No need to throw our postgrad titles in the discussion! :D You do seem to run quite a few rosetta 2 ("Intel") apps so you are right, that might be part of the issue - which means it will abate as more apps become native. Running many rosetta 2 apps was also linked to the excessive SSD usage reported by some people, although that's also not a big worry (the bad examples mentioned still meant almost a 10-year lifetime for the SSD which is not tragic - should be a non-issue of course if Apple was not soldering-on their SSDs :( ). On a not very related note, such a shame that the spotify app is so bloated (and generally badly designed in other ways IMHO). It's the reason I refuse to use it, even though its music library / price / cross platform ability would appeal otherwise.
It still seems strange to me to hit orange with that kind of usage, I always use 2 external monitors myself and don't see a visible effect on mem usage, but if you don't actually hit the slowdown I guess you don't need to worry... Which device is this out of curiosity?
There doesn't seem to be any rogue apps and console logs okay. The kernel task gets significantly higher when I add the external display, if I then add scaling on top then it increase again (probably as expected). I also posted about this on Macrumours forum before and it was considered pretty typical, closing the 'intel' software makes quite a big difference too. Given its use as a second device for my university I am not too concerned. I bought it on release day and it hasn't missed a beat.
Hmm, not a very healthy system. That kernel_task is too large for your usage, which usually means one of your apps (or loaded processes in general) is misbehaving, using excessive system resources. I mean, I say that 8GB is enough for most things, but a single misbehaving app can use up any amount of memory. Do open the console to make sure there are no obvious errors reported. On orange, slowdowns are not obvious (the system does not have spare memory to optimise things but is not yet out of RAM), but it means you could go to red, where you start getting the bad slowdowns - reportedly they are not as bad on the M1 (much faster i/o overall), but I haven't gotten my M1 to red yet to see how it feels :D