Pre-Internet, we accepted that media had a mayfly’s life span: Yesterday’s news was yesterday’s news, and that was it. If you were the creator of it, you made peace with the notion that people either saw it or didn’t when it appeared, and you moved on; there was no alternative.
If it lingered in the public consciousness, it was because of its durability, not repeated reminders. Content had finite endings and deaths, not asymptotic approaches and long-term vegetative states from which resuscitation is always an option.
Consumers had to make similar bargains: If you went out on a Thursday night during the 1990s, you missed NBC’s “Must See TV” schedule (unless you taped it) and understood that it would be a while before you could see it again. (It helped, too, that there was less media competition in previous decades and, in the case of TV, that dramatic series were generally less complex, so that missing an episode of “Dynasty” might not set you back as far as skipping one of “Breaking Bad.”)
Now, with just about every airing of a much greater number of shows obtainable at any moment, there is no excuse for missing one — and, therefore, a more urgent compulsion to catch up, in case you missed it.