The Washington Post

Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Feb 06, 2014

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. What should we talk about today? Whether the Biggest Loser winner had too big of a loss? The American dog who has allegedly been kidnapped as a prisoner of war by the Taliban? The journalists struggling to survive in their Sochi hotel rooms?

I'm on vacation next week (Belize, Honduras, anyone have any suggestions?) so we won't chat then. Let's get everything out of our systems now.

You're.....You're leaving us?

No! Why would you say such a thing?

I am making a move, though -- one floor up, to do a year-long rotation working for the National desk instead of the Style section. You'll still see me in the paper, though writing about different things, and we'll still have the chats.

I don't want to see your Facebook movie, and I don't want to find mine. That said, of all the Facebook fads... this one has taken off the fastest. I don't know who came up with this idea at Facebook, but they are probably getting a huge bonus this year.

Well, it's because it's the site's 10 year anniversary this week. 10 years is a big deal.

Big Overarching Question: Let's get self-reflective now. Has Facebook changed you in some fundamental way? Do you keep in better contact with friends? Do you have a different view of privacy? Do you have a different view of your friends? Has it destroyed or rekindled relationships? Discuss.

Geez, is it a really big week for you?

Oh, I do, I guess. My second book came out today. Here's a link to my publisher where you can read the first few chapters. Aren't you guys nice to ask.

aka the cutest Superbowl ad ever?

I mean, we -can- discuss it, but it's nowhere near as good as this ad for Bell's Whiskey. I'm not kidding. Go watch it. Right now. All of you. I'll wait.

I think it's ridiculous that everyone's throwing a fit NOW. This show has been on forever, and people had no problem until now watching the contestants strive to lose the most weight in the most unhealthy ways possible in order to win a pile of cash. Is she too underweight? Maybe, that's for a doctor to determine. But the hating and "concern" seem to be mostly about the fact that she's now so skinny she's "ugly" again, replacing the "fat = ugly" stereotype with the "bony = ugly" one.

It is really fascinating that this woman is being chastised for wildly succeeding at something that is the entire point of the show: she lost a lot of weight. Now, the show could have made itself about "getting the healthiest" and not "becoming the thinnest," but health is a much more nebulous concept. They would have had to measure people's BMI, and cholesterol, and heartrate, and muscle-fat ratio, and still not account for a whole bunch of variables.

That "diaper blowout" is a thing that happens. Also, that it is perfectly acceptable to discuss diaper blowouts in public. Also that people can be weirdly militant about Batman casting, photo tagging, breastfeeding, and a host of other things nobody had a platform to kvetch about a decade ago. Finally, that everyone from my high school went bald. Even some of the women.

Important revelations. Especially the weirdly militant. I've often wondered if it's a chicken/egg thing. We've definitely learned that online, outrageousness is rewarded. You don't get clicks, or likes, or retweets for saying things that are moderate and measured. Do people really have militant thoughts on Batman? Or have we just learned to perform our live in supersized pantomime, because that's where the attention is?

it did NOT live up to the hype. it was cute and all, but really - not that great.

The part where all of the horses stampeded to stop the car from carrying the puppy away was actually kind of scary.

I don't think it has changed me, but it HAS made it supereasy to keep in touch with people who are too far away to see in person regularly. Haters like to say, "Well why can't you just call or send them an email?" but calling/emailing --insertlargenumber-- people whenever I have a photo or comment or update to share would be a full-time job. Others like to snark that they "have friends in real life", well, so do I, but I'm not willing to ditch those real-life friends all around the world and replace them with people who only live in my town. :)

Chuck Klosterman wrote a great (at least I thought it was great at the time; haven't read it in years) essay in 2006 when text messaging became popular that reflects what you're saying here -- it solved a communication conundrum he didn't know he had.

I'm curious what you think is so great about it. I found it saccharine, predictable and disconnected from its product. I get that emotional manipulation is the heart of advertising, but this felt exploitative.

Well, it's an advertisement. Saccharine is practically a requirement.

Only I didn't find this saccharine. There were touches of unexpected humanity and humor, like when he used his alphabet noodles to write to his wife, "Hello, sexy!" There was the delight of seeing someone take pleasure in something so innocent as understanding the comics page for the first time. 


