The unbearable busy-ness of being

2013-09-29 14:00

Everybody’s so busy these days. Just turn on the TV and the adverts will confirm; South African consumers can spare only three minutes to prepare frozen veggies, eat chocolate to fuel a ‘25 hour day’, and are so frantic that a good deodorant is supposedly the last thing between them and a breakdown.

Text that friend you’ve been meaning to grab coffee with for ages and she will tell you, ‘Busy, busy, busy’.

That’s if you even get around to proposing a meet up. I’ve noticed that ‘busy’ is the new ‘fine’. As in, ‘How are you? Busy’. That usually puts paid to any ideas of idle socialising or further conversation.

Like the weather, talking about busy-ness is thought to be a common way to relate to each other, but is actually rather alienating.

The great Mindy Kaling explained it best, ‘No one ever wants to hear how stressed out anyone else is, because most of the time everyone is stressed out... It isn’t a conversation starter. No one is going to say, ‘Wow, Mindy, you really have it especially bad. I‘ve heard some stories of stress, but this just takes the cake’”.

Is this present-day hysteria really an inescapable fact of modern life? I struggle to accept that the average day in the 21st century is any more action-packed than the days when people tilled their own land, darned their own socks and didn’t even have the option of takeout when they were too exhausted to cook.

After all, isn’t that what all these technological innovations are for? We access and share information instantly, and outsource so many previously mundane tasks to so many gadgets.  What happened to all the time saved?

The way I see it, technology is the cure and the cause. It’s hard not to feel fragmented and frantic when one’s attention is simultaneously split between performing a task, letting one’s entire social network know about said task and e-mailing to finalise plans for the next task.

Focus and presence may be the edge our hardworking predecessors had on us. It’s also a good rule of thumb to assume that others are about 50% as busy (and important and happy) as they proclaim online. I also suggest we get honest.

Sure, it’s much easier to throw out a ‘Busy!’ instead of explaining something like ‘I just don’t feel like seeing you’ but it beats sounding like a stuck record or perpetually engaged phone.

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