Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Jun 20, 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, and thanks for stopping by. I was out of the office on a story yesterday and this morning, so no discussion topics from my end. But you all have sent in a few intriguing possibilities, so I'll post those and we'll get started in a few.

You've probably addressed this topic before, but can we revisit? What are the rules for googling people? I recently wasted waaaaay too much time googling some old boyfriends. I have no intention of ever contacting these people, just nosy curiosity about what became of them, their subsequent marriages, etc. Is it fair game if it's out the on the internet? Is there a statute of limitations - no looking people up from more than X years ago, or more than X times? There was admittedly some schadenfreude in finding a picture of an ex with whom I'd had a particularly ugly breakup with his 30 years younger girlfriend. And truthfully, I think it does say something not so great about my life that I'm being nosy.

I think you are well within the bounds of normalcy. However, you do bring up an intriguing question, which I am sure we can help you answer. What -are- the rules for Googling people? Or -- maybe this construct will work better -- what are the rules for when you should -never- Google people? When does the behavior become inappropriate?


Let us begin.

It took almost a week, yet despite what must have been intense government pressure, Zazzle.com has approved "The government has no right to know how boring I am" t-shirts. I also added mugs. They are available at zazzle.com/StoreMeWeather (the link is not case sensitive). Also, please note while the t-shirt depicted ion this site s the high end costly one. There are 171 styles to choose from, including many much less expensive. I do pledge that any money I make on this will be given back to fellow (and fellowette, is there such a word) members of our group. We could all meet, say at Union Station, wearing out t-shirts and I will use the money to pay for lunch or brunch or, as I suspect, the two of us will share a Starbucks. You asked, they are here. Also, I am not a graphics designer. If anyone else can design a better t-shirt, please go ahead and do so. I will not be insulted.

So long as we live, everyone, we can always take comfort in the idea that we created this.

So I have a blog that I've run since before Twitter and Tumblr and even Facebook, I think. Over the last year or so I've realized that I need to set up companion social media accounts for it, so I made a Facebook page and a Twitter account, and I've been pondering a Tumblr. (FYI, just had to go back and delete the "e" from both times I typed "Tumbler") Since I HATE it when people post the same comments or items simultaneously on all their social media accounts, my question for you and the chatters is how do I divide things up? Which comments do I put on Facebook and which on Twitter? What exactly is the purpose of a Tumblr when an organization already has a regular website/blog? Or is it better to repeat things everywhere to reach those who only use one type of social media account? Most importantly, does anyone else either unfollow people on Twitter or unlike them on Facebook when they constantly repeat the same info on both accounts? I probably won't be online for the chat, so hopefully you don't have any clarification questions!

Honestly? I would not launch a Tumblr is I were you, for multiple reasons. One is the reason you suggest -- that Tumblrs inherently work as blogs themselves, and it just seems like a lot of ungratifying extra work to maintain what would then be the equivalent of two blogs.


Second, and more importantly, is the fact that Tumblr is a very different kind of animal from Twitter or Facebook. Twitter and Facebook posts can often be cross-purposed.  Both are built on verbal pithiness and linguistic dexterity. Tumblr, however, tends to be a much more visual medium. Unless your blog is inherently very visual, it likely won't translate well, and having a Tumblr won't serve you as you'd hoped. It would be the equivalent of taking your haikus and putting them on a poetry site intended for sonnets. Just a poor fit.


Other thoughts, especially related to the OP's questions about repetition?

There are none. Anyone who's on the Internet is fair game to search for. What there should be are rules for how much time to spend on the endevaor, and what to do with the information found. I'd recommend not spending so much time that it interferes with anything important, and not contacting the person if it would seem even remotely creepy.

Well, that in itself is a rule: Leave the Googling to the computer and don't take your actions into real life, if such a gesture could be conceived of as creepy. And don't become obsessed. I think those are good, solid rules.

Speaking of being too boring for the government, has anyone seen Sarah Silverman's music video with Will I Am, Perfect Night? The lyrics are NSFW so I won't post the link, but it is an excellent and hilarious celebration of staying at home and doing nothing.