And it was connected to the product. What I took away from that ad was that Bell's wants to be a whiskey associated with rewards for a job well done, and with community, and perhaps with a father-son-bonding masculine ritual that -- joy! -- doesn't have to revolve around watching football together, but around sharing a book.


I thought it was brilliant and worked on many levels. Maybe I'm alone, though. Others?

I thought that the weight loss was monitored by doctors and that the contestants underwent periodic analyses to look at bmi and other medical factors. What is unhealthy about changing diet and excercise habbits? They just got to do them on a full time basis rather than working.

Some contestants have been vocal in talking about how the diet and eating habits extolled on the show are far more extreme and unhealthy when the cameras are off. Here's a piece from the Tamba Bay times that interviews a former second-place winner.

Since you're sweet and wonderful, you accept friend requests from people (including mine!). Does that make Facebook weird for you? Seeing all of those pictures of strangers' babies and weird Instagram updates? Do you just ignore it all, or do you check them out? "Hey, that Janet lady has one ugly baby..." etc?

I love seeing everybody. I have Facebook friends who have appeared from God-knows-where, and I always feel lucky to have acquired random friends from around the world.

The MyFitnessPal forums (to make this web-related) were all abuzz about how underweight Rachel was when she won TBL. At 5'4" and 105 lbs, she's underweight by the BMI scale. There are lots of problems with the BMI scale, but to anyone looking at her nearly skeletal figure, it was obvious that girlfriend should eat a cheeseburger or 15. However, she won $250,000 by going so far, and I hope it was for the brief period of time it took to win the finale. I would probably starve myself to 105 lbs for a month for a quarter of a million dollars. However, if she developed a long-term eating disorder... probably not worth it. Probably.

For the record, um, some poeple who might, um, participate in this chat, um, every week, possibly maybe might be exactly that same height and weight, but look perfectly normal.

I use Facebook mostly for keeping up with my social network and posting nonsense to amuse my friends, stream-of-consciousness rants, etc. My Facebook movie ended up being RIDICULOUS. It started off with a few nostalgic group shots taken by friends, and then descended into a sea of incoherence. I was doubled over laughing when it ended up with tinkly piano music and a shot of me surrounded entirely by forgotten internet memes, pictures of food, and bad MS Paint collages I've made at 1 a.m. I think for the first time, I've ended up falling victim to "Jealous of Somebody Else's Facebook Presence" syndrome, because of course I have that one good friend whose video was her learning to rock-climb and then standing atop various mountains she's conquered. She told me that I have only myself to blame for my emotionally shallow internet life.

The video isn't really measuring how cool your life is. It's measure how much time you take to make sure you post everything cool in your life on Facebook. People with well-organized photo albums, after death, will always appear to be more interesting than those of us who hiked the Grand Canyon but forgot to bring the camera.

West End of Rotan of the Bay Islands, or Copan Runias. In Belize- Punta Gorda and Mayan remenents around.

Doing Mayan ruins in Belize, doing Roatan in Honduras. I win!

Due to scheduling problems (you know, work and things like that), I haven't been able to join you in MONTHS but I am here today! Congrats on the move upstairs and I am very glad you will still be chatting so I can sign in whenever I am off from the necessary earning crap. As for Belize & Honduras, they are both beautiful countries but beware of the bus drivers in Honduras. Just after we passed an overturned bus on the other side of the road, our driver tried to make it up a rain-slicked mountain on bald tires. We didn't make it up, slid backwards into a ditch and ended up standing next to those who crawled out of the overturned one while awaiting help. Finally, we all (including an 85-year-old man) walked up the mountain to catch another ride! In Belize, go diving! Beautiful waters...

We're so glad you're back! (And thanks for the vacation tips).

was not cute! It was tragic. There was a family that had picked him out at that farm's adoption event and was taking him home to love him forever. And he just abandoned them to play with a horse! Traumatizing. Can't believe no one else is seeing this angle...

Don't worry. The family in the car got home, and the kid was like, "Whew, that is a relief. I really wanted a kitten but I didn't know how to tell you."

