This is either very grim or very awesome: in an attempt to battle their own social media addictions, two graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a device that delivers electric shocks to an individual who uses social media excessively.
The device, wittily dubbed the “Pavlov Poke,” is fitted under the wrist and uses a downloadable app to determine when the user has strayed from the path of virtuous labor into the dark, tangled forest of cat memes, Rick rolling, and other such foolishness. When the user has spent too long on a non-work-related site, it delivers an unpleasant but harmless zap.
In an online video the Ph.D. candidates, Robert R. Morris and Dan McDuff, explained that they developed the Pavlov Poke because they were routinely wasting up to 50 hours a week with online procrastination, the bulk of it on social media.
Although the device is real the idea is obviously in jest, and you’re certainly not going to see the Pavlov Poke in stores soon, or indeed ever (liability, anyone?). But it does have a serious purpose: “While this project is intended to be a joke, we believe a serious discussion is needed about how communication technologies are designed. Technologies like Facebook are addictive by design. According to comScore, Facebook users spend an average of 400 minutes per month on the site.”
The wacky kids at M.I.T. come up with all kinds of odd social media doohickeys. Last year M.I.T. researchers Andy Payne and Phil Seaton collaborated with artist Melissa Kit Chow to develop the “Like-A-Hug” vest, which they described as “a wearable social media vest that allows for hugs to be given via Facebook, bringing us closer despite physical distance. The vest inflates when friends ‘Like’ a photo, video, or status update on the wearer's wall, thereby allowing us to feel the warmth, encouragement, support, or love that we feel when we receive hugs. Hugs can also be sent back to the original sender by squeezing the vest and deflating it.”