Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

May 15, 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.

Hi Everyone. We'll get started at 2. First, though, apologies. Last week, I made the occasionally unreliable and often mysterious Web Hostess chat even more unreliable and mysterious, by going AWOL entirely. It was a sudden migraine, really bad, and it didn't even register to me that I was still on planet Earth, much less than that it was chat day. Forgive?


Second: earlier this week the European Union announced a "right to be forgotten" decision relating to the removal of personal information from Google searches. It's not as simple as that -- here's a link to a blog post that gets at some of the complexities -- but it's a big deal nonetheless.


What types of information do you think people should have the right to have deleted? Nothing? Things that are factually untrue? Things that are embarassing? Things that are neither factully untrue nor embarrassing but might be considered private? (i.e. speculation on sexual orientation?)



Third: Did you watch the Solange/Jay Z elevator fight? Why or why not? How did it make you feel about yourself? Celebrity? The world?

Fourth: You've already seen this, but  it's being heralded as the defining cat video of our times.

When I was 16, one of my oldest friends committed suicide. His loss profoundly changed my high school years and I wrote about it a lot. I submitted one essay to a grief website in 1999 (I think it may have been my college admissions essay) with my real name. For whatever reason, it's one of the first things that appears when you google my name (I have an unusual last name, so most things are about me). While I don't want his memory forgotten and he was still important to my life, I would love to have that essay removed (or at least my name removed from it) because with the advent of google, I feel like it gives people access to information I wouldn't readily give them. The website has never returned any of my communications to have it taken down, so it remains. I would love to be able to appeal to Google or some higher power to have it removed. The essay is all true, but it feels very odd to give strangers access to my teenage grief fourteen years later.

Thanks for sharing this. I've wondered whether the online postings of teenagers should be expunged when they turn 18, just like the criminal records of juveniles. And in this case, you wrote about something intensely personal when the Internet was one thing. Fourteen years later it's a completely different thing that you couldn't have predicted it becoming.

But no one actually did. I think we have Celeb-fatigue.

By the time I finally watched it, I felt like I'd already watched it seven or eleven times, just because of the myriad ways in which it has been dissected.

Google should work like license plate cameras. After a certain amount of time all data is deleted.

Or like the temporary marriages that some societies have? Where you have to re-up in order to stay in that relationship? (I can't remember if these are real societies, or just something people suggest from time to time.)

I did not watch the fight. At first, because I was at work when I read about it...but after, still didn't because stuff like that always makes me feel like I need a shower. I didn't watch those confrontation talk shows (Jerry Springer, etc.) or reality TV for the same reason. I have a very firm sense of where the None Of My Business line is, and Solange's & Jay-Z's personal stuff falls firmly outside that line. I've never really understood the can't-look-away-from-the-train-wreck mentality.

In an instance like this, I'm not sure whether the desire to watch is prurient -- like a train wreck -- or whether its just a self-soothing thing. We're so constantly bombarded with images of how great it is to be rich and famous -- and then a video like this unearths that sometimes it's drama-filled and crazy.

So we can all figure out what to think about Solange. So many conspiracy theories. Its all so confusing. I'm scared.

It would be a very rough week to be Solange.

No, I did not watch the video of the Solange/Jay Z elevator fight. I thought I had all the information I needed from the headline that said something like, "Solange attacks Jay Z while Beyonce (?) adjusts her dress." Did I miss anything worthwhile?

Only the input of a thousand body language experts/relationship experts/elevator experts.

No. You couldn't pay me to watch such inconsequential nonsense. Why is this being reported as news?

Two answers:


1) You're right, of course. It's salacious and seemy, and there's no need to broadcast people's private lives this way.


2) You're completely wrong, of course. "News" isn't always wars and policy and earthquakes. Sometimes its something that helps us better understand the human experience, right now, in this moment in time. Something about this video has caused us to either upend or reaffirm beliefs we hold about culture today. Understanding why that is, if we can do it in a thoughtful way, is useful.

Migraines are no fun. I hope you are feeling much better.

Thanks! I am.

My husband is a retired public official now in a high level role with an association affiliated with his work; and, he has a successful consulting business. For several years, every time he would google his name, the first story that would come up was the SJC decision on his contentious divorce. He was so frustrated that despite numerous positive media articles he is in, this was always the first. The last straw was when a client mentioned his divorce. He went back to the article to try to find the source, only to find out it was posted by HIS divorce attorney using it for marketing purposes as it was considered a landmark case. He contacted the attorney and the article was taken down immediately.

