We're more impressed by busy people, says science

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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Picture your week ahead: is it packed full of deadlines, meetings, drinks, dinners, hobbies and sports?

If so, you might be considered as having a “higher status” than those who have plenty of time to spare, according to the findings of a new study.

And this is particularly true if you’re partial to humble bragging about how busy you are on social media.

The new research, conducted by professors at Columbia, Georgetown and Harvard universities, found that being constantly busy was viewed as the ultimate status symbol – and could even be more impressive than owning luxury products or having plenty of cash to spare.

“People who have less time are viewed as scarce resources, and therefore their time seems more valuable,” one of the study’s co-authors, Neeru Paharia, told Canvas 8.

“When busy, people are inaccessible, which makes others perceive them as being in-demand,” the assistant professor at Georgetown University added.

“This is why a full calendar is, in some contexts, now a more desirable status symbol than any material possession.”

The study, due to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research, analysed tweets sent by people who were humble bragging about their busy lives (think tweets such as, “I have so much work to do, I don’t even have time to have lunch”, or anything with the hashtag #ihavenolife).

Based on the analysis, the researchers presented participants with different scenarios of busy and non-busy people, and asked them to infer their social status.

In contrast to the traditional idea that less busy people were able to have such leisurely lifestyles because they had more money, and therefore a higher status, the researchers found that participants were more impressed by the scenarios of busy people.

They concluded that this is because time is now the most valuable commodity in our hectic, “switched on” lives.

“A busy and overworked lifestyle, rather than a leisurely lifestyle, has become an aspirational status symbol,” the researchers concluded in the paper.

So, next time you’re drowning in deadlines, console yourself with the thought that you’re probably killing it in the social stakes.

Images: iStock


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Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Commissioning Editor at Stylist. Follow her on Twitter