Since it's been awhile since you so kindly edited my OkCupid profile, I thought it fair to update you. And! I did receive more interest at the start. I started a few conversations with a few guys. One faded away, one suddenly announced he wasn't moving to DC for months, and another set up three dates only to cancel at the last minute then sent me a text on Christmas Day to say he was in a relationship. *That* caused the most laughs at our holiday dinner. I did have one date out of the entire experience and while nice, he spent the entire time complaining about those foreign local beers (I was drinking a Port City) and how he prefers a good ol American beer like Miller Lite. So overall, still status quo and I think I'm past the "this is fun" part and moved on to "this is exhausting and I'd rather be reading book on my sofa with a glass of wine and my dog." But again, thanks for your help!

I was -just- thinking of you the other day (For other chatters: No, this woman and I do not know each other offline, but she's a regular chatter and when she mentioned she was having trouble with an OKCupid profile, I asked if she would let me look at it). Anyway: I was JUST thinking of you, because I read this article in Wired about a math professor who used algorithms to game OKCupid's system.


The synopsis: OKCupid only gives you high match rates if you have chosen to answer the same questions that members of your preferred dating pool have also answered. So, if you answered, "What kind of pets do you like?" and so did everyone else -- then you're golden! You will have a high probability of being matched with other people. But, if you answered, "Which family member would you eat first on a desert island?" and nobody else answered that, well, tough cookies for you. It doesn't mean that there aren't great matches for you out there, it just means OKCupid isn't smart enough to pair you up, because you didn't both answer the same questions.


In short: It's not you. It's the dating site.

And further: This math professor is writing a book now about all of this, and I'd definitely find it an interesting read.

(I'm typing a little slow today, so we'll go long -- like, maybe 3:30 or so)

40-something male here -- the Bell's Whiskey ad made me truly teary-eyed from about 12 seconds in. How dare you Cupcake -- this is so not work-appropriate. Although can I at least chuckle that about my initial reading of the son's surname in the book poster? Yup, I'm a 40-something with the humor of a 12 year old.

I've been sending it to people at work and then listening for the sniffles to start up 2 minutes later.

I have never been a social butterfly. I am still pretty entrenched in my cocoon. Or might even still be a caterpillar. But Facebook has made me even less interested in keeping in touch with people. I guess because I feel a cursory glance at my News Feed tells me everything I "need" to know so why put in any effort to reach out on my own? I mentioned to my parents (who never approved of my having a facebook - I am in my 20s) that I was thinking of deleting my account and my mother recoiled her horror. She thinks it is my only connection to the world. So there you have it. I don't know.

It definitely has negated the need for the initial introductory questions that you might normally have with an old friend. It's a little stranger now to start an email with, "How have you been? Do you still live in Milwaukee and are you married to Todd?" when that information is quite public.

I have to say that Facebook really changed my life for the better, because it gave me the greatest gift I could have ever asked for: Reconnecting with estranged friends. I had a lot of people with whom I fell out in high-school for stupid reasons - teenagers being teenagers, mostly.


Facebook, when it first started going global, allowed us the chance for one side to send a friend invitation, and the other to accept without any further words needed on either side. Then one person would post something on the other's wall like, "I saw [thing], and it reminded me of you. How've you been?", and that would lead to weeks of sporadic messaging and jokes, which in turn would lead to a suggestion to grab lunch sometime.


Social media sites are great for this, because they allow for the chance to slowly feel out somebody else's new life and decide whether you want to try to be a part of it, and if so, by how much. There are plenty of people whom I haven't seen in years, but they still like occasionally commenting on a status or sending me a link to something interesting, and vice-versa, and that's fine by me. We're still keeping the ball in the air, and it might evolve into something else over the coming years, or even decades. It's nowhere near as awkward as picking up a phone and calling someone out of the blue, which carries with it unspoken questions: What do you WANT from me? And why NOW? Or, worst of all: How did you FIND me?

This: "Social media sites are great for this, because they allow for the chance to slowly feel out somebody else's new life and decide whether you want to try to be a part of it."

All of the women I graduated high school with got better looking. The guys, not so much, but every time I find on a new female grad, I'm blown away by how great they look. I didn't think it was supposed to work this way (and I'm pretty sure I don't fit the pattern) but most of the female half of the class seems to be aging like fine wine.

This makes sense to me if you went to high school in a time that was especially unfortunate for women's hair/clothing/makeup. The late 1980s, for example. High school aged women in 1980s yearbook photos all look like they're about 40. The hairspray and heavy eyemakeup and blush just didn't do anyone any favors.

