September 15, 2017

Close to a million commuters, tourists, and workers pass through New York City’s Grand Central Station every single day. A busy sight, indeed. Credit: Jody Claborn/Flickr

You’ve seen them at the coffee shop ordering a skim latte while simultaneously closing a business deal via the Bluetooth plug hanging off their ear. They always seem to be either in a meeting, or going to one. They think they’re super important. And, apparently, so do we. Being (or at least appearing) busy raises your social status, according to a new study. Georgetown University assistant professor Neeru Paharia tells us why we’re so impressed by those with packed schedules.

Three Takeaways 

  • Paharia says that it’s easier to come across as busy in today’s world because of social media. Since that’s the case, there’s less value on wealth and physical objects. “Social media makes it really easy to talk about how busy you are. It’s really hard on social media to tell people you drive an expensive car.”
  • Paharia says that, by coming across as busy, you make yourself seem like a resource that’s in short supply. She says, “If someone asks to meet, are you going to tell them you’re free anytime? Or do you tell them, ‘I can meet you at 4:15, two Thursdays from now?’”
  • Being busy wasn’t always seen as a status symbol. The 19th-century economist Thorstein Veblen theorized that what made a person belong to the upper class was their ability to waste money and time. He called this group the “leisure class.”

More reading 

Neeru Paharia, innovation hub, Busyness, Culture, Kara Miller, WGBH, pri

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