Are you what people would describe as a digital pack rat? Or more specifically, are you the type of person that could easily have 50 browser tabs open all at the same time and not be bothered by it? The top bar of your browser is so squished that you have memorised the Favicon on every site for which you’re a frequent flyer. Those little icons are basically the only way you can discern anything as you drown in a browser tab sea of your own making. If this sound familiar, there’s a high chance that your habits could actually be negatively impacting your mood, among other things too.
However, one survey in particular found that adults in the U.S. spend close to eleven hours each day on their laptops, smartphone, or other electronic devices, a number that has almost certainly grown, as projected, over the past two years. For many of us, our laptops and phones are virtual spaces we spend just as much time “in” as our homes and offices — whether it’s time spent emailing people, working, or scrolling through social media, and for many, these pieces of technology are lifelines that add much more than a virtual experience in our hands to our day to day lives.
“I see open tabs as a reflection of our routine, lifestyle and interests,” therapist and founder of She is Strong and Mindful, Lorena Ramos, MA, LCSW stated to Bustle, who recently reported on the matter. She continued, “Many of my clients find themselves immersed in an ocean of information and choices, but having many tabs open on your computer can be overwhelming and tiring at times.”
According to the experienced professional, having a cluttered computer screen can overstimulate your brain, making it more difficult for your mind to process information. “We tend to associate having more tabs open with being more productive,” Ramos says, “When at times, this fear of ‘missing out,’ and need for planning ahead can generate mental exhaustion, as well as higher levels of anxiety and stress.”
Additionally, researchers from the study believe that spreading yourself too thin and taking on multiple projects, like virtually opening multiple tabs and having your mind focus on more than one thing at a time, can have some serious consequences on your performance at work and end up reflecting negatively later on if made into a habit. According to Ramos, if you’re someone who is making a habit out of multitasking on your laptop, you could result in fatigue and boredom, which in turn will cause a decrease in productivity and performance in the workplace. In fact, a 2014 study backed up this claim when they conducted at Stanford University showed multitasking can actually affect your cognitive functioning and impede your career goals.
“Even though accessibility to information facilitates our work, it also interjects with our ability to focus on one thing at a time,” Ramos explained. “Open tabs could generate unnecessary distraction, which increases anxiety and stress levels, especially when having a deadline at work.”
“We know our computers slow down with too many opened tabs, and don’t work as quickly. This is a perfect analogy how our bodies work, and what happens if we are going in a million different directions.”
The bottom line? Having multiple tabs open isn’t making you more productive, it’s actually just making you scatterbrained, thus decreasing your ability to remember any single piece of information. Basically, the more a person multitasks, the less gray matter they possess in their anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which is the part of the brain associated with cognitive and emotional processing. Not to mention, it’s killing your RAM.