Great ad, but it probably sets the record for having the longest lead-in before the actual product is revealed.

But it sets up hints. He has a friendly weekly game of Scrabble at the local pub. Which, again, sets up this whiskey as something that creates caring community rather than gets you obliterated.

In one of his books, Douglas Coupland describes youth as "a time lived for some sort of imaginary audience." I think Facebook increases that sense of having an audience, thereby sticking us in the "Mom, look, Mom, LOOK!" phase for far too long. So we express more extreme opinions than we might have already had, get attention for it, and eventually our views shift to accommodate what gets us the most attention. Don't get me wrong, I love Facebook, but I don't know if everything it's done to us is good. PS - I barely wanted to watch my own movie, why on God's green Earth do I want to watch anyone else's?

Never heard that Copeland quote before, but I like it.

I, too, think this ad is great. Many people don't stop to realize that not everyone can read and, judging by the look of the father, he most likely grew up during Apartheid and was not given the chance to learn. To me, the ad also shows that he didn't stop stressing the importance of education to his son and finally, was able to show him that he practices what he preaches... a special occasion, for sure! Interesting to note that Bell's was originally a father & sons operation.

Yes, the fact that it's a South African ad ads a layer of complexity, thanks.

It's taught me a lot about the people I'm friends with. Mainly which ones I shouldn't really be friends with because they post so much annoying stuff. You're waiting to pick up your husband at the Metro? You're having tacos for dinner? You're at Home Depot? Really?

Well, in fairness, that's how most of us are spending our days anyway. We just aren't posting it.

Late 80's-Bingo! 1987 to be exact.

I sense you speak from personal experience.

Had to join you late today, so I hope I'm not too late. I love the Facebook films, because whoever programmed that feature did a fantastic job of setting it up to highlight truly representative posts and photos. Every one I've watched (including my own) is a near-perfect distillation of what is important to that person (or at least Facebook-important, as in what each of us chooses to share). As for The Biggest Loser, I was appalled when Rachel walked out. For all the contestants they've had who discovered an inner competition-monster and pushed hard for the finale loss, I've never seen one show up flat-out anorexic. They all have their issues at the start, and some still do afterward, but I'd be interested to see how she turns out. Was this just a take-it-too-far competitor, who will gain back some healthy pounds and pursue an athletic lifestyle, or does she have a continuing dysfunctional relationship with food and body image, that will take her either to full Karen Carpenter or back to obesity?

I don't watch the show typically. But I'm not even sure she can be classified as a "take it too far competitor." She was just a competitor. She was doing what she was instructed to do. And it's easier for, say, a contestant who starts out at 400 pounds to lose exorbitant amounts of weight and still remain in the healthy range than it was for Rachel, who began at 260. I'm not sure how the show addresses that, unless they come up with a different system for measuring success.

No, it was not a family that had picked out its perfect puppy. Watch it again. It was a slick-looking guy in aviator shades and a luxury car -- he was intended to look [DB]-y, and I think the puppy breeder looked a little ill when she accepted his check. It's all in the details, people.

That's what I remembered, but was willing to give aviator shade guy the benefit of the doubt.

FWIW, my 20th high school reunion was DECIMATED because everyone's attitude was eh, I'll catch up with everyone on Facebook. Not the same. Not even close. And I say that as someone who enjoys keeping up with friends/acquaintances/the odd work colleague on Facebook.


I had one of the weirdest experiences of my life during an excursion from a cruise ship in Roatan. There was this snorkeling island/"animal sanctuary" and the animals were all behind chain link fences, except for the alligators, which were behind three feet tall chicken wire. It was AMAZING to see, and I totally would have touched those alligators if I hadn't been worried about what kind of hospital I would end up at to reattach my arm. There were regular monkeys in trees and jaguars and quarantined monkeys with mange and I still can't believe it was real.

Wait, why is "animal sanctuary" in quotes? Did the animals look poorly cared for? I need to make sure not to spend money at sad zoos.

I read that as "Which family member would you eat first on a DESSERT island?" and had to laugh, because my relatives would be tough cookies for anyone! Do you worry that someone might answer "Cupcake"?

