Monthly Archives: January 2017

Rediscovering the pause button

(Image courtesy of 1982 Atari 5200 ad)

(Image courtesy of 1982 Atari 5200 ad)

We now live in a world where social media is a 24/7 construct; for good or ill, many of us feel like we must be connected, must be on, all the time. It’s like we can’t turn ourselves off. It’s like our pause button is broken.

But for the sake of our mental health, our ability to prioritize, our sense of perspective, we need to remember to pause more than ever.

The pause button, like much of technology, is a recent construct. Those of a certain age probably first encountered the pause button as something to press on a tape recorder or boombox to stop the tape or the music, or to record a favorite song off the radio (waiting for the DJ to pause talking).

A 1982 ad for the Atari 5200 gaming console gave us our first look at the pause button for a real-time progressing activity, also using it as a unique selling proposition. A young man is in the middle of playing Pac-Man (which many of us spent a lot of time doing back then) when his mother (presumably) calls into the room: “Telephone! It’s Judy!” A sly smile creases his face and he hits the pause button which was mind blowing to us the first time we saw it! Of course, the idea of our teen dream actually calling us was far-fetched, but this feature was awesome.

The pause button persisted through VCRs and DVD players and you can now even pause live TV. What we can’t do as easily is to pause ourselves. To stop checking social media. To stop worrying if we’re missing anything. To stop and see a bigger picture.

I’m as bad at this too, but I’ve been trying. I took vacation over the holidays, and even (this sounds pathetic but it’s progress) watched movies on Netflix without worrying about emails or social media and didn’t check my phone compulsively when trying to get to sleep. And you know what? The world didn’t end; 2017 arrived. I realize it’s what I should do. And need to continue doing. The pause is good for all of us. If my adorable son asks me to pause what I’m doing to play with him, he perhaps knows our priorities better than I do.

Having a nose to the grindstone keeps us from seeing sunsets, seeing sunrises and seeing the stars. Micromanaging moments keeps us from spending time in better ways. It is, to paraphrase an old Coca-Cola ad, our pauses that refresh us. Musical scores are made of beats and rests (or pauses, if you prefer) … each makes the other more effective.

So please join me — and remind me — in pausing more in 2017. Let’s stop and eat lunch with other humans instead of wolfing it down at our desks. Let’s take a walk when the weather is nice. Let’s read real books and write our stories and laugh a lot during these pauses. Let’s bring back the importance of the pause button.

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