after a sports blogger commented on how attractive she was. Stokke was "public," in that she was competing in athletic events (she was also a legal adult at 18). But she was not "public" for her beauty, the way that Webb is.


I guess what I'm asking is: Does the fact that Webb competes in competitions that have to do with looks mean that people are allowed to comment on her looks all that they want?


Maybe she can do a Golden Globes speech about privacy?

Am I the only person who thought Jodie Foster's Golden Globes speech was fab, and not at all a contradiction? She was accepting an award for her work, and she chose to say, on a public platform, "Thank you for recognizing my work. But my private life is none of your business." It would be different if she was being honored by GLAAD for being a positive gay role model, but was still refusing to acknowledge that she was gay.

I'm not the original person that posted about getting other peoples emails but before Christmas, the other person threw a huge Christmas parties and I received their RSVP's. Last night, I received two confirmations for hotels in Palm Springs, which totals about $5,000 for a 3-4 weekend stay. Oh, how I wish I was them. I'd show up at the hotel, if only I wouldn't be arrested for posing as them.

I don't even share you name, and I want to be these people. 

The best example of how to handle it and shut it down at the same time I've ever seen was Hillary Clinton's response to the Texts from Hillary tumblr. Acknowledge it, laugh a little, shut it down (of course, it helps that the guys running the tumblr were polite)

Everyone affiliated with this meme behaved exactly as they should. Clinton joined in the fun, and the creators knew that it was time to cut and run before their meme got tired on its own.

I mean, theoretically, anyone who has a Twitter account and somehow brushes with fame-- whether for something like this or something bad, like a crime victim-- can expect people to scour Facebook and Twitter for a glimpse of their thoughts. Theoretically, we all accept this when we sign up for FB and Twitter. But having it actually happen is another story. It does seem like an invasion of privacy and something I wouldn't want to happen to me, and I feel bad for her if it's not something she's happy about. And Musberger's drooling was creepy. And I hate being told to smile. I usually respond impolitely, but the expectation to be smiling is rude in itself.

I think everyone wants to be famous, and it's very hard to picture what that fame will actually look like when played out in daily life.

Katherine Webb's meteoric Twitter rise is: D. Other/Expected. I don't have a Twitter account, but it seems to me that the whole point of a celebrity having one is to get followers. Thus any controversy involving a celebrity will result in an uptick in followers.

I'm a bit surprised that so many people consider Miss Alabama to be a "celebrity." I mean, I guess so, but...

What are your thoughts on the passing of Aaron Swartz, the Reddit figure who committed suicide over the weekend?

It's immensely sad, and I'm not sure what else to say about it. He was a hero to many, and worked tirelessly to promote free information. 

Give me my Monica; and, when she shall die, Take her and cut her out in little stars, And she will make the face of heaven so fine That all the world will be in love with night And pay no worship to the garish sun.

And to think I almost didn't chat today!

I think if she were just some undergrad dating the quarterback, it woudl be a little different. She'd have a certain amount of celebrity at the school, but not much beyond that. Being a pageant contestant, though, she's basically actively seeking publicity, etc (even if she's doing it purely for scholarship money, there's PR involved in being Miss Alabama or Miss USA). So, to the extent that she was already seeking fame/publicity, I feel less icked out by it.

Posting a few more like this.

I pick B. She clearly didn't mind the attention. However, I was glad to see that ESPN apologized for the commentators going overboard. I was watching the game and had to change the channel because of all the fawning. While I don't think they said anything offensive, I think they forgot that women watch football too and that (straight) women might not be quite as interested in how attractive they found the QBs girlfriend. It was just gross!

People should be commenting on how attractive she is.

This is why it would be dangerous to have a career built on being pretty. When people stop doing it, you would feel like a failure. 

B. She is a public figure (the pageant) and again since she is dating a public figure (goes with the territory).

Eh, I don't know...it seems like if you wish your private life to remain PRIVATE--and she's done a really good job of it--then you wouldn't talk about it in a public forum. Ever. I think that just declares open season, because what are we talking about now? Her speech. Which talked about her private life, among other things.

She talked about her private life after literally decades of not talking about it. And it made sense to in this forum, in my opinion. Because she was clearly not talking about her private life to satisfy the grubbing hoardes who wanted to know about it -- her initial comments about privacy were essentially a kiss off to all of them. Rather, the message seemed to be dedicated to her longterm ex partner.


I don't know. It all made sense to me.

Watching it live, I couldn't take Foster's speech seriously. The intro by Downey, the bizarreness of it all. Now, reading it, I understand what she's saying a bit more. I also thought it bizarre because honestly, when was the last time people in general have been prying into her private life? She obviously comes at it from a different perspective (Hinckley), but I think it was a bit much.

