Do you often feel overwhelmed, anxious, or demotivated while browsing the internet? If so, you may want to consider the number of browser tabs you have open.

The Study

A recent study conducted by students at Aalto University in Finland explored the impact of “browsing clutter” on people’s mental health. The study surveyed 400 participants and interviewed over a dozen people who spent more than 10 hours a week online.

The Effects of Clutter

The study found that most participants had 1-3 windows open with around 5-10 tabs open in each window, resulting in more than a dozen tabs open at once on average. Over half of the participants considered browser clutter a serious problem.

Those who struggled with excess tab usage reported feeling overwhelmed, anxious, frustrated, and demotivated. They also experienced decreased work efficiency, increased levels of distraction, and difficulty sorting through information.

The Cause of Clutter

The unorganized nature of browsing leads to something researchers call “interface-level visual chaos.” This visual overload contributes to many of the negative emotions people feel.

For example, when shopping for something online, you may open numerous tabs for different products, reviews, and retail sites. If you’re a college student researching a paper, you may have even more tabs open.

Strategies for Dealing with Clutter

There are several strategies you can use to set boundaries against clutter. Browser extensions like Session Buddy and Tabby let you organize tabs as collections for later use. You can also give yourself a hard limit on how many browser tabs you have open.

Developing better “tab closing habits” is another effective strategy. This involves closing tabs related to a task once the task is complete and ensuring all tabs and windows are closed at the end of the day to prevent “tab hoarding.”

Unless web browsers are redesigned to accommodate tab clutter, this is an issue that isn’t going anywhere. Thus, actively adjusting your browsing behavior is the only real option. So good luck with that! And in case you’re wondering, I had about 13 tabs open while writing this story.


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