New device gives addicted Facebook users an electric shock


Craig Manning

If you think you spend too much time on Facebook, this might interest you: Robert R. Morris and Dan McDuff, a pair of MIT Ph.D candidates, have developed an aversion therapy system that administers unpleasant shocks whenever internet browsers try to visit Facebook. According to TechCrunch, the two had found they were spending a combined 50 hours per week on the social media website. The shock system was designed to steer them away from Facebook and toward more productive activities – like studying to complete their Ph.D programs, perhaps.

According to Dan McDuff, the system administers shocks using a “specially wired keyboard rest,” and really does help to enhance internet productivity.

“Over time, the user will tend to avoid Facebook and/or rock silently in the corner, quietly weeping,” McDuff told TechCrunch.

Still, McDuff and Morris aren’t quite ready to declare their aversion therapy technique a rousing success. Morris mused that the shocks were actually too painful and aversive, so much that he quickly removed the shocking device from his keyboard. Morris did say the shock treatment dropped his Facebook use, but that the reduction was only temporary: once the threat of a shock was gone, he reverted to his old ways.

For users who want to decrease their Facebook traffic, but don’t want to deal with the discomfort, pain, or annoyance of an electrical shock, Morris and McDuff have another solution. The two utilized an Amazon.com artificial intelligence work marketplace called Mechanical Turk to facilitate preventative phone calls. Strangers would dial Morris’ and McDuff’s phone numbers and then read off scripts that reprimanded the two for using Facebook too frequently.

Despite the humorous nature of these solutions, Morris and McDuff really do believe that services like Facebook are a blow to productivity across the country and around the globe, and hope that their project will help to encourage conversation about the amount of time that the average person spends on Facebook. Morris went as far as to compare Facebook unfavorably with cigarettes, citing the addictive nature of social media and the marketing-minded goals of Facebook’s creators, which don’t take the well being of users into mind.

“While this whole project is intended to be somewhat of a joke, we believe a serious discussion is needed about how communication technologies are designed,” Morris told the tech website.

Interested in checking out the project that Morris and McDuff put together? Click here to learn more about what the two have dubbed “the Pavlov Poke.”

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The system administers shocks using a “specially wired keyboard rest.”

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