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Dear Outsiders,

Who hasn't cancelled plans because they were "too busy"? 

Was it that you were too busy, or "too busy"? Faking 'busy' is the tactic of our time – at work, at home, with friends... We are amongst a pandemic of performative busyness.

Why is no one else talking about it?

– Jess

Outsider 146



Nobody Wants To Be Vacant


Playing fake busy at work. Fake busy with friends. Pretending to busy to your family. Using it with dates. Performing busyness with ourselves, creating distractions from the void of despair. Or, feeling so deeply bound to the guilt of productivity that leisure time becomes an impossibility. The busyness that was once an act, is now a condition.










Overwork is a symbol of success. A leisurely lifestyle is lesser to the hardcore, fast-paced, non-stop, and as-much-as-possible. The latter is how our culture views competence and ambition, and how we display our scarcity and market demand. We are but human capital, and these are the characteristics valued.


A culture that sees overwork as better than being underworked, creates the circumstances where busyness is more than a consequence, it becomes a tactic for survival. If you’re not visibly busy, you must be doing something wrong. You are undesirable to the market. If you were of high value, you would be occupied and hard to get hold of.

Keeping up an image of busyness and scarce availability has become a central strategy for getting work, keeping work, and ascending within it. A hard-to-get subject is highly prized.






Busyness for reputation management is a skill. Too, too busy and you look like an underpaid hustler – the sucker of the busyness spectrum. Not busy enough and you must be mediocre. An experienced busyness-player will deploy strategies found in the dating-sphere, where availability and scarcity have been maneuvered since we were apes. “Treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen.” Is as effective with employers as we believe it is with prospective mates.

Overwork culture has become pervasive past the traditional spaces of work itself, and so have its values. Society reveres a busy person. Like in the business world, busyness is valued in social scenes. The too-busy-to-get-hold-of’s are valued members of society. Supposed contributors. Red-hot-wanted’s. We like association with success. Friends play hard-to-get with each other and things get sadder by the day.




or visa versa?






“I’m so busy” could be the status signal of our time. Its products are the headphones, the power banks, the multiple phones, the organisational apps – all the gadgets necessary for an office on the go. Work anytime, anywhere. And when you’re not working, status signal by keeping your headphones in. It’s great getting the checkout man to not-talk to you without having to utter a word.

Your busy-tools allow every minute to be utilisable. For example; a standing commute can still allow for listening to an informative podcast. Never not working is a possibility, and becomes a point of pride.


Busyness, as the aspirational status, took over from leisure and relaxation. Remember when an aspirational life was advertised as one of wealth, relaxing by the pool or taking long drives in a convertible, wearing impractically beautiful clothes with jewellery and time for days?

The social landscape of an imposed aspirational life has changed to adverts depicting ‘successful’ workers who rather than having an abundance of leisure to their wealth, are time-deprived and valued for it. The Wall Street Journal’s 2016 campaign featured celebrities talking about their busy lives to a slogan of “People who don’t have time make time to read the WSJ.”






Lamenting “crazy schedules” or “desperately needing a break” are the soundscape of busyness as status. Non-brags are the songs, and guiltlessness the station. To be deficient is leisure is not an embarrassment, it is a sign you are living right.


Hi Nana, how are you?

I'm keeping myself busy

– 2nd December 2019. Phonecall.



If you refuse to see busyness as cool, you do not get a welcome. Being critical of the busyness status means you must be inadequate to it, and thus, became anti. If you could function within it you would. Clearly, you can’t find enough work or you aren’t popular with friends. If you were ambitious you would have a drive to create side projects. If you were creative you wouldn’t choose not to create as much as possible.

If you’re not trying to be busy, there must be something wrong.


"…people dread idleness and desire busyness in search of meaning and motivation in their lives.


– researcher S. Bellezza


Pretending to be busy on all fronts is the most boring of performances. Being busy is boring. Busy people are boring. Who is proud to reply to invites with "ugh, so busy atm!"?

(Besides, everyone.)

We're all pretending to be busy when in reality, we're bored. So why not cut the bull, stop status signalling each other, and take back time as treasured not forsaken?

That's it. Tell me if you think otherwise,



"You're very busy?
I'm so sorry to hear that."


– June 2019. Overheard Conversation.

"So we showed Americans and Italians a vignette in which we describe a person who is either working all the time or is conducting a leisurely lifestyle, and they came to different conclusions about status.

The Italians, as soon as you tell them that someone is not working as much, they immediately think the person is rich.

But in the U.S., they think, “Oh, this person probably cannot work. There must be something wrong, and they're going to go back to work as soon as they can.
– researcher S. Bellezza



Outsider is a counter-culture punch from inside the creative industry.

Promoting real life interaction. Pro-offline.

It came into being after watching client after client come seeking 'relevance' with 'millennials' and crying inside. Seeing misconceptions on the efficacy of social media rise. 

Named Outsider as, like Outsider Art, we observed that no/informal training cultivates greater instinct and disregard for 'rules' and established systems.

Jess is a pseudonym to keep the digital footprint of our real identity to zero.

Born 1991 but knowing better than old man CEO's.

Secret Access to past issues here.


This is not a trend forecast agency.
We will show you what you should be doing today. Yesterday.

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