Oh, tabloids do pry. There might not be endless interview requests, but they still posted her picture in People, and made winking references to her sexuality. I'm sure after awhile, it just poisons the air you breathe.

Of course. For athletes you can gab about their performance. For people who opine about 2nd Presidential Inaugural Addresses, you can talk about ... I got nothing ...

Mostly people just tell me I'm wasting their time.

I recently started seeing someone who is super active and he's introduced me to some excellent outdoor adventures. We were in the car on Sunday and he said, "So, aside from reading and hanging out with your family/friends, what do you do?" For those chatters who are more indoor people like me, what is YOUR response?

I think that reading, working, and hanging out with family and friends can make for a pretty full life. Good heavens, you don't have to be running a marathon every weekend. So long as you're happy with how you're spending your time.

Really? So if Musburger instead had howled like a wolf and slapped the table, this would have been the same thing? Does this person really believe that? I don't think so.

Are you a man or a woman? Just curious.

Um, no. Winning a pageant is not the same as being an elected official. This is why we have so many crazy people harassing celebrities out there. They think they're entitled to do so.

Just posting, because this is one of the few counter perspectives we've seen.

I have no opinion on how I feel about either side, I don't think. Although, I found Musberger to be more sweet than salacious, and it is also important to remember that announcers are at the mercy of the camera man. But what about this bizarre herdlike mentality in twitter following, in general? Isn't it much stranger that everyone jumped to follow someone who is, at this point, just a normal human being? Seems voyeuristic to me (well more so than twitter is, in general, I suppose). Mostly, I am saying the crazy uptick in following is the part I don't get it. I remember when Kanye West first got his twitter, he was noted for following no one, then started following one random "nobody," everyone went crazy, and started following him too. The internet is weird.

The mass Twitter following is interesting. I can understand following a celebrity you don't know if the celebrity is someone like, say, Stephen Colbert or Elizabeth Banks or another professional comedian. You don't have a personal relationship with them, but you can trust that they're going to say funny things that will amuse you. I have a harder time thinking of what I would get out of following Katherine Webb. She might be very funny, but when I chose to follow her, I wouldn't know that. I would only know that she was pretty.

The announcers are at their mercy. If the camera guy parks the lens on some woman's boobs for 3 hours you get rest assured the commentator at some point will have to say something about those boobs. What else is he supposed to do, play the non sequitor game?

Have a stern chat with the cameraman later?

"Because she was clearly not talking about her private life to satisfy the grubbing hoardes who wanted to know about it." But who are the grubbing hoardes begging to know about her life lately? She hasn't talked about it, so...people don't really talk about it.

I think you and I must run in different circles and consume different media. People have been talking about it. For a long time, and in many ways. Every time there was an "are they or aren't they" list of celebrities, Foster was at the top. 

There's a difference between being Miss Alabama (how many Miss Alabamas do we know off-hand?) and fame-chasing and celebrity.


Ugh, I HATE that question. It makes me feel like reading and other indoor activities (yes, I watch TV), and the "hanging out with friends/family" seem so lame. I am glad I'm not the only one stumped by that question.

These are perfectly acceptable hobbies. Do not let anyone make you think that the only good weekends are ones spent kayaking and dancing and having endless barbecues.

I'm a reader, friend/family hanger outer, too. When I'm meeting new people and answer that question and have to give a bit more I talk about what I read - I tend to read about certain topics or certain types of fiction and that can show I have specific interests and passions vs. just "reading" which can seem a bit boring. (even though I know it's not!)

This is an excellent point, and one I should have flagged earlier. If people are asking follow-ups to "I like to read," they might just be seeking additional points of connection. You could try to be a little more specific, i.e. "I love to read -- right now I'm in the middle of a really interesting series about a group of pioneers whose wagon train is attacked by aliens."

It's a scholarship program. One of Shatner's finest.

One of Sandra Bullock's finest, too.

I'm still relatively new to Twitter, and I follow some pseudo-"celebrities". Mostly sports writers. I followed the ones not covering my team because of their humor. Is this the same as the Katherine Webb scenario? Or okay because I enjoy their tweets?

I don't think it's the same. You're following them because you enjoy their written word, not because you think they're cute. (Maybe Katherine Webb is hilarious and smart on Twitter, but I don't know because I don't follow her).


BTW, y'all can all follow me @MonicaHesse. 

I must look grouchy, because I used to get the demand to smile quite often. I've learned to handle it by responding, "Why?" Usually leaves them speechless.

Or, "No, you."


cross stitch, cook, go to knitting/stitching groups & book club meetings. You know, other than watching two kids under 6. There are all kinds of things to do that don't involve sweating, folks. Not that there's anything wrong with sweating, but is just me that feels like there is a real backlash against people who aren't the runner/biker/mountain climing/skiing types?