I just googled last week a guy I went out with a few times several years ago because I heard something about the place he used to work and wondered what he was up to. His Linkedin was dormant and I was curious why. Turns out he died mysteriously in China! Still haunting me and made me feel very awkward for having googled him. I will be less curious in the future.

Wow. Does anyone else have stories of people they wish they hadn't Googled? Crushes whose Google results made you realize that you still hadn't gotten over them? Favorite teachers you learned had been arrested?

Have you ever clicked on one of these YouTube "10 hours of..." videos? I have and I find they are pretty effective at fading into the background after a while...and if you occasionally get an "earwig" tune in your head, they destroy those too. My favorites so far? This one  -- and this one:  (enjoy!)

I hadn't. And now I feel like I must listen to the whole thing in order to get the full experience. (See you in 10 hours).

It's much more theraputic to Google exes with friends.

You mean, you with the friends or your exes with friends?

lets just say - hypothetically - that I am a fed and I read a few chats (and more stuff that is work and/or commute-weather related) from my office. My understanding of the new Post policy is that I'm supposed to be exempt from the 20 article limit while at work. But, my profile is associated with my personal e-mail address, so, unless you guys know a lot more from my IP address than I think you do, I can't see how this works. Do I need to set up a new profile with my work address? Not sure if I am comfortable with that. And if I did, how would you know whether I was using that profile from home or from work? Also, my agency blocks enough stuff from my computer that I can't even see most of the information that comes with the "you have read x many articles" pop ups, so I'm not sure I could do anything that says "hey, I am a fed" from my work computer anyway. I do plan to pay, but I was going to try to find a little more info over the weekend. Am I stuck until I do that? Maybe you can answer my question now? My new Nook HD+ just arrived. Will a Sunday subscription will get me access to the Post app or do I have to pay for the $15 a month all electronic access? And what is the cost of the Sunday print subscription after the current "special" expires? Thanks if you can get the answers. I'm not finding the current information that the Post is providing (that I have found) very comprehensive. Also, since they are articles, I don't think I am going to be able to read them after having accessed this chat. Thanks again.

Oh chat friends. At least a few times a chat I get questions like this asking involved questions about the Post's paywall. And...I really don't know anything about it. Sorry, guys -- the specifics of the paywall are several rungs above my paygrade. (I also can't help you fix your broken laptop/Kindle/iPhone...which is another genre of requests that I get).

Oh, but it looks borrring.

I have a regret that I did NOT Google someone sooner. My favorite teacher in high school was more or less railroaded out of town for teaching independent thought in a small town. Fast forward to my early 30s and I was living 450 miles away and he popped into my head, so I Googled him to see what happened. I found his obituary from one year earlier. He had been living about 2 miles from me. I was devastated as I just wanted to thank him for nurturing me into the person I am today, and that he was part of the reason I was curious about the world and broadened my horizons. I wrote a note to his widow instead, but I am still haunted that we may have seen each other around town and not known it. Google those people while you can!

Thanks for this story, and for a really important lesson in appreciating people while they're still around to be appreciated. You know what, though -- I bet his widow really appreciated the note, even moreso to have it come after his death.

I Googled my sixth grade teacher who was one of the very best teachers I ever had. I found out that he was working for an insurance company and I felt very depressed that the industry had lost such a good teacher. I emailed him; turns out he had a long and rewarding career as a teacher and this is his second career. We're now Facebook friends, so I'm very glad I looked him up.

...And was probably being paid a lot more than he ever had in education, so double good on him.

I found out one of my former teachers had slept with a student, gotten pregnant and was fired.

So that was...a good Google? A bad one?

I came across this young slam poet last year and thought I'd send you this link to his excellent performance of his poem, "The Last Mile." If anyone out there is feeling down about life, this will absolutely lift you up and keep you going.


Met a woman a third party described as "compelling." Found her paintings on the web and wrote verse about them. Totally pushed over the edge on discovering she'd attended the same prep school as an old flame of mine. Found out so much about her she considered my later verse creepy. Would have been better if we'd had more time to discover one another gradually. Could have followed the Miss Manners rule of being only slightly more interested in her than she was in me.