Chilling. I'm glad there was a happy ending, eventually.

The Irish and Scots had "handfasting," where you agreed to be married for a year and a day, and after that if either of you wanted out, all you had to do was say so. But you had to decide at the time of marrying which you were going to pick, handfasting or marrying forever.

Right. Which could be very awkward if one half of the couple thought they were going into one type of marriage, and the other half had a different opinion.

What do you think is the most effective way to support net neutrality? Comment at FCC? Contacting local representative? Attending a demonstration? Other ideas???

All of the above. And for those of you who haven't been following it: where we are with Net neutrality right now.

I don't think so. It's just televised/blogged/etc. rubbernecking. People might want to pretend that it's significant but that's just an excuse for gossiping.

I think that's true in a lot of cases. Not all cases, though. 

Everyone expects the dog to be the protector, not the aggressor. And the self-involved cat would sit on the sidelines, licking its paws. Instead the kitty races over to rescue the small human. Fascinating dynamics. I watched this clip several times, but passed on the Jay/Bey/Sol elevator rumpus. Post-gala violence is not my thing.

It was one giant leap for a cat, and an even gianter leap for cat-kind.

I've had success in asking certain websites that reflected pre-adulthood information to delete it. But there's other information that there's no way I could get deleted, and was a motivating factor in choosing to take my husband's name so it wouldn't pop up in web searches. Nothing scandalous on my part, but linking me to someone else's scandal that I'd rather not have to address.

Having to resort to name change is...distressing. But I'm glad it worked out.

Usually had an arrangement for group child rearing. It didn't matter too much who fathered the kids as long as the extended family raised them. However, if the uncles were taking care of too many kids, they spoke to their sister.

And said...what? "Please stop sexing, we have too many kids?"

(not that I had to, with evening news sites teasing it before commercial breaks), but I did read Linda Holmes' "interview" with Solange's purse, and that was hilarious. (I've seen Solange in concert. She's a good performer. So is Jay-Z. People have their stuff. That is the extent of my involvement in this story.)

The interview is great. You should call click on it.

It's a fallacy that dogs are always the agressive and cats are always weak. Growing up, we had a cat that would chase a neighbors black lab (huge black lab) out of our yard whenever the dog jumped it's fence. A friend had a cat that was "known" by the neighborhood dogs and the dogs would NEVER enter the cat's yard after the cat marked its territory.

I don't think anyone thinks that cats are always "weak." Do they? Cats are very intimidating. Cats would eat you if they were large enough.

St. John's College? San Jose Courier?

Supreme Judicial Court...I assumed. 

As unfortunate as it may be, the fact that the most salacious/unflattering fact about your life is the most prominent web-hit is a fact of life that's been around forever. As the old vaudeville/Catskills jokes goes -- you can be a brilliant engineer who built a hundred magnificent bridges, but sleep with just one goat....

"Take my goat. Please."

Hmph. I bet those uncles fathered more kids onto other families than their sister did onto them.

See, that's what I was thinking.

Oh. I thought that was SCOTUS.


Mine often makes a valiant attempt even though he's not.


They do have the reputation of being very self-involved and not particularly altruistic.

Right. Outside of an old-timey cartoon in which the dog chases the cat, I've never come across a stereotype of a weak cat vs. aggressive dog.

Can anyone here give a reason for why anyone (other than maybe the ISPs) would think not being neutral is a good idea? Maybe I'm just unimaginative, but I'm usually good at seeing the other side of an argument, and I don't get this one.

Anyone want to rise to this challenge?

This seems like opening a real pandora's box. Bad actors are going to be able to use that to cover their tracks.

Nobody puts Baby in the corner.

I love all these high-minded people who say they didn't watch the Jay Z elevator melee because "it's not news" or "not my business." What? Do you read human interest stories in the Washington Post (ex. the excellent article about Chelsey Desmond and Ian Desmond) or other "newsy" articles about what would otherwise be personal issues (Louisiana congressman)? How is the video any different? For the record, and I am not ashamed to admit it, I watched the video! I watched it with the same amount of interest as I watched the cat protecting the child video...it's the human condition, it's human life. People live their lives differently from me, and I am interested enough in those differences to read, watch, etc. I don't let it consume my life,but I admit at least a periphery interest.

