The Psychology Behind Opening So Many Tabs

Right now I have almost 20 tabs opened in Chrome and just like you, I also think they all are too important to close. There is a lot of stuff in there, articles that I’m currently writing, Trello, analytics – social media, and stuff that I plan on to read for fun in spare time. But, you know what? I’ll most probably close all the tabs without actually doing anything productive with them at the end of the day and it’s not happening for the first time.

I sometimes wonder that why do we fall into this trap of tabs while knowing that they are just plain distractions instead of multi-tasking? Well, I personally feel these tabs are actually protecting us from boredom. With all of what I have on my computer screen currently, I’m able to explore new things, watch funny videos, update myself with more skills and knowledge or even it also helps in getting my work done. So, these rewards are more than enough to keep me going unless I realize that they are a bit too much now in numbers.

But in reality, I’m actually overestimating the capabilities of my brain and instead of multi-tasking, I’m just switching tasks. Each one of these tabs will take my focus because they are of my interest and I will lose concentration on work.

Just like what stays at the back of our mind all the time to divert our attention, these opened tabs do the same. If you are just like me, then you are actually looking to overload information in your brain. This all will not only affect brain’s efficiency but it can further shorten your attention span overall. We are constantly trusting an assumption about ourselves that we all are multi talented especially when it comes to our browser, whereas we are just procrastinating like the way we do in real lives.

Moving forward with the realistic effect of tabs, Marc Hekster, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at The Summit Clinic, told that our computers/phones have now become an extension of our brain. They serve as a much needed addition to our memory or creative source and so the tabs that we open are a part of it.

Just like our brain, we expect out computers to have a limited capacity. But little do we know that just like our brain, when you overload something, it gets tired at some point. That is why computers also slow down when you constantly stick to a huge number of tabs opened.

So what can we really do about our focus and all these tabs?

The approach should be simple; know your brain and realize what is more important in your situation. There will be times when you would like to stay updated to everything happening in your relevant field or something that interests you. You would also procrastinate or research so much just to do your best in that project. But in reality, you need to understand that none of what you have opened matters as long as it is giving you some sort of benefit right now.

You will not miss out on anything - not even the meme that you just saw or any of the notification that you are constantly getting.

You need to close it down and focus on one thing. No brain can ever work on 20 tabs at a time (because we are not designed to multitask). You are a human and not information processor. In fact if you consume one thing at a time, you will be able to get more of what’s around you along with completing your daily goals. The real failure is not those opened tabs but you not being able to do things that matter more in your life.

Of course, it is going to be a time taking process, but the best way to start would be closing the tabs which are absolutely irrelevant and useless. You can then scale it down to one or two by improving your focus slowly and making the right choices. They all will stay in your browser history or you can even bookmark them for spare time but as long as they are open, you will remain in guilt to close them. Make yourself free and you will begin to do more.

The psychology of "so many tabs open"

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