The Busy Spectrum (High Busyness): What You Need to Know about Workism & Hustle Porn

Sloww
Sloww
Apr 24, 2019 · 7 min read
Sloww Workism Hustle Porn
Sloww Workism Hustle Porn

This is one of two posts on the busy spectrum. You can see the companion post here:

I’ve previously gone deep into the root causes of busyness. You can check out those posts here:

This post is intended to give you the highlights of workism and hustle porn — the high end of the busyness spectrum. I’ve added emphasis to quotes throughout in bold.

Here we go!

Sloww Busy Spectrum Workism Bullshit Jobs Hustle Porn Performative Busyness
Sloww Busy Spectrum Workism Bullshit Jobs Hustle Porn Performative Busyness

What is the Religion of Workism?

Workism blew up earlier this year with an article in The Atlantic by Derek Thompson titled Workism Is Making Americans Miserable.

Workism Defined:

  • “What is workism? It is the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose; and the belief that any policy to promote human welfare must always encourage more work.”
  • “The economists of the early 20th century did not foresee that work might evolve from a means of material production to a means of identity production. They failed to anticipate that, for the poor and middle class, work would remain a necessity; but for the college-educated elite, it would morph into a kind of religion, promising identity, transcendence, and community. Call it workism.”

Here’s a video featuring Derek Thompson describing workism:

This is what I think sociologists sometimes call pluralistic ignorance, people are inwardly believing one thing and outwardly doing something else. If you inject a truth serum into a lot of these people I think they would tell you, ‘I’d love to work 30 percent less; I just thought everyone else around me wanted to work more.’ And this in many ways is how religions start. — Derek Thompson

Workism Highlights (from the Original Article):

  • “Homo industrious is not new to the American landscape. The American dream — that hoary mythology that hard work always guarantees upward mobility — has for more than a century made the U.S. obsessed with material success and the exhaustive striving required to earn it.”
  • “This shift defies economic logic — and economic history. The rich have always worked less than the poor, because they could afford to.”
  • “Maybe the logic here isn’t economic at all. It’s emotional — even spiritual. The best-educated and highest-earning Americans, who can have whatever they want, have chosen the office for the same reason that devout Christians attend church on Sundays: It’s where they feel most themselves. ‘For many of today’s rich there is no such thing as ‘leisure’; in the classic sense — work is their play,’ the economist Robert Frank wrote in The Wall Street Journal. ‘Building wealth to them is a creative process, and the closest thing they have to fun.’”
  • “Humankind has not yet invented itself out of labor.
  • “A culture that funnels its dreams of self-actualization into salaried jobs is setting itself up for collective anxiety, mass disappointment, and inevitable burnout.”
  • “In the past century, the American conception of work has shifted from jobs to careers to callings — from necessity to status to meaning.”
  • “‘We’ve created this idea that the meaning of life should be found in work,’ says Oren Cass, the author of the book The Once and Future Worker.”
  • “But our desks were never meant to be our altars. The modern labor force evolved to serve the needs of consumers and capitalists, not to satisfy tens of millions of people seeking transcendence at the office. It’s hard to self-actualize on the job if you’re a cashier — one of the most common occupations in the U.S. — and even the best white-collar roles have long periods of stasis, boredom, or busywork. This mismatch between expectations and reality is a recipe for severe disappointment, if not outright misery, and it might explain why rates of depression and anxiety in the U.S. are ‘substantially higher’ than they were in the 1980s, according to a 2014 study.”
  • “My sense of identity is so bound up in my job, my sense of accomplishment, and my feeling of productivity that bouts of writer’s block can send me into an existential funk that can spill over into every part of my life. And I know enough writers, tech workers, marketers, artists, and entrepreneurs to know that my affliction is common, especially within a certain tranche of the white-collar workforce.”
  • “Some workists, moreover, seem deeply fulfilled. These happy few tend to be intrinsically motivated; they don’t need to share daily evidence of their accomplishments.”
  • “One solution to this epidemic of disengagement would be to make work less awful. But maybe the better prescription is to make work less central.
  • “On a deeper level, Americans have forgotten an old-fashioned goal of working: It’s about buying free time. The vast majority of workers are happier when they spend more hours with family, friends, and partners, according to research conducted by Ashley Whillans, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School.”
  • “It is the belief — the faith, even — that work is not life’s product, but its currency. What we choose to buy with it is the ultimate project of living.

