Talking about their struggles with a stressful life someone said to me, ‘My problem is that I’ve got too many tabs open in my brain.’ At the time, I thought it was just another example of the increasing habit of using computer terms for ordinary life as when you hear someone say, ‘Sorry, I’m in data overload mode,’ or ‘Let’s interface over coffee.’ On reflection, however, I think it says something important.The background to this idea of ‘having too many tabs open’ is something that today many of us are all too familiar with. We load a web browser (Safari, for example) and open a webpage, perhaps to check our email. Then we chase up other things, checking on weather, sports, news and then, perhaps, continue trawling around the web as we research things, read reviews and so on, without closing any of the previous webpages.The result is that open tabs proliferate: I gather there are people who quite commonly find themselves with a 100 open tabs. Eventually the browser slows down and up pops the warning: Too many browser tabs open. It’s a computing habit that has been well studied and been found to be bad practice. Although it may give the user the illusion of successful multi-tasking, in reality it isn’t very productive. It leaves lots of things unfinished, weakens the focus of the user and encourages the sort of displacement activity where you find that you have mysteriously left a hard activity for an easier one.
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