Facebook addiction? We’ll shock you out of it

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Find yourself always heading to Facebook just to check in or maybe take a few minutes break from your work? You’re not alone.

According to comScore, Facebook users spend an average of 400 minutes per month on the site while a recent University of Chicago study suggested that Facebook and Twitter are more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol.

Two American PhD students knew they had a problem – a compulsion to always check the site – and decided they needed help to break away.

So Robert Morris and Dan McDuff invented the “Pavlov Poke”, a “shocking” aversion therapy device to help wean them off the social media site.

“If we visit Facebook too often, a nasty shock is sent through a peripheral device hooked up to our keyboard,” Morris explains in his blog. “The shock is not dangerous, but it is definitely nasty enough to get your attention.”

And was it a success?

“We found the shocks so aversive, we removed the device pretty quickly after installing it,” Morris said.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology student said while the device was attached he did notice a “significant, though temporary” reduction in his usage.

“Prior to using ‘Pavlov Poke’, my Facebook habits were so ingrained that I would often find myself visiting the site and logging in well before I noticed any conscious intention to do so,” he said.

“After a few shock exposures, these automatic behaviours seemed completely rewired. I no longer visited the site unless I wanted to. My fingers no longer started spelling Facebook as soon as I opened a browser window. I still visited the site, but I wasn’t dragged there by some mysterious Ouija-esque compulsion.”

After building the shock device the two read about a man who had hired someone to sit next to him and slap him in the face anytime he engaged in online distractions. This lead to another idea to end the Facebook compulsions – humiliation.

The duo built a system that monitors your Facebook usage and once you hit your quota it has someone call up and read from a pre-written script to abuse you.

Morris said the projects were intended to be a joke, but that he and McDuff believed a serious discussion is needed about communication technologies.


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