Workism Summary (paraphrased): Humankind has not yet invented itself out of labor. Not only that, but work has evolved from a means of material production to a means of identity production — a kind of religion, promising identity, transcendence, and community — shifting from jobs to careers to callings, from necessity to status to meaning. Workism is the belief that work is not only necessary but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose. For workists, leisure isn’t the goal and work isn’t about buying free time — work is their play. A culture that funnels its dreams of self-actualization into salaried jobs is setting itself up for collective anxiety, mass disappointment, and inevitable burnout. Work is life’s currency, not its product. What we choose to buy with it is the ultimate project of living.

What is Hustle Porn?

Hustle Porn is a newish concept. Hustle culture has gone mainstream as the number of entrepreneurs, freelancers, and gig economy workers grows. Naturally, with any cultural movement, you’re going to get people who go to the extremes, and you’re also going to get people who zig when everyone else is zagging. With the rise of hustle, you ultimately have the entrance of anti-hustle or at least a push against the glamorization of hustle.

Unlike workism and bullshit jobs which had viral articles about the concepts, I’ve sourced research from multiple places for hustle porn. Perhaps the most viral article on this topic actually refers to it by another name (“struggle porn”). I’ve also seen references to “toil glamour” and “work martyr.” One of the earliest mentions I can find of “hustle porn” is by Jason Zook in a 2015 article where he says, “We’ve reached peak Hustle Porn.” Although “hustle porn” wasn’t coined by Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit, it does seem like he’s attached himself to it and has been championing it over the last year or two.

Hustle Porn (or Struggle Porn) Defined:

  • “This (Hustle Porn) is one of the most toxic, dangerous things in tech right now. This idea that unless you are suffering, grinding, working every hour of every day, you’re not working hard enough.”¹
  • “‘Struggle porn’: a masochistic obsession with pushing yourself harder, listening to people tell you to work harder, and broadcasting how hard you’re working.”²
  • “Strugglepreneurs: people building businesses going nowhere quickly that felt they were accomplishing something because they were struggling.”²

Here’s a video of Alexis Ohanian describing hustle porn:

Posting about the ‘hard work’ you’re doing is not actually hard work. — Alexis Ohanian

Hustle Porn Highlights:

  • “As entrepreneurs, we are all so busy ‘crushing it’ that physical health, let alone mental health, is an afterthought for most founders. It took me years to realize that the way I was feeling — when working on Reddit was the only therapy I had — was depression.”¹
  • “‘Hustle porn’ is damaging to people’s health and wellbeing. ‘By working too hard, you are over producing adrenaline and cortisol and when these are over produced, your immune system is more susceptible to illness and inflammation,’ he said. ‘Working hard is actually making you ill.’”³

Hustle Porn Summary (paraphrased): Hustle Porn is the idea that unless you are suffering, grinding, working every hour of every day, you’re not working hard enough. It’s an obsession with pushing yourself harder, listening to people tell you to work harder, and broadcasting how hard you’re working. Not only is it ineffective, but working too hard is actually linked to poor health and wellbeing.

Continue Reading:

Or, check out the busyness post series to understand the root causes of busyness:

Sources:

  1. https://www.businessinsider.com/reddit-alexis-ohanian-hustle-porn-toxic-dangerous-thing-in-tech-2018-11
  2. https://medium.com/@nateliason/no-more-struggle-porn-202153a01108
  3. https://thenextweb.com/futureofwork/2019/02/25/techs-obsession-with-hustle-porn-discriminatory-counterproductive/

Sloww

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Sloww

Awakening the Art of Living for Heroic Humans → Sloww.co • Lighter Living • Higher Purpose • Mental Wealth • Spiritual Growth • Full Aliveness • By @KyKow

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