Why Busy People Look Impressive
It seems like everyone is busy these days.
Some thrive on having a packed schedule. Other people just say that they’re busy. You may even have a friend that humblebrags about how hard they work.
But why are people so busy? Or want to appear that way?
New research says that it could be because busyness is a status symbol. And busy people look impressive.
Busyness Signals Social Status
I’ll be the first to argue that busyness doesn’t always mean productive. Sometimes people are just busy doing, well, busywork.
But researchers from Harvard wanted to know how busyness affected people’s perceptions. So they conducted a number of experiments to find answers.
Participants in one study were asked to give their opinion about people in fictional situations. Some of the characters were portrayed as having packed schedules, while others led a more leisurely lifestyle.
What the researchers found was that when people looked busy, they were seen as having higher social status. That they were hard working and ambitious.
Why Do We See Busy People As More Important?
Equating busyness to importance is kind of a cultural trend. The researchers say we didn’t also see things this way. A few decades ago, Americans used to see a more laid back lifestyle as a high status symbol.
The experts believe we equate busyness to importance because of our beliefs about social mobility. Or how easy it is for people to change their social status.
Basically, we think that people can change their status with education and hard work. So if someone is working hard, they most likely have an important job, and a higher social status.
This could be one of the reasons why multitasking is such a popular habit. Even though studies show it’s not more productive, it makes us look extra busy. And busy is something to be valued.
It’s An American Thing
So if you went somewhere else, would people still equate busyness with importance?
The answer to that question comes back to our cultural perspective on social mobility. For example, when the researchers recruited Italians, they saw that these perceptions were reversed.
Italians believe social status is more fixed. It’s harder to move up or down the social ladder. So to them, having a more laid back lifestyle signals importance. Not busyness.
Ask Yourself This
America is one of the most stressed out nations. And it may be due, at least in part, to this social posturing and impression management. So it makes you think:
Why are you so busy?
Are you just trying to impress others? Just how effectively are you using your time. Are you using your time wisely, and how is this affecting your happiness.
While we all want to feel important, we shouldn’t let it get in the way of a happy or meaningful life.