Honey, I am cringing for you. Thank heavens you seem to have learned from the experience. (Let this be a lesson to all of our inner stalkers).

I Googled a woman who adopted a dog I fostered for an extended period of time. She used to send pics of his new wonderful life but had stopped. I figured she had gotten busy. I Googled her when I ended up adopting a dog similar to hers (with the intention of contact), they both were hit by a car and died. I just wished I hadn't Googled her since I ended up so bummed. note: I have not learned my lesson.

It sounds like she was trying to protect you from sad news. I'm so sorry.

I googled old high school friend and the first result was a link to a newspaper article reporting that he was arrested for viewing child pornography. Freaked me out. I eventually learned the whole story and it turned out that he'd heard that someone had posted photos of his stepdaughter and he was trying to find out if it was true. All charged were dropped and he was completely innocent of any malicious intent, but I was pretty disturbed until I learned the truth. I wondered if that newspaper arrest report would be the first thing that came up if you googled him forever, but was glad to see that it dropped off the google radar really quickly. I don't know if the article even still exists. That's just awful all around.

What a terrible thing to be accused of. Especially since -- I'll confess -- my first reaction was, "Wait, how do they -know- that's really what he was doing?" A charge like that could stick with you for the rest of your life.

Yes, for entertainment, here in Oklahoma, we look up people on the district court records. You'll find lots of things!

When you use a phrase like "for entertainment," it makes me think there's a barn-raising and a bake-off also involved.

This one is clearly the best. Also, related, this compilation of Commander Riker swinging his leg over chairs. I've been a Trekkie for more than half my life and was screaming when I watched it because I have no idea how this escaped my notice until now.

Oh my word. How in the actual hell did I also never notice this? Why does he do this? Is he 9 feet tall? Does he feel this is something his character would do? Why would his character to this? I am never going to be able to watch him again.

AAAAH this is clearly the worst part of it! When you make a new acquaintance, find and read about three years' worth of blog entries or Twitter postings, and then the next hundred times you see them, you have to pretend to be surprised about everything they tell you. Them: "I once worked on a farm." You: "Wow, that's really cool." (Try very hard not to ask them about the cow-tipping story-gone-wrong.)


My Vietnam vet father has been dead since the 1990s. I have all of his mementos of his service career, but not a lot of context with them. One photo of him and buddies was labeled and I found one of the people online. Turns out, he was 21 to dad's 30, with a much more rugged existence and had no photos and was thrilled that I had a few to share, including some of people he knew. I know my dad would have googled all of them and done the same had he lived long enough to see the possibility, so it was nice to honor his memory and give something to his buddy at the same time.

Thanks, yes -- we can post some tender Googling stories to balance out the Googles Gone Wrong.

not suggesting this is what the OP was into, but it's something to think about

A really fascinating story about trying to use LinkedIn as a job search resource -- while your stalker is trying to use it to find you.

I realized I'd gone too far while reading my ex-crush's grandmother's obituary - a grandmother that I had never met or even heard about, for that matter.

Moment of self-awareness! We'll take those, too: When did you realize you had gone too far?

I looked up an ex from college. He did not treat me well and our relationship did not end well ... and I found his mug shot. It was a little shot of karma in an otherwise boring day.

Something we all can feel good about.

Basically, he had a lot of witnesses. There were people around when someone told him about the pictures and he completely freaked out, and he told his wife and friends that he was going to be doing it. They had an exact count of the number of photos he'd viewed (32, iirc) and how he'd searched for them. My distant third-party understanding is that the case was really clear-cut once they investigated.

Thank you. (And I brought up my doubts not because I have a dog in that fight, but because I'm sure that's what the rest of his life will look like: people learning about that story and then questioning it.)

Oh dear lawd. As you say - how have we missed this? Wicked funny, and as you note Monica, it raises so many questions!

Was he a hurdler in high school? Is he trying to show off the contents of his unitard? What did Deanna Troi have to say about all of this?

