Consumption or use of luxury goods in public has often been about making a statement about one’s status. It is not surprising to see people buying environment-friendly products, using loud logos or prominent brands for the primary purpose of displaying them in public. These indicators of status have evolved over recent times to include larger food packages, or more discreet status symbols and non-conformist attitudes.
In “Conspicuous Consumption of Time: When Busyness and Lack of Leisure Time Becomes a Status Symbol,” authors Silvia Belleza, Neeru Paharia, and Anat Keinan propose yet another way to communicate status. This is through the “conspicuous display of one’s busyness and lack of leisure time.”
Collecting about 1,000 tweets of status-conscious individuals (a.k.a. celebrities), the research found a substantial number of the posts relate to complaints about hard work and a lack of time. Results show evidence of the use of social media to “publicly display how much one works and complains about the lack of leisure time.” Authors infer that these social media posts are attempts to exhibit a higher status in life.
To determine how busyness affects one’s perception, selected participants were asked to infer the status of fictional individuals in relation to their social media posts. The posts either indicate busyness or spending leisure time. Examples of busy posts are “Oh, I have been working non-stop all week,” or “quick 10-minute lunch.” In contrast, leisure posts include “not much work this week, had lots of free time,” or “enjoying a long lunch break.”
For the busy posts, the individuals were considered as more competent and more ambitious. Without providing clues on their economic or work status, the ‘authors’ of the busy posts were perceived to be more in demand and probably occupying high positions in their organizations.
Interestingly, usage of products or services that signal busyness can also convey one’s status. In the same study, individuals who use online delivery or shopping services were perceived to be upwardly mobile. The apparent interpretation is, these individuals are too busy that they hardly have any free time to purchase or to pick up the goods themselves. Moreover, the wearing of a Bluetooth headset is associated with a busy lifestyle, in contrast to just wearing earphones, which is associated with leisure.
This is weird.
A century ago, leisure was defined as “the non-productive consumption of time.” According to sociologist
Thorstein Veblen, abstention from work is the conventional signal of wealth. In his book The Theory of the Leisure Class, he suggested that “one could predict how poor somebody was by how long he worked.”
Traditionally, one works to earn more, in the hope that he will eventually work less and have more leisure time. In other words, those with extended leisure time are seen as being of higher status.
In the consumption of luxury goods, scarcity is essential for the attribution of value. As a natural resource, diamonds are rare; ergo, expensive. In science, patents make technologies exclusive; thus, acquisition is prohibitive. Goods that are released in limited quantity are sought after, and can, therefore, demand high prices. In other words, scarcity imputes higher value and status to something.
Busy individuals are perceived to possess desirable human capital characteristics. According to the research, “by telling others that we are busy and working all the time, we are implicitly suggesting that we are sought after, in demand, which enhances our perceived status.”
In the past, one was born into wealth. Today, one has to work toward achieving this status. That’s strange – the fact that one has to work…
Real Carpio So lectures on strategy and human resource management at the Management and Organization Department of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. He is also an entrepreneur and a management consultant. He welcomes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Archives can be accessed at realwalksonwater.wordpress.com. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty and its administrators.
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