the danger of tabs as todo lists

i’ve noticed among my friends and colleagues (myself included) the growth of tabs as to do lists. i use tabs to hold articles to read, videos to watch, sometimes even Facebook statuses i’ve drafted but don’t want to publish just yet…

using tabs as a task management tool in some ways can be cool. it removes the need for another system. the “reminders” (open tabs) are usually in your face, so the likelihood of remembering to do the thing is high. there are probably other reasons it can be a good thing.

but there are two specific reasons i think it’s bad.

first, it’s typically bad for you computer. especially if you use a modern browser (like chrome) that’s a LOT of processing power you’re requiring of your computer. if you’re running 30 tabs your computer performance is going to suffer.

second, and more importantly, it’s work avoidance. it lets us to hide from the reality that we actually have to make decisions about our time and what we consume.

on one level, this is bad because the world we live in has shifted from limited to limitless content. every two days we create as much content as the entire world did up until 2003. IMO, this means we HAVE to be get better at live-action discernment or we’ll drown. or worse, some of us will drown while others learn to swim (there are signs of this already).

on another (related) level, this work avoidance is problematic because when we don’t discern, we miss out on important things. the democratization of means of production means that (for better or for worse) we’re going to have more content. i think, on net, this is positive, because people who should be able to make but were previously shut out because of limited access won’t be anymore. but, still, what if you miss the article about how your field of work is changing because you’re busy watching cat videos?

of course, none of this should be terribly alarming. people are actually pretty good about making these types of decisions on the fly. this is evidenced by the fact that most people do nothing with the vast number of tabs they leave open. we know when to stop and read/watch, when to skim, and when to just let it go. even if we’re not explicit about it.

that said, if we, collectively, don’t get more skilled (and explicit) about all of this, some people are definitely going to get left behind.

ps - thanks, @whobrien for the conversation that triggered me to finally write this post.