I think it's okay to google someone if you have NO intention of interfering with their life. In my case, I always wondered what happened to a health care professional who ceased communicating with me while still a patient. She didn't respond to other health care professional inquiries. I finally tracked her down through methods not readily available to the general public but entirely legal (no I don't work for NSA). I have no desire to see her; I frankly only wanted to know if she was still alive.

What are these "not entirely legal" means that you speak of?

To answer your question about WHY: I had to Google this because I was so astonished and it turns out Jonathan Frakes is a.) 6'4" and b.) has a back injury that makes it hard for him to bend in certain ways. But it's crazy that it took this video to make me notice this. It's like the Star Trek equivalent of this:

Well, maybe it didn't happen in every episode. Maybe it was only the few times in this video, over the course of a several year run.

That is how I get into and out of chairs that are low like that. It is simply a habbit. This is usually to get into and out of folding chairs that are pulled up at a table. Much easier this way.

Man or woman?

(Men. Don't do this. It's irksome in ways that are similar to men taking up more than their fair share of space on the bus or Metro. I can't explain just way, but it is.)

I found out via Googling that my best friend in college had died. Even though we'd lost touch over the many years since, it was still very sobering. I found out that another college friend, a seemingly regular nice guy with a great girlfriend and many nice friends, with whom I'd shared late night philosophical musings in the dorm and the occasional ride home to our mutual home area, is in prison on a child porn possession conviction. This came on the heels of a previous term for "indecent liberties." I never would've seen that one coming in a million years and wish I could un-see that.


I carried a torch for one of my college boyfriends for almost 20 years even though I was in happy monogamous relationships for at least 15 of those years. Finally, just last year, he posted some short stories on some public site. They were appalling. Excruciating to read. Large vocabulary words misused, tonally dysfunctional, poorly-plotted ridiculous trainwrecks. I am magically cured. Old flame completely snuffed. It was very freeing.

This is my favorite, by far.

You inspired me. I just did that, for a high school English teacher I really respected back in Brooklyn. He's alive, well, and publishing. Let's see if he remembers ME.

Contact him immediately, before something untoward or sad happens.

I will say that as a corollary to not googling, is being Facebook friends with my high school sweetheart. I honestly have no attraction left to him after being exposed to his dweebiness (complains the nerd). Familiarity truly can breed contempt.

It's really true. Amazing how a few misplaced commas or one-too-many Dr. Who references will cure any lovelorn feelings.

I believe it's never inappropriate to Google somebody. However, what's inappropriate (IMNSHO) is to bring up the info with somebody when you talk/email with them or share (i.e. gossip) with others. But if you find out something serious (i.e. they are a criminal), feel free to use that info to break off all future contact.


I have never seen a woman do it. But I have seen several of my taller friends and relatives do that.

I think it is very hard for that gesture to come across as anything but entitled and swaggering. Even if the person doing it is neither.

Too unbelievable?

I have yet to find a Bing result that was better than a Google result. No matter what those comparison ads try to tell me.

Googled my favorite Latin teacher, discovered that he'd died of AIDS in the 1980s. Am so sorry that I couldn't have been there for him.

I'm sorry, too. He probably new that he had a lot of fans in his class.

Came to this page early to submit a question and expected to find a link to all of your work as I wanted to comment on a recent article. The link here only leads to all of your past chats, not your articles. Come on WP...

I knooooow. We're so frustratinnnng.

A couple of times a year I Google myself, just to make sure there's nothing untrue on the Internet that could tarnish my sterling (read: boring) reputation. Am not sure what I'd do if I found anything negative (as it'd be untrue), other than not to go there again and not to mention it to anyone (so they wouldn't click on it), while simultaneously trying to gin up traffic for my favorable web citations, so they'd come up first on Web searches.

A lesson to us all.

And we're off. Reminder -- I'm in next week, but the week after (the week of the 4th of July), there is no chat. So please remember to bring all of your life-threatening montages of Commander Riker's sitting habits next Thursday. For the country.



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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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