LAST week, I missed "Breaking Bad" when it was shown on Sunday night, so I made it a point to ignore Twitter and Facebook to avoid spoilers. By midweek, though, I figured it would be safe to resume normal social media activity.
I was wrong.
People on Twitter and Facebook were still buzzing about the episode I had missed, trading takes on the plot twists and theories about how the show will end. It was a stark reminder that although I think about the Web as a real-time organism, most of the time the organism is obsessing about what happened earlier that day, or week.
The way we share, watch, read and otherwise consume content doesn't happen on a linear timeline. It loops in on itself. And even when major events unfold online and social media sites broadcast happenings minutes, or even hours, before major news organizations cotton on to them, the discussions and dissections that bubble up in the aftermath are the most interesting parts.
This phenomenon is something I've taken to calling the replay Web.
The replay Web coexists with the real-time Web, the phrase often used to describe sites and services, like Twitter, that let people consume information as soon as it is published. But with very few high-profile exceptions -- including the Boston Marathon bombings and the Arab Spring -- the real-time Web is usually in a state of hyperactive stasis, like a bunch of amped-up fans waiting for a concert to start.
The replay Web, on the other hand, is always churning. No matter how trivial the present, the replay Web can remix it into something significant. The instant replays are starting to become my favorite part of the Web, since the reactions to and commentary on the news often tend to be more interesting than the news itself.
Watching Miley Cyrus attempt to dance at the MTV Video Music Awards was amusing in its way. The real fun, however, was re-experiencing the performance through the commentary and snarky reactions that followed. Internet commenters picked up on nuances and interactions I missed during the show, like a close-up shot of the pop singer Rihanna's unamused reaction to Ms. Cyrus.
The replay Web, in many ways, exists because information is coursing through sites like Facebook and Twitter with knock-you-down force. But no single event can emerge from that stream of information unless it is amplified by the replay of voices. Amplification is one of the few ways we can sieve through the gushing stream for bits of conversational gold.
"Everyone is sharing everything at every second," said David Lee, a partner at SV Angel, a venture capital firm that has invested in many social media companies, including Twitter. "It's an explosion, it's a cacophony. It all gets so big and so unwieldy."
The rise of the replay Web is more than just a coping mechanism that helps us deal with information overload. It is shaping the way we consume, process and share information, and could potentially influence the businesses that are built on it.
"Real time is yesterday's experience," said Alex Chung, who helped start a small company called Giphy that is building a search engine for GIFs, those animated looping clips.
Mr. Chung was quick to clarify that he doesn't think the notion of the real-time Web is dead. It's just that critical mass and amplification, or as he puts it, repetition, become much more valuable for helping ideas or pieces of information gain momentum and become common cultural reference points.
"Our consumption of content isn't synchronous," he said. "Things are interesting to a small group, a cluster of friends or on Reddit -- then they die."
He continued: "Then they pick up and go massive. There are these little ripple effects all around the Web, little waves that converge in a pool and make big waves."
THERE are other signs to indicate a replay aesthetic is coming to the Web. For example, the latest version of the iPhone's mobile software will include the ability to capture video in slow motion. That means that some of the videos we see on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vine could soon look like the kind of slowed-down instant replays typically seen only on sports channels. Burberry, the clothing brand, has already uploaded a video to its Instagram account that shows fashion models walking down a runway in slow motion.
The way we use technology could be reshaping our sense of time and urgency. Douglas Rushkoff, the author of "Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now," describes present shock as the stupefaction that overtakes people as they try to keep up with the never-ending onslaught of status updates, photo feeds and looping videos constantly refreshing before their eyes.
Mr. Rushkoff writes that present shock keeps us suspended in a state of constant disarray, and causes us to prioritize the recent over the relevant and the new instead of the most important. Whether or not you agree with his premise, it is possible that the next wave of tools built for the social Web will try to help pull us out of the information rapids.
Repetition itself could become essential to this task. Mr. Chung said that the medium of the loop -- either in a GIF, a short clip posted to Vine, or Instagram photo- and video-sharing applications -- has become a crucial framework for transmitting information. It mimics the way we remember -- by repetition -- and future tools could make use of that to understand not only how we transmit information but also how we retain it.
It feels strange to keep revisiting the past in a world that seems to be constantly racing forward. But going back in time has been standard sci-fi fantasy fodder from H. G. Wells to "Star Trek" to Hermione Granger's Time-Turner, and understanding our actions in the past can affect the future.
Perhaps the replay Web, by allowing us to constantly revisit and reconsider the recent past, can help us find new meaning in it. While we change its contours with new interpretations, visual signatures and instant analysis, there is always a new present to step into.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.