The Daily Telegraph

I’m much too busy to brag about my own importance …

- Sarah Knapton SCIENCE EDITOR By

TAKING the afternoon off to play golf or enjoying a luxury beach holiday were once signs of having “made it”.

But a new study suggests being seen to be constantly busy is now a better way to demonstrat­e social capital.

According to Harvard University, urbanites are increasing­ly succumbing to 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 proves to neighbours that you are too busy and important to go to the supermarke­t.

“We examined how signalling busyness at work impacts perception­s of status in the eyes of others,” said researcher Neeru Paharia.

“We tend to think that people who skip leisure and work all the time are of higher standing.

“In recent years, [advertisem­ents] featuring wealthy people relaxing by the pool or on a yacht, playing tennis and polo, 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 study was carried out in the US and in Italy, where the effect was reversed. Italians still view a leisurely life as representa­tive of high status. The research, published in the Jour

nal of Consumer Research, found that brands which were marketed as timesaving were increasing­ly becoming status symbols 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.”

‘Wealthy people relaxing by the pool or on a yacht are being replaced with ads featuring busy individual­s’

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