I don’t know if anyone else noticed but this week the news feeds have been teeming with articles on busyness as the new ‘it’ status symbol. I have shared a few of the articles on my Twitter page and it appears that most of the hubbub is related to a paper that recently came out that analyzed American’s association of busyness with higher status individuals. It’s a pretty interesting paper, although I must admit I did not find the findings that busyness is the new badge of wealth and status that surprising. I recall being in a group interview for a spot on a new committee last year, and one of the other people interviewing kept rattling off what seemed like an endless list of committees, groups, and clubs she was a part of. All while getting her degree, taking classes, and god knows what else. It was pretty freaking mesmerizing. I couldn’t help but feel in awe at that moment and somewhat inadequate at the same exact time. Just the sheer volume of stuff this person was involved with elevated her status to me in the room, and made her seem like my biggest competition in getting offered the spot (spoiler, she didn’t but I did). This has happened many times. Making a value judgment based on someone’s character can be trickier, especially when first meeting someone, so in my experience, we resort to these easier, even if less than ideal, to use identifiers (the same way a subtly branded handbag or watch becomes more than an object on someone’s arm).
Even if one is less inclined to prattle on about all the plates that are currently spinning, it is actually almost impossible to not relay some kind of information that makes it seem as if one is busy. I think this is just a fact of living in in a developed country in the 21st century, especially if you’re highly educated. People don’t pursue as many things with a singular focus. The large role technology plays in our lives and having so much available information at your fingertips makes it easier to multitask. I know without the internet it would be a lot harder for me to be as busy as I am. It’s not because I want to be busy, but it is just so much easier to do a myriad of things. Having a side hustle is practically the norm these days, and almost everyone I know has multiple passions, something which again is greatly facilitated by the internet.
I’m really torn when it comes to the idea of busyness as a status symbol because in a way it is rather unfair. One of the interesting bits uncovered by the article is that people who were busy by necessity (say by having to work two jobs to make ends meet) were not thought of as having a high status compared to someone who was busy by choice. Spending your leisure time doing random activities just for the sake of doing stuff seems a rather poor way to spend ones time. But what if busy is just the way you do things? A side effect of being ambitious? I know that I wouldn’t necessarily trade the many things that bring me joy even if no one but me would know I was doing them. And why does the type of activity seem to matter so much? If you read one of my last posts about running in a marathon, you know there’s something unique about training for a race, and the kind of status is confers on people. Still, after signing up to run in a 4th of July 5K last weekend, I called my mom and casually mentioned it. She sounded incredulous when I told her, and she said she just didn’t know how I could manage to squeeze in another thing into my life. It’s just me living my life I said, but for just a second, I thought about the busyness as a sign of high status, and just sat on the phone, and wondered.