Busyness is the new status symbol


In the not-too-distant past (think fifties to nineties) one was perceived to be successful and “rich” purely by owning status symbols like nice cars, bling-y watches or being able to go on holiday to a sun-soaked beach resort in Southern Europe.


I still remember my awe when I had a meeting with a manager for a large broadcasting company, in 1994.  He actually had a mobile phone!  Imagine that! This guy was the bee’s knees at the time.  Having a mobile phone in 1994 in South Africa was THE status symbol.



But all of that has changed.  All the “traditional” status symbols are no longer awe- inspiring.  Cars, watches, mobile phones – all mass produced and available for very little money.  Oh, and those holidays in Spain?  Cheap flights and package holiday deals have made those available to just about anyone.


But, we have a brand new status symbol.  This new phenomenon has come about due to the age-old story of supply and demand.  With cars and mobile phones now cheap and easy to come by, they are no longer seen as a rare commodity.  There-for their ranking on the status symbol totem pole, has dropped.  What HAS shot up that ranking, is TIME.  Time, availability and attention are now the rarest of rare commodities.


In a recent research paper by Silvia Bellezza Neeru Paharia Anat Keinan, titled:  “Conspicuous Consumption of Time: When Busyness and Lack of Leisure Time Become a Status Symbol”, the authors write:  “The gleam of being both well-off and time-poor is driven by the perceptions that a busy person possesses desired human capital characteristics (competence, ambition) and is scarce and in demand on the job market.”



It seems, in this new world, that the busier we are, the higher our status in the eyes of our peers.  Which is probably why “busy” seems to be the answer almost every time we ask someone how they are.  The old “Good thank you, and you?” greeting response is no longer good enough.  We are now BUSY– that carries much more weight than “good”.  It says: “I am in demand, I am a rare commodity”.  It says I have high status.  Busyness is the status symbol of the 21stcentury.



Tiana Wilson-Buys is a Business Coach and Productivity Strategist.  She offers a free 30-minute virtual meeting to help you get organised. Book your slot here.