The New Busy

If you live in Seattle (or one of the three other metro areas in which the campaign has been launched) then you have probably seen the new ads for Microsoft Hotmail. If you haven't, click the link, and the above image will make more sense. I actually think the campaign is sort of clever, though most everyone else on the internet that has commented about them tends to disagree.

Surely there are lots of reasons to dislike the campaign, but mine is less marketing-specific and more an underlying philosophical critique - what is the deal with championing a busy lifestyle? Do people these days really need to be more busy?
Pictures of the ads (for those not in the know) are difficult to come by; here is one:

"The NEW BUSY would have their belts off by now." I actually did see this one in the airport. This made me think of "Up in the Air" - I wonder if Ryan Bingham would be classified by Microsoft as "new busy?" (Spoiler: Ryan Bingham was not happy with his lifestyle).

This is stupid marketing, though - if I don't yet have my belt off, then this makes me angry. I am already upset that I have to take my belt off to fly on an airplane. Now you are telling me I'm not taking it off fast enough?

I wish I could find screenshots of the banner ads that are popping up around the web, because then I could effectively parody them as well, but they say things like:
  • "The NEW BUSY think 9 to 5 is a cute idea." 
  • "The NEW BUSY make beavers look lazy." 
  • "The NEW BUSY always keep a suitcase packed."
Basically the underlying assumption of the campaign (and of much of American society, perhaps discounting some millenials) is that busy-ness = productivity = success. Doing more stuff in less time. More stuff = more money = more happiness. Being productive. Producing whatever. Filling up your time. Doesn't matter with what as long as you're moving.

I'm personally not a fan of doing anything just for the sake of doing something. I've been thinking lately about the philosophy that says that "work" is overrated. Remember how work is simply a means to an end? Why do you work? To get money. Why do you need money? Survival, providing for oneself + ones family, etc. And then also for "entertainment," which largely requires money as well. Upgrades.

Nobody wants to live in a lil' apartment forever, right? Nobody wants to struggle forever, right? So, then,    it's about comfort to an extent. We work to survive, then once that's done, we work to upgrade our lives/ourselves. Get to a point where you don't have to worry about stuff anymore. We all wanna find that happy medium between being poor and having so much stuff that you worry about it being stolen or whatever. Just a nice comfortable medium.

I don't necessarily buy into all that, but we can take it as a certain standard. But I think we tend to forget that work is just the means to get to this place. We ask people what they "do" and we mean "where/how do you work." And it all means "who are you?" Work is an expectation; we all have to work because we all have to "contribute" to society/USA GDP/ourselves/whatever. Not working, or working less than you're able, or whatever, means you're lazy or a communist or something.

But then, there's this point of view that says, "Hey. I'm not where/how I work. That's just the stuff I do to make the money so that I can do the stuff I really wanna do more comfortably, and so I can hang out with people."

Anyway I'm having a hard time articulating it but the point is, what if we lived a bit more simply? What if we rejected busy-ness? What if we lowered our standards, worked just enough to cover the necessary bases and spent the rest of the time hanging out with people and being creative? Does anyone really need to make more than $40k a year? 

What if I worked only part-time, and spent the rest of the time chilling with my bros in the park or something? Or playing the guitar, painting, or just chilling out? What if we actually had enough free time to do things that we enjoy doing? I don't want to wait until I retire to do the things I really want to do. I want to do them now.

Disclaimer - this post was poorly written. I apologize. I just had to get something out there, it's been too long since I've posted anything. Maybe forget there was writing and just look at the image up there; I think it's pretty good.


  1. This has good ideas. I remember the year after graduation, I worked just enough to cover expenses, I spent the rest of the time with friends. And I struggled so much, feeling like that whole time was a waste of time. I barely remember it. And yet, some of my favorite memories are from that time. I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted most of the time. I think no matter how often you work, however much free time you have, the things that matter are what you do with your free time. "The new busy" could mean that you are busy changing the world for the better- and that is admirable. "The new busy" could mean you are at work for ten hours, plus, with nothing to show for it. But then in those extra few hours, what if you are really investing in the world around you in a positive way?

  2. I don't think that this ad campaign is promoting busy-ness as much it is appealing to an already existing and growing culture of multi-taskers or what I shall coin "multi-media-taskers". A group you might personally identify with. Yes?

  3. @afishh - i think that's the point - you know you hear old people say, 'i don't remember what i got on my SAT, i don't remember how many hours i put in a work, i remember chillin' with my friends and having fun.'

    it would be cool if the 'new busy' was defined the way you have, but that is not the way the campaign has defined it. there is nothing about contribution to a greater cause - at least not that i've seen so far in the campaign, and marketing is defined not as the intent necessarily but how the campaign is understood by the consumer, right?

    @snorberg - it is, in my opinion, not promoting busy-ness but attempting to re-brand business and promoting hotmail as a tool to be busy, "better." it's the same busy-ness, in my opinion, just dressed up without the negative effects visible. when "9-5 is a cute idea" it means they're working more than 9-5 (at least that's what it seems to be saying - it would be cool if they were saying work LESS than that but i'm pretty sure that's not what they're saying). if the 'new busy' think 'beavers are lazy' well it's because they are working harder than beavers; i.e. anyone who's doing a normal amount of work, or even a lot of work by traditional standards, now isn't doing enough.

    i like 'multi-media-taskers,' though, haha. yeah i might identify with them, but begrudgingly, you know? this campaign is trying to tell me that being over-burdened by all of this multi-media-tasking is a good thing, instead of a priority problem, which is what it actually is.