Facebook might have started among the college set, but the social network and academics don’t always mix. Since sheer willpower wasn’t working for two MIT doctoral candidates, they decided to build a keyboard accessory that shocked them when they spent too much time on the social network.
Collectively, Robert R. Morris and Dan McDuff estimated they wasted 50 hours a week on Facebook. To combat their addiction, they turned to the Pavlovian method–except in this case, the dogs were replaced by the researchers. Using classical conditioning, Pavlov Poke monitored their Internet habits, sending shocks to their hands when they spent too much time on certain applications and websites.
“The shock’s unpleasant, but it’s not dangerous,” McDuff said in a video demonstrating the device. But the shocks were so disorienting the two ended up removing Pavlov Poke. Morris said he “did notice a significant, though temporary, reduction in [his] Facebook usage.”
Facebook addiction has been a topic of interest for the pair, who had also created a system that monitored Internet activities and posted jobs on Amazon Mechanical Turk, a marketplace for work, paying strangers $1.40 to call and berate them for wasting time on Facebook. It’s probably a good idea to take a break here and there. For what it’s worth, University of Michigan researchers recently found Facebook could give users a case of the blues.