I'd be offended if they didn't.

Ugh. I don't know where to start. A very close dear family friend unexpectedly lost his/her spouse this week. This friend has many, many FB friends. While I'm all for an outpouring of support in times of emotional crisis, I just can't seem to reconcile the very public expressions of grief and support that have started popping up with my inner monologue that says "Jeez, if you really care, reach out personally, not on an electronic billboard for the whole freaking world to read." Further complicating is that there hasn't been a public announcement, so, while some folks know (through the rumor mill/grapevine) what has occurred, there are now other, further removed FB "friends" who are posting the invariable "what happened?" comments. I'm feeling like FB has turned grief into this semi-public electronic spectacle that is just making me sick. I know that people are just trying to be supportive in the new electronic world, and I also get that I'm processing my own grief, possibly at what I view are knuckleheaded demonstrations of support, but I just can't help shake my head at this. a) because it feels like the very least, and I do mean least, someone can do to share condolences in a time of crisis and grief, b) it just strikes me that the public nature of a FB wall posting isn't the proper forum for such communications, since it just gives me a feeling that the poster is also participating in the "hey, look at me, I'm a good person for posting my condolences" and c) maybe most importantly, do you really think your friend is checking his/her FB page at this time, so why not take the time to write something a little more private and thought out? Sorry, I don't have answers, I'm still processing, but, man, I can't help but fell bad about both myself for feeling this, and also bad about others for trying (minimally) to be supportive and so, so, so, missing the mark.

I think Caroline Hax in a chat last week was given a question about reaching out to someone in grief. Chatters seemed to be pretty divided as to weather it was better to say nothing if you didn't know what to say, or to reach out regardless, however clumsily your efforts might be.

I am sitting back with popcorn and watching the recent trend of people posting calorie counts in response to shared recipes on Facebook. Jane shares Chocolate-Dipped Grilled Cream Cheese with Bacon and Extra Lard. Betty responds, "I just ran that through a calorie counter and it's 14,000 calories per serving!!!" Joan, "MYOB, biznatch!" and then everyone else chimes in like their lives are at stake. It's not just Betty and Joan, either, there's a weird trend. It could just be among my friends, but I credit New Year's resolutions and it's mightily entertaining. If you feel like trolling, give it a shot next time someone shares a Mac and Cheese Donut Sandwich recipe. A+.

I have never, never seen this happen on Facebook, and it seems the height of rudeness to calorie-count someone else's recipe. Right?

I would say that as a non facebook user, facebook has caused me to become more isolated as people gravitate to using that as a communication source.

Interesting perspective, thanks. that it's entirely possible to live a full life without ever having gone on Facebook -- and spared all the concomitant hassles such as snarky comments, quasi-stalking, online privacy concerns, etc., etc.


I have existed fine without ever using Facebook. I don't feel the need to broadcast my life to others. I have my family and friends and can communicate just fine without Facebook. There are many people I have known in the past with whom I do not want to make a reconnection. I use email and the internet continuously in my life, but this is one internet site for which I have no desire to use.

And posting.

"But I'm not even sure she can be classified as a 'take it too far competitor.' She was just a competitor. She was doing what she was instructed to do." But she wasn't. They do talk a lot about being fit and athletic -- and Rachel had been a competitive swimmer when she was a teen -- and most of the winners and near-winners have ended up where the two runner-up guys (and the "at-home winner" woman) did -- in the 45-55% body weight loss range, and looking fit and muscular. Rachel lost 62%. It doesn't matter what raw number you start with, it's the percentage.

But it is easier for a 400 lb competitor to lose 60% of his body weight and still be healthy than a 260 lb competitor. It just is. It's math.

And Rachel, at home in isolation, didn't know what percentage of body weight the other competitors were going to lose, did she? I'm just saying, I find it really fascinating that we encourage people to play the game hard, but then chastise them the second they step over the invisible line that we have somehow agreed exists.

That the maximum our office could come up with.

I think Putin counts himself as 70 or 80 people, so you're doing better than you think.

The guy I liked who never asked me out has a girlfriend now. Awwww what a cute picture of the two of you, yeah, your feed is blocked.


