Sometimes Facebook can be a bit like a timewarp. You open it to take a quick peek and before you know it, the better part of the day is gone by. MIT PhD students Robert R. Morris and Dan McDuff decided that they’d like to spend less time with social media and more writing their dissertations, so they came up with Pavlov Poke. As the name implies, it’s a sort of aversion therapy device for weaning off of Facebook that gives you electric shocks if you've lingered too long.

The Pavlov Poke is a DIY “provactive art/design project” that is not intended for sale, but rather as a joke with a serious purpose behind it. According to Morris and McDuff, Facebook users are on the site an average of average of 400 minutes per month.

Some studies even claim that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are harder to resist than cigarettes and alcohol. There's even a scale you can use to determine your level of Facebook addiction.

The purpose of Pavlov Poke is to highlight this addictive behavior and suggest ways of combating it. At the very least, Morris and McDuff want it to act as a warning that people should be aware of the addiction posed by modern digital technology and to resist it.

The device itself is very simple in construction. It consists of a UI inspector that keeps tabs on computer application usage. It notices how often and how long site is visited and if it falls inside the parameters set for distraction, a processing code pops up an onscreen alert. Meanwhile, an Arduino platform is connected to the computer by a USB feed. The processing code signals a shock and the Arduino triggers a shock circuit, sending a current through a pair of electrodes that give the user a harmless, but unpleasant electric shock.

In the event that shock isn't enough of a deterrent, or if the user starts wearing rubber cuffs, Morris and McDuff came up with an alternative that works on the same principle, but instead of electric shocks, the device posts a job request to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk website. The request offers US$1.40 for someone to ring up the user and say, in a suitably scolding voice, “What are you doing? You've been using Facebook again! I can't believe you would do this! Consider this a warning. Good bye!”

The video below explains the reasoning behind the Pavlov Poke.

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