What is ‘weisure,’ you ask? The term ‘weisure time,’ coined by sociologist Dalton Conley, is used to describe the increasingly blurred line between work and leisure time for Americans. In their article on this emerging phenomenon, CNN noted, “The increased mixing of work and play doesn’t mean bankers will be refinancing houses during their kids’ piñata parties. But what it does mean is more and more Americans are using smartphones and other technology to collaborate with business colleagues while hanging out with their families. It doesn’t mean tax attorneys will be getting makeovers during their tax-law seminars. But they may be chatting with Facebook friends while participating in a conference call.”
Many who haven’t already abandoned the 9-to-5 workday for the 24-7 life of weisure probably will do so soon, according to New York University sociologist Dalton Conley, who coined the word. It’s the next step in the evolving work-life culture.
“Increasingly, it’s not clear what constitutes work and what constitutes fun,” be it “in an office or at home or out in the street,” Conley said. Activities and social spaces are becoming work-play ambiguous, he says, as “all of these worlds that were once very distinct are now blurring together.”
Conley used the 1950s as a point of reference. “Back then, there were certain rules, such as ‘don’t do business with friends, and keep those spheres separate.’ It was just one of the hallmarks of capitalist social life. That has completely changed.”
But what is the problem?
Perhaps more disturbing is the idea that weisure is changing us. “We lose our so-called private sphere,” Conley said. “There’s less relaxing time to be our so-called backstage selves when we’re always mingling work and leisure.”
If you’re thinking that a backlash may be around the corner for the weisure concept, you’re right. In fact, Conley says, the backlash has begun.
“You can see that in the populist anger against the bankers” who’ve been blamed in part for the current economic downturn, Conley says. The backlash is evident in the rise of alternative social movements involving people “who live in a more frugal and environmentally conscious way,” he says.
But, short of a nuclear winter or some cataclysm sending us back to the stone age, there’s no turning back the clock on the spread of weisure, he says. The weisure lifestyle will engrain itself permanently in the American culture.