You may subconsciously be trying to show off your status, researchers say.
Forget expensive vacations and luxury items: Being busy is the new status symbol, according to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research.
In the past, Americans boasted about leisure activities like golf and island hopping, but now they tend to engage in humblebrag about how they’re too busy with work to even take a vacation, researchers say.
During a series of studies in both Italy and the U.S., researchers looked at how busyness at work impacts perception of status. They found that Americans are increasingly finding social affirmation based on the humblebrag that they “have no life” because of overwhelming work.
Even some celebs are getting in on it. About 12 percent of self-deprecating tweets—most from celebrities—included humblebrags about hard work and no free time.
In another experiment, participants were asked to guess the social status and wealth from a number of Facebook user updates. Those who showed relentless work were seen as more favorable than those with tons of vacation pics and other leisure activities.
The effect is reversed for Italians, who still view a leisurely life as indicative of high status.
The researchers also found that use of products and services related to busyness can convey status. For instance, online grocery delivery was seen as a status symbol because it’s associated with lacking the time to shop yourself.
Conspicuous consumption is now more about the preciousness and scarcity of time than about goods, the researchers concluded. People with scant available free time were seen as possessing desirable characteristics—basically, they were seen as “in demand,” and that gave them a certain high-status allure.
But that status can come at a steep price.
Apart from the fact that humblebragging is annoying, overworking can be extremely hard on your health. It tends to raise stress levels—especially if you really aren’t taking a vacation or weekends off—and that taxes your immune system and increases risk of serious health issues like heart disease and cancer.
So if you’re packing your schedule to prove that you’re in demand—consciously or unconsciously—taking a step back might be just what the doctor ordered.