MIT doctoral candidates Robert R. Morris and Dan McDuff were having a hard time staying off Facebook. Together, they estimated they spent as much as 50 hours a week on the site. To curb their addiction, they decided to go old-school: They created a keyboard accessory that monitored their Internet usage and delivered an “unpleasant, but not dangerous” electric shock if they spent too much time on certain sites. In honor of the scientist who first developed this method of aversion therapy, they named their device “Pavlov Poke.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Although Pavlov Poke was never meant for commercial use, and they eventually disconnected it, Morris says on his Web site that he “noticed a significant reduction in my Facebook usage” because of it. He also states that social media sites “are addictive by design” and mentions a recent University of Michigan study linking Facebook addiction to lower levels of well-being. For what it’s worth, the pair’s other attempt to merge tech and therapy — in which Amazon Mechanical Turk workers are paid to call people who spend too much time online — is painless, at least in the physical sense.