I’ve become more and more obsessed with this question, especially among the academics with whom I mainly work. Are people really, empirically more “busy” than they’ve ever been? Are there more media demands on our time — to blog, to twitter, to manage TiVo and maintain our other media systems? Are we, like middle-class children, “overscheduled”? Is the dearth of unpaid female labor eating away at male leisure time (weekends now being spent cooking and cleaning and picking up the dry-cleaning and doing other middle-class errands)?
Having never been a forty-something professional before, I don’t know if I’m busier than previous incarnations of “me.” My mother had six kids in contrast to my one, at the same time working at our depressing family business, so I don’t think that she was less busy than I am. We’re an enormously self-absorbed culture and I think we often believe that our experiences are unique and unprecedented not because they are, but because we’re horrid narcissists.
Sometimes I suspect that we use “I’m so busy” as a shorthand for avoiding the demands of collegiality — the reason I don’t have so-and-so over to dinner is because I’m busy — or for avoiding things we feel we should be doing — I’m too busy to go to the union meeting; I’m too busy to volunteer my time for X.
I’m not busy, really. I’m just tired.