Hopelessly addicted to email, social networking, or other online distractions? Meet MIT Phd candidates Robert R. Morris and Dan McDuff. Combined, they waste 50 hours a week on Facebook, a distraction they say was making it hard to finish their dissertations. So they created their own solution to wean themselves off Facebook: the Pavlov Poke.
The Poke works off of four components. It uses Mac’s UI Inspector to monitor computer app usage. Processing code monitors your browsing history and when a distracting site is visited too frequently, a processing script produces an on-screen alert. An Arduino is connected via USB to the computer to activate a relay and start a shock circuit. The coup de gras: conductive metal strips are placed on the keypad so that when the Arduino relay is triggered, a current is sent through the strips and through palm of your hand. And there you have it: you are now Pavlov’s dog (if the dog had a real problem staying off Facebook).
The students aren’t selling this device (hence the tutorial on how to build your own shock circuit. They started this as a way to open up a broader discussion about the way communication technologies are designed. Sites like Facebook are addictive by design, argue Morris and McDuff, citing a recent study that suggests Facebook and Twitter are more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol. On top of that, research shows that over time, Facebook use reduces subjective well-being. “Would you still use Facebook if you knew it made you unhappy?” ask Morris and McDuff. “Probably, if you’re addicted to it.”
Watch the Pavlov Poke in action