It was 2007.
I had just started my freshman year of college and in preparation had purchased myself an HP Pavilion 6v000 laptop. Not the latest in computer technology by today’s standards. It had plenty of memory to not only store my assignments with but to also maintain the ever-growing library of new media I was engulfed in at the time. It wasn’t until then, that I began to notice the rapid way in which we now view, read, and listen to media.
Fast forward over eight years later and I often think to myself: “There is no possible way I could keep up with every piece of current music, TV show, movie, book, news article, podcast, etc. out there.”.
This brings me to the coined acronym ICYMI. That’s, “In Case You Missed It”. Ever notice the same link posted twice or even three times a week while surfing Facebook or Twitter? If you haven’t, you probably spend less time on the internet than most (which, honestly, I commend you for doing so).
And in case you did have to run while finding an intriguing link on Twitter, you should feel at ease to know that the site now has an entire page devoted to ICYMI and the many things that are retweeted for user attention every few seconds.
The letters ICYMI really exemplify our current epoch of internet use; a time where there is just simply too much out there to stay abreast of.
I recall a recent time when I was in high school and would spend hours enjoying a CD and really studying the details as to why I liked a particular album so much. Now, I’m lucky if I can catch the name of a song before something else plays next on Spotify. Of course, I could just go back and search for the song in order to add it to one of my many playlists (playlists which are usually comprised of many different artists and divert from the continuity and intimacy you would get while listening and getting to know a single artist).
Herein lies the double-edged sword of retrievable content; we can always go back and search for what we missed but can never catch up entirely. It is as if we are now rewarded for being the first to witness something as opposed to how excited we are for new content.
All the media in most of the developed world use to run cyclically. Newspapers would print out once or, in some cases, twice daily. TV programs came on at a set time, typically once a week. And you had to wait months before you reached the end of a season. Movies, of course, would first come out in theaters. You would then have to hold on for months before seeing it released on video or DVD. We are now presented with a ceaseless online stream of content. Whole seasons become available, instantly. And most movies can be found at any time on the internet.
How does all this expedient content affect producers? It adds pressure on them to be the ones whose content isn’t lost and forgotten on any popular hosting site. To avoid the conspicuousness of reposting older material, content providers must rely on social media and the like to continuously spread posts throughout the feeds of users.
A breaking news story cannot base their shelf life on worthy content alone. Constant reminders will determine its longevity; a single posting which can revive itself indefinitely according to our new definition of what’s “current”.
The point I’m pressing is that media content used to have definite endings. People would have to skip a night out in order to enjoy their favorite sitcom or would record it knowing that they wouldn’t be able to see the same episode again before it inevitably reran on television.
If a new drama comes out, it’s likely going to be much more complex than a show from yesteryear. Missing a night of “Mr. Robot” can leave you out in a lot of story development as opposed to missing one episode of “Dallas”. This factor along with an ever increasing flow of new shows reinforces a modern compulsion to catch up, therefore, we have ICYMI.
In the face of media outlets is a race for their content to be seen; one which will only quicken as time moves forward and the accelerated use of the internet continues. In any post, be it by the media or ourselves, there is a limited window of opportunity for it to get noticed (or, go viral). It is with this notion that a new question arises: “If something is posted and no one is around to engage in it, did it happen at all?”.
Amidst the fast-paced posts and links is the matter of which ones are questionably meaningful and enriching to you as a person. Day-by-day, you will see things you may or may not choose to deem as “junk”. Within the abbreviated phrase In Case, You Missed It is a desperate internet call to be seen. If not one repeated post, then two or three. A shameless promotion which uses ICYMI as a perfect excuse for content which did not take off naturally first time round.
Even someone as huge and important as Barack Obama is subject to reposts in order to highlight White House actions which may be overlooked or underrated by the public. It is status quo to say that every important public entity must use the tactic of repeat posts in order to stay relevant on the internet.
There is now a vast market full of social media content jobs. A profession which often relies its income on how many clicks any number of posts can receive per day. This, furthermore, emphasizes not only the financial importance ICYMI has on people trying to make a living but also the high stakes the internet holds on the global economy as a whole.
In essence, In Case You Missed It is a modern contortion of mechanical reproduction which even more so takes away from any groundbreaking “aura” a piece of media may have on influencing or inspiring a person. As I relate back to my anecdote about taking the time to enjoy individual artists, extensively. I fear my only option to experience the magic of an artist would be through live concerts alone. Performances which would surely not be lit by crowd lighters but smartphone screens, and caught on digital video to be uploaded online for those who missed it.
A version of this article was first posted at Omnibus Journal, Oct. 01, 2015.