Okay, it's fine to not want to use Facebook, but why the subtle snark when giving reasons why? Or am I just imagining that? I use Facebook but I know I could live a full life without it. (it's just another communication tool) I use Facebook, but I don't feel the need to broadcast my life to others. (I use it to keep in touch with people) It's seems like there's a tiny bit of snootiness towards people who do use the site...

No, the snark was there. I noticed it, it bothered me, but I feel like I've gone on the record enough about how it bothers me that I didn't need to comment on it again.

That person must not work with any hockey fans. That is all.

Or any figure skaters.

Back when I was still on Livejournal, I lost a parent. My LJ friends knew she had been ill, and some of them shared the information around while I wasn't up to posting. The thing was that I honestly could not take any electronic expressions of sympathy, so I posted a brief update that was locked to comments, and then went away again until I felt up to it. That might have been unfair to the people who wanted to express sympathy, but that's what I needed. I really wish FB offered the option to disable comments. (I do, for the record, not let people post on my wall. Ever. Even on my birthday.)

This was gracious of you, and an elegant way to help prevent people from being idiots.

When I was younger, my wife and I would sit in a room, read books, and not talk to each other. Now we sit in a room, text, and not talk to each other.

Soon you'll be able to do it all via mind control.

i always think about that warren beatty quote from that madonna movie: why do anything unless it's public? way back when - she was someone who seemed to do that. but now - it's like the whole world is like that. nothing is sacred or private or none of someone else's business. i post A LOT on fb and do a lot on line - it's not hard to find me, etc. BUT when something really happens (like, say a car accident or two and some severe injuries) - I don't really put that up. It's personal it didn't need to go on fb and the people who needed to know - knew. i think we have definitely blurred some lines of things in our society.

This is a really interesting take: to put up only the things that don't matter and keep the big stuff private. Most of us do this to a certain extent, no? That's why it's so uncomfortable for us when somebody has a large public meltdown on Facebook -- because they're breaking the unspoken contract we've agreed on for behavior on the site.

There's an awful lot of scorn heaped by Facebook users upon those of us who don't use Facebook.

No, there's not. I mean -- sure, by some individuals, sometimes. But it's different. If I here you are not on Facebook and never have been, then my response would be this: "Really? Why? That's interesting. I, as a person who has both been on Facebook and not been on Facebook, have made a decision that it adds value to my life, so I'm curious about why you choose not to try it."


Whereas from non-Facebook users, what I get is, "I have never tried this, but I have made mass, sweeping generalizations about how pathetic and stupid the people are who do use it, and I am absolutely sure I know everything about something I have never tried."


I'm not saying that's you. But what I'm saying is I've been doing this chat for several years, and I've seen several hundred versions of these viewpoints, and without exception, the people who are not on Facebook are more scornful than the people who are.

I resisted for years, since my career is IT security and FB kept showing up in all of my professional newsletters as a bad example. However, my siblings and friends bugged me until I joined (and set very tight privacy settings), and I am so glad I did. I live far from my family and many friends, and now I am seeing photos of kids I would not have seen, and am up on peoples' lives in a way I could not have been before FB. And they get to see my kids as well, as well as the photo I shot of someone ice skating on the reflecting pool during the polar vortex, which was quite a thing!


That my "friends" that never post and never comment on anything I post will nevertheless be first in line to wish me a happy birthday, which bugs the heck out of me. Birthday now hidden.

Someone did an experiment a few years back where they changed their birthday, so it happened three or four times in one year. The same people on Facebook would wish them happy birthday every time, not realizing that it was weird for a guy who just had a birthday in March to be having another one in May.

Even someone who starts at a higher weight and loses that much weight is putting her health at risk. Losing huge numbers of pounds extremely quickly is dangerous, no matter where you begin. It puts a strain on all the organs. Frankly, I think they are very lucky no contestant has had a heart attack or stroke - yet. I work in the eating disorders field and recall being at a professional conference where a clinician spoke about a patient who had started at around 300 pounds and had starved herself down to 200. Even though she was still obese, the entire group agreed that she should be diagnosed with anorexia due to the percentage of body weight lost.

Interesting, thanks.

I do have a friend who is not on fb - she says: you know you used to have to come to people's homes to see their pictures and be so intimate. I'm not willing to expose my life like that. and stuff like that. she is not scornful (her husband has an account - and mainly it is used for the non profit he runs, but sometimes it's other stuff, but he's not on much). she just doesn't want to show the world her private life.