I'm glad you mentioned the Louisiana congressman. There does seem to be a nebulous line, between the celebrities whose personal lives we are considered reasonable for caring about (often politicians), and the celebrities we are allowed to care about with impunity (low-level D-list actors), and the celebrities who, if we care too much about their personal lives, we are thought of as crass (often A-List stars). What's that about?

What I thought was amazing was not that the cat first attacked the dog then chased it around the truck, but that it then went back to check on the kid!

Or to just strut his stuff and be received as a great liberator.

The argument is that bandwidth is finite and those who consume more of it (video) should pay more. Like the toll lanes on the Beltway.


Why is neutrality a good idea? As far as I can tell everyone downloading movies on Friday night slows down my internet. And my wife, who works from home, can always tell when school is out and all the kiddies are home because everything slows down. Why shouldn't heavy content providers pay?


Well, politicians are in charge of policy that affects us daily, so knowing if they are untruthful or crazy is important. Celebrities, not so much. I think the D-list stuff is even worse than A-List celeb gazing. With the big stars, they are often held up as inspirational. I can see where the darker side of such people holds interest. Devouring the lives of small-time celebs just seems exploitative to me.

It might be worse -- but I think we still do it. Lindsay Lohan yells at a paparazzi, and we think, "Ugh, look what Lindsay's up to again." If Nicole Kidman yelled at a paparazzi, we would think, "This is none of our business. Let's leave the refined pretty lady alone. Shame on you for clicking."

I just got back late yesterday from 3 weeks in Europe so have no idea what that's about, although whatever transpired it must be difficult to be the wife/sister caught in the middle between one's spouse and sibling. OTOH, I LURRRRRVE the cat video, which I saw on TV right after arriving home (did I mention that I'm a cat-lover?).

Are you saying that  the people of Europe have not been playing and re-playing the meltdowns of American celebrities? Do they have better things to do?

FYI -- SJC are the state level "Supreme Court" mostly a New England term.

Yep, thanks.

Maybe it's just me, but it made them seem more like "real" people instead of "celebrities". Lots of families have drama and conflict between family members that they don't want the world to know about, so I feel bad that theirs was plastered all over the internet. Being famous means they have traded away a certain amount of privacy, so they'll never be able to walk down a street and not be recognized again, but having such personal strife made public is just not right.

It did make them more real. Which is what we always think we want for celebrities -- to see what they're reeeeally like. But then once they do something that makes us see them as real people, it also makes us acutely aware of how terrible it would be to have the general public involved in your real-person business.

If the internet is like a toll road, and people who use more bandwidth need to pay more, then people who watch a lot of cat videos will be forced to pay more, which will not make the cats happy, and I think we have ample evidence from the internet that we don't want to make the cats unhappy...

This answer is disqualified because it does not mention Solange.

Just to clear something up - the proposed rule doesn't just make people who use the most bandwidth pay more. It allows ISPs to have certain companies (Netflix, ESPN, etc) pay them to provide that content to users faster than the other traffic. Which may end up putting everything else into a slower -than-necessary tier of service. So, it really won't help those of us that work from home and get slowed down by other peoples "overuse".

Sorry, I meant to point this out in an earlier post, and just blew right past it. Yes, this is about what companies are going to pay, not about what you (at least directly, at least initially) are going to pay.

Sorry, but there's something lurid about an elevator fight video that just isn't present for your average human-interest story. That's what I object to. I didn't mean for my comment to sound like a dig against the people who do enjoy that kind of thing, just to point out that I don't really get it myself.

Thanks for writing in again. I think the black-and-whiteness of it, and the silence of it, is what adds to your discomfort. There is literally no context, and so the only reason we're clicking seems to be because we want to see a fight.

I am the all powerful Netflix. I am willing to pay to get my customers better access to my goods. Why can't I pay the person who does the distribution to get my customers better access? If I sold my goods in a bricks and mortar store you would expect me to pay more to be in a building with a better location. How is the net any different?


Would you leak a Washington Post video for 10 years of salary?

A Washington Post video of what? Eli Saslow sneaking into my desk after hours and stealing my Red Vines? That's all that happens here.

And now it's 3. I didn't get to as many questions as I would have liked -- in an appropriate sidenote for this particular chat, I'm writing from  a coffee shop where the internet is very slow and spotty, and I had to reboot multiple times. Next week I should be back in the office. Looking forward to it!

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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