A recent study found that web browser clutter is a source of stress for many people. It’s a result of keeping large numbers of tabs open and disorganized.
Here are some tips for managing the number of browser tabs you keep open, including using Safari’s system for organizing them.
Browser clutter can stress you out
Researchers at Alto University examined web browser clutter, which they define as a “buildup of disorganized browser elements and information.” Their study found that, for many internet users, stress increases as the number of browser tabs multiplies.
“We began exploring which challenges make users feel overwhelmed when browsing the internet,” said Janne Lindqvist, an Alto University associate professor, in a statement. “We also mapped the behaviors that cause the clutter and how users react to the stress.”
Luckily, it’s not a universal problem. The study found that 25% of internet users are affected. But that’s still more than a billion people around the world, so it’s not trivial.
Don’t just ignore it
A web browser — Apple’s Safari, Google’s Chrome, etc. — is how we interact with everything the web has to offer, from shopping for pants to watching TV shows to exchanging work emails. As a result, it’s easy to let these do-it-all apps get cluttered.
“It’s as though a kitchen table were being used as a dining table, a desk for older children’s homework, and a play table for the youngest — all at the same time and without any tidying,” Lindqvist said.
Don’t just decide to embrace the clutter. The researchers found that “trying not to think about the stress” accomplished nothing. It’s necessary to change your behavior.
Safari offers useful tools to manage tabs
The researchers from Alto University did not offer any specific suggestions for managing browser clutter, beyond putting a limit on how many you allow yourself to have open at any given time. But Apple makes tools designed to keep Safari from being a huge, disorganized collection of open web pages.
Tab Groups came in with macOS Catalina, iPadOS 15 and iOS 15. You can use the feature to create collections of open windows — perhaps one for work and another for your personal life. This way, work-related tabs can remain out of sight at nights and on weekends. And personal tabs don’t get in the way when you’re getting work done.
Many people run across articles online that they think they should read. Then they leave them in open tabs, where they add to the collection … and the stress. You can create a Tab Group specifically for these articles so they don’t become a constant reminder of something you mean to do.
While finding ways to organize the clutter can reduce stress, they are not a guaranteed cure. “These approaches are similar to someone not actually cleaning but just rearranging things in the same space — the problem doesn’t go away,” said Lindqvist.
So put some kind of limit on articles you’ve stored away to look at later. Maybe allow two weeks for articles to stay in the Tab Group before you either read them or accept that you never will.
For more details on the organization system built into Safari, read Cult of Mac‘s guide on how to use Safari Tab Groups to take control of your browser tabs.