Taking the afternoon off for a round of golf or enjoying a beach holiday in a five-star resort were once signs of having ‘made it’.
But a new study suggests that being seen to be constantly busy and overworked is now a far better way to demonstrate social capital.
According to Harvard University, urbanites are increasingly succumbing to the phenomenon of ‘humblebragging’- boasting about their hectic lives as a way to prove that they are ‘in demand’.
Phrases such as ‘I have no life’ and ‘I desperately need a holiday’ are now used to imply social standing, while ordering food shopping online is the perfect way to prove to neighbours that you are simply too busy and important to go to the supermarket.
“Movies, magazines, and popular TV shows often highlight the abundance of money and leisure time among the wealthy," said Dr Neeru Paharia, an assistant professor at Harvard University.
"In recent years, featuring wealthy people relaxing by the pool or on a yacht, playing tennis and polo, or skiing and hunting are being replaced with ads featuring busy individuals who work long hours and have very limited leisure time.
"Displaying one’s busyness at work and lack of leisure time operates as a visible signal of status in the eyes of others."
The researchers point out that the Wall Street Journal’s 2016 campaign features celebrities who complain about their busy lives, with the slogan “People who don’t have time, make time to read the Wall Street Journal.
The study was carried out in the US and also in Italy, where the effect was completely reversed. Italians still view a leisurely life as representative of high status.
The research, which was published in the Journal of Consumer Research, found that brands that marketed themselves as timesaving were becoming increasingly high-status, because of the people who used them.
“We uncovered an alternative type of conspicuous consumption that operated by shifting the focus from the preciousness and scarcity of goods to the preciousness and scarcity of individuals,” the authors conclude.
“People’s social-mobility beliefs are psychologically driven by the perception that busy individuals possess desirable characteristics, leading them to be viewed as scarce and in demand.”
4 ways for busy people to switch off