I think that in general, the culture has a difficult time understanding introverts. It's not that everyone necessarily expects us all to be exercising all the time, it's that they expect us to be doing activities in groups -- going to parties, or dancing, or lectures, or taking classes. 


I get exhausted just writing about it.

I work from home and communicate via IM conference to my coworkers who also all work from home. At the same time I like to peek into these chats. But at the moment I'm having a hard time distinguishing you and the posters from my coworkers. I wonder if we could just combine the two. A lot of comments would overlap.

You should probably tell them to join you here next time. Afterward you can all play a game to see if you recognized each other.

That went well. Very little cat food was spewed on me this time. Poor kitty has hepatic lipidosis. She was too stressed by living at the animal shelter so she stopped eating and developed this condition. The only cure is force feeding... :( Really wish people wouldn't dump their animals at the shelter. I know, I know...

Oh, how horrible! Will she get better? Will she eventually start eating on her own?

You could try to be a little more specific, i.e. "I love to read -- right now I'm in the middle of a really interesting series about a group of pioneers whose wagon train is attacked by aliens." Huh, I'd totally read that.

I know. Even as I was typing that, I was thinking, "Why are we not all collectively writing this novel right now?"

Just to clarify, my response was "But that IS what I do. And I bake." He didn't have a problem with it. but it is an awkward question. I've explained that I do a fair amount of internetting and TV watching and then I tie all of that together with some reference to my general thirst for knowledge. (Yes, knowing my memes, young adult books and celebrity relationships qualifies as knowledge, right?)

Definitely. The public has to possess a wide variety of and thirst for knowledge. You are doing your part. You sound awesome. Let's be best friends!

Also, you can always get a dog. Since I got one a few years ago, I've found that "I spend a lot of time with my dog" is an activity that people find to be very noble. Even if the time I'm spending with her sometimes involves me reading a book in a park while she runs around and licks dirt.

I'm a bit biased, as I'm two degrees from Jodi Foster, but I thought she was amazing. Clearly nervous, but determined to say something, and I thought her tribute to Cyd was really touching. I don't see a problem with saying in a public forum that she wants to keep her private life private (how else does one make that declaration, after all?).


You should definitely check out the book "Quiet: The power of introverts in an extroverted world" (I think I've got the title right.) Surprisingly interesting read and makes me, as an introvert, feel like less of a square peg in a round hole.

I was going to recommend this, thanks. I haven't read it myself, but have had several people recommend it to me.

Do guys really do that? I thought that was something that Pete Campbell did in Mad Man but never actually occurs in real, modern life. How condescending.

Oh, they do. Maybe it happens more in cities, because we spend so much time walking places and pass each other on the street. But it happens to me at least once a week.

I read about kayaking, mountain climbing, and base jumping.

So basically, "I read a lot of Jon Krakauer."



RE: culture understanding introverts ... I'm an over-the-top extrovert, and I really don't do much more than go out to breakfast and to the movies with friends, and I'm in a couple of book groups, and I meet people for happy hour or dinner sometimes. I *hate* the "what do you do" question. Gah. My go-to answer is "I make oatmeal and try to finish the crossword puzzle." Also: I am a 40+ year old woman who's lived in DC for 22 years and I cannot STAND the "smile!" comment. It RUINS my day.

** Validation that "smile" is a common directive in DC.

No, extroverts have a difficult time understanding introverts, and they think there is something wrong with us. Why, when introverts are perfectly happy to refrain from criticizing or commenting on what extroverts do and why they do it?

Well, yes. But since extroverts make up an estimated 75% or more of the population (I've seen varying estimates), they do tend to dominate the culture, numbers wise if nothing else.

Yes, this person really believes it was pretty much the same thing. Classless. Love, Dad of drooled over daughter


To get away from it all just join a monastery and take a vow of silence. Where can us extroverts go to relax? We need a retreat where you're encouraged to talk.

Dearie, your retreat is called "all of life, all of the time."

Cowboys v. Aliens was highly entertaining, even though basically everyone else on the planet hated it. But I'm guessing it doesn't bode well for the commercial success of such a novel.

Oh right. But I wasn't thinking something with Clint Eastwood, or whomever was in that. I was thinking something with Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I tell people who ask that I'm simpley a whore for all things media. Books, movies, tv, news, Post chats, twitter, facebook. I get less attitude about that than when I just say I love tv.

Actually, I would love to meet someone who was frank and honest and self aware enough as to just say, "I love watching television" when asked about their hobbies.

This number was well over 100 and is now reading, on my computer, "0." I am still here but now I feel as though I am truly nothing.

I noticed that. I don't know what happened, but I decided ignore the number. Because if there truly are zero people on this chat, then I have literally been inventing fake readers and chatting with myself for the past 15 minutes.

