In the post Life as Instant Replay, Over and Over Again, by Jenna Wortham, we are immediately thrust into an example of her point that is likely familiar to us all, spoilers. Using the idea of a “Breaking Bad” spoiler and how it can travel through and be obsessed over in various forms of social media, for days, and sometimes weeks after it’s air date, Wortham reminds us all that the web is consistently focused on the past.
She breaks the web down into two distinct categories. The replay Web and the real-time web. This was quite interesting to me as I’d always just thought about the information we process on the Web as all being the same, news as being the news, etc, no matter when I received it or how. If I received something via a Reddit post or an old article shared over Facebook, it always SEEMED the same. However, I see now the importance of making a distinction between the “replay Web” of past information found on Vine and Facebook etc and the “real-time web” sources like Twitter.
Wortham points out that most of the time, the most fun and interesting information about a topic comes from the commentary and reactions of everyday average Joes like you and I. I couldn’t agree with this more. I’ve increasingly found myself over the years spending twice as much time reading through the comments of any news article than I spent reading the article itself. I can get lost on Reddit for hours reading through peoples opinions on relatively silly subjects that were only briefly covered somewhere “important”.
I have to say that I am glad that we have this replay dynamic going on. Whereas a decade ago (just throwing out a relatively short number) we would have had trouble with the pace of information flow that we are working at now, we have built a system that can catalog and make easily available at the search of a Tag or Keyword, any bit of information that has crossed the web. We’ve made it possible to have a slew of information cross our path without having to absorb it all, and depending on the topics that you are interested in, the “replay internet” makes it possible for you to go to one spot and have all info on your favorite subjects translated, and thought out for you.
For instance, Dennis Rodman goes to North Korea. You see this headline in the news and quickly read through the article. It’s interesting enough, but it’s new news and they know very little. Minutes, hours, a day later they are onto something new and even though you’re still interested, it’s over. Or is it? Flip to Reddit and you’ll find thousands of discussions on the topic just minutes after it’s initially reported. These commentators have brought together the combined facts of a multitude of resources, have taken the time to think out their ideas (many of them of course are just jokers) and have done a lot of the information processing for you, leaving you with distinct understandings, opinions, and facts to form your own opinions on. This is incredibly important to someone like me who values information very highly. I love to learn and the more information I can absorb, the better.
I’ve felt over the years that while I’m learning so much, I’m not actually learning anything. I struggled trying to figure out why this was, but this article made it clear. I’ve been absorbing so much real-time web, but it’s just surface content. It’s the replay web information that becomes what’s important, and the place where you can actually get most of the facts in one place.
The idea of Present Shock that Douglas Rushkoff is attributed with, where people are stupefied by the “never-ending onslaught of status updates…” is actually the perfect term for what I think I’d been experiencing the last few years. Always trying to find what is new, and getting lost in that rather than what is actually important. The news hasn’t changed, the constancy and availability of it has. Now that we get to know about EVERYTHING rather than just what a news network has deemed important, it’s increasingly harder to pick out the important. Until, of course, you switch to the replay web.