Being busy isn't an excuse or a lament anymore. It's a sign of status — maybe even a humblebrag.
At some point, the standard answer to "how are you" changed from "fine, thanks" to "busy!" Researchers at Columbia and Harvard set out to understand why.
In a series of studies recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research, they analyzed thousands of Tweets from celebrities for "humblebrags," and found about 12 percent of those were about being busy — "having no life" or needing a vacation, for example.
Then they created a fictional Facebook user and asked volunteers to look at her posts. When she posted about working nonstop, people thought she had higher status and more money than if she posted about her leisure time.
The researchers, led by Silvia Bellezza, a professor of marketing at the Columbia Business School, found that people were even impressed by the use of products aimed at busy people — like the grocery delivery service Peapod, or a Bluetooth headset.
Previous research at the University of Chicago found that people actually prefer being busy, even if it hurts their productivity.
"People dread idleness, and their professed reasons for activity may be mere justifications for keeping busy," University of Chicago professor of behavioral science and marketing Christopher Hsee observed. For example, they might respond to non-urgent email instead of finishing a big project.