I saw the author at a business conferece (actuaries, go figger). Honestly, not impressed, she's not an introvert. Mostly claimed that many creative people were introverted, so what. Introspective more than introverted.

Well, to quibble: there are friendly introverts and shy introverts, so you wouldn't really be able to tell just from meeting her whether she was introverted or not. I love talking to strangers. I'll talk to anyone. But put me at a party, and after an hour, I need to go home and rest in a cone of silence while I recharge my batteries.

This is something my father always used to do and it made me cringe every time. Because not only would he say it to me and all the girls (always girls, never boys) in the neighborhood but also whatever random girl he might come across in a restaurant or store or out and about. To me it gets almost to the point of, not harassment or abuse, not that bad, but something inching close to that. My 2 cents anyway.

This, agreed. Did you ever have a talk with your father and explain why it bothered you? I would have been curious to hear his response.

There were over 100 people on the chat but then the Aliens got bored with eating pioneer settlers and ate all the chatters. I am an alien. You are welcome.

Oh, thank God. I was getting worried.

In addition to general privacy I liked her point that she was not in the closet. There seems to be two closets. One where you live your life and one where you need to make a declaration and have media report on it. For example Victor Garbo's Wki page mentioned his partner and he lives his life with his partner openly in NYC, How is it now some media outlets are reporting he just came out?.

Exactly. Foster was no more a "closeted" gay woman than I am a "closeted" vegetarian because I don't publicly announce it every time I walk in a room (Except now I have! No meat here, folks.)

I made the original comment that I'd totally read the alien/pioneer book. And now you invoke Half Pint. I think we might be soul mates (sorry if this is awkward.)

Okay, I will now one-up that comment by tying this whole chat together: This morning, as I was getting my dog ready for a walk -- you know, the dog that I have so that I can appear to have many exciting hobbies -- I called her "Lil Half Pint." I don't know why I did this. It is not a nickname I have ever used for her before. It must have been the oversoul of the chat.

"I'll talk to anyone. But put me at a party, and after an hour, I need to go home and rest in a cone of silence while I recharge my batteries." This is the best explanation I've ever read!

I'm so glad!

Monica, I feel like a lot of your chatters could be friends in real life! Have you thought of hosting a cupcake happy hour? Also, what kind of dog do you have?? I'm getting one as soon as I have a yard.

She is a Belgian Malinois. If we are friends on Facebook, you will see many pictures of her.

(Also: my backup plan for if I ever stop being a writer is to found a company called Parties for Losers. It would just be a service that helped people get together and engage in quiet activities, like playing board games and drinking hot chocolate and maybe decorating a Christmas tree).

I too get this quite a bit, from strangers (always male). I consider it a controlling behavior. The worst is when they follow it with "It can't be that bad." UGH.

"My mom just died."

It's the only possible response to "It can't be that bad."

I'm going to start calling my dog Bandit.

If you were really a LHOTP fan, you would call him Jack, after the faithful brindle bulldog.

"Why, honey, they should feel flattered, I'm complimenting them." It's no use, it never is.

Sigh. Parents.

It was awkward and uncomfortable at the beginning, then kind of rambled for a while, then got nice at the end. I didn't see the show, so I'm not sure why people are talking about this so much. But I'm guessing because nothing else remotely interesting went on. Is that correct?

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were magnifique, and not on camera nearly enough.

And if your mom is still alive when you say this and then she dies, the guilt you'll have for the rest of your life. Sincerely, the Jewish father


See, I feel that way too. I think, Monica, you are exceptionally talented at making people feel understood and appreciated and...and...welcome. But sadly, we can never meet her irl on purpose, because there is no non-creepy way to do this. (I've spent a fair amount of time thinking about this.)

I am never going to stop laughing at this comment.

Webb is a public person by virtue of signing up to Twitter. Also, I consider myself a pretty sensitive guy and was a little weirded out by Musberger, but did not find it as gross as some people did. I'm also an introvert and spend a lot of time indoors. Still, those hobbies are lame.

I think you have covered all of the bases of the chat. That must mean it is time for us to sign off.

Her speech sounded like a farewell speech. As though she felt this would be the last time she had this kind of platform to speak her mind.

Well, really, how many times can one get a lifetime achievement award? (Although it is awkward to receive one at 50, no? God willing, she'll still be around for 30 more years. And now what? Maybe she can just drink pina coladas on the beach, since she's already received one lifetime achievement award).

My favorite is when my ex boyfriend used to interrupt me to ask me questions about random stuff while I was reading. I'd try to tell him he was distracting me, etc., adn his response: "but you're just reading"

The "ex" is becoming abundantly clear.

Tell them: "Dance Monkey!"

An appropriate response for almost every occasion.

With that, I must sign off. I will be back next week, unless the inaugural activities this weekend have killed me.

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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