I didn't mean to imply that all people who are not on Facebook are scornful, and if I did, I'm sorry.

I accept that Cupcake might well be non-judgmentally curious as to why I'm not on Facebook. But an awful lot of others have said snarky things to me, and especially tried to pressure me into going on Facebook against my will -- reminds me of high school peer pressure (although I recognize that for what it is and am utterly impervious to it).

Fair point. Do a thought experiment favor, though, and assess yourself (honestly -- none of us needs to know the answer), asking whether it's possible that these friends who have tried to pressure you might have their hackles up over something you've already said, i.e. "I have better things to do with my time." or "I can't believe people have time for that." or "No thanks, I don't care what people had for breakfast," etc. etc.

if someone posts something about their losses on fb - one might think they *are* checking fb. if it's that a person finds out about a loss and then posts something on their page - that *is* weird.

Yes, definitely a distinction.

"she just doesn't want to show the world her private life" As a Facebook user, I don't understand this idea. You don't have to show the world your life, only the people you CHOOSE can see it. But I guess it's just a misunderstanding of the way Facebook works, which is understandable if you've never used it...but still annoying if you think that's why everybody else is using Facebook.

Oh well. It's too bad she will never know the joys of having friends count the calories on recipes that she posts.

I really don't get why people are so judgey and mean at all. If you don't like it, don't do it. I am on and like how I see things about people. No, these are not deep relationships, but how is it bad for me to see happy pictures and hear about people's lives?

If that's wrong, I don't want to be right.

Putin, Ovechkin, the former PM Medvedev, the guy who owns Chelsea FC (Abramovich), the guy who just got out of jail (Khodorovsky), and the guy who owns the Nets or Knicks or something. Oh, and those women from PussyRiot. Do I get a prize? Does spelling count?

Gold star! (Why are we talking about Russians again?)

I really don't understand why it bugs you that friends are wishing you a happy birthday.

I took it as, because it didn't seem like they were interested enough in his/her life to reach out on their own, and they required the Facebook birthday prompt. Wouldn't annoy you, but maybe it would annoy some.

It starts when they ask if I'm on Facebook. I answer a simple "No," and then they demand, "Why not?" I reply "Because I don't want to." They seem to take it as a rebuke and start an inquisition of me, as though I don't have the right. Who wants to be online "friends" with folks like that?

Okay, I don't know you at all, and making any conclusions about people through an online chat is completely impossible and mostly pointless: But your use of words like "demand" (when they might just think they're asking) and "inquisition" (when they might be trying to have a conversation) and putting "friends" in quotes, as if they're automatically bad people -- you are coming across as really judgmental and defensive. It's possible your friends are just cruddy. But. There it is.

Didn't people used to gripe about the new-fangled telephone contraption that replaced going to visit your friend in person? And didn't people gripe about email replacing the lovely and personal handwritten letter, and then refuse to participate in emailing? Facebook and social media are just the next modern adaptation right?

It's true. Whatever is new is bad.

I barely know anyone's birthday and sometimes forget my own. I think it is nice that we are reminded and bring a smile to someone. Extending goodwill really is not a bad thing, folks. Stop trying so hard to be annoyed and offended.

"Stop trying so hard to be annoyed" is another great T-shirt slogan.

Ok, so death and illness are drastically different in terms of grief, but wanted to throw my experience out there -- when I was diagnosed with cancer at 26, I waited over two months before it made any presence on my facebook page. At that point it was such an all-consuming thing in my life that it made sense. The outpouring of support from all of those long-lost friends, even if only for the 5 seconds it took them to write a post, meant something to me. A lot of my chemo drugs had depression side effects, and it really helped me from going down the rabbit hole to see messages from people who otherwise would have rarely thought of me.

Really appreciate seeing this perspective. Thank you.

(leaves a calling card on the silver platter outside the Web Hostess Live chat and quietly departs)

(Accepts calling card, composes response in drawing room).

They kill us for their sport.

Who knows why we're quoting King Lear now, but it's as good a signal as any that it's time to log off.


Remember: I won't see you next week, but I will see you the week after.

God save the Olympics; it looks like they're going to need it.

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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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