Saturday, June 17, 2006

Busyness

The New York Times over the last few months has run a number of articles on one theme: the unprecedented busyness of our lives. But this busyness, apparently, does not affect us all equally. The Times has focused on privileged college students looking to make it in the professional world by cramming their resume with internship and leadership experiences, and the even more harried individuals they will become once ensconced in that world. "The Lost Summer" (June 4) considers the former, while Sunday's "Pencil It In Under 'Not Happening'" documents the latter, the euphoria felt by the overscheduled, harried professional class when someone calls to cancel - er, "reschedule" - a social obligation.

I've said this to the Pied before, I think "busyness" is a real phenomenon that is worth studying (and is being studied by social scientists and social theorists), and that it has much to do with new technologies (cell phones, email, Internets, etc.) that have profoundly changed the way humans relate to each other nowadays.

However, I have become increasingly skeptical of the idea that such busyness is a new and interesting characteristic only of elite, political, juridical, medical and otherwise professional and highly-educated classes. The phenomenon seems to afflict most ordinary citizens: we're all "busy," if not with doing, at least with thinking and planning. Or rather, we have become accustomed to think that we ourselves and everyone else is so busy — and the NYT has been reinforcing this view.

Why are we so busy? For what purpose? Is it worth it?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

We can't all be that busy considering amount of time devoted to blogging.

Ilya said...

Why isn't blogging just one more time-consuming activity that contributes to busyness? Surely bloggers are busy people too!

xtrachromosomeconservative said...

I have to agree with ilya on this. Anonymous is being unduly snarky on the busyness blogging convergence. There are any number of professionals/pundits/academics that blog on the side and through their blogging improve their standing or broaden their reach. Think Greg Mankiw, Arnold Kling, Brad DeLong. Arnold Kling was able to use blogging to ascend to position of stature within the libertarian punditocracy (oxymoron duly noted). The only difference between us and them is that we are not accomplished in comparison, which of course is a big difference. Nonetheless you will rue your snarkiness when we are captains of industry, heads of state, ivory tower gatekeeper, or just general all around pimps.