The Pavlov Poke Is the Most Extreme Way to Break Your Facebook Addiction

Is the time you spend browsing Facebook cutting into the time you want to devote to more important pursuits, like taking up basket weaving, taking over the world and reading this site? Robert Morris and Dan McDuff have got a (rather extreme) solution for you.

The enterprising pair of MIT students has created a unique productivity tool called the Pavlov Poke. This innocuously named device is designed to force you to break your Facebook addiction – by shocking you with a nice, productivity-enhancing jolt of electricity every time you spend too long on the social networking site.

It’s a simple design that uses a UI inspector, a processing script, an Arduino and some electrodes, meaning that its functionality isn’t limited to Facebook. You can configure it to punish you for using whatever site you want.

According to McDuff, the shock is “unpleasant, but not dangerous.” (That’s confidence-inspiring.) Here’s a video of the Pavlov Poke in action:

Alternatively, if electric shocks aren’t your jam, you could try some good old fashioned verbal abuse instead. You can also make a Pavlov Poke that’s configured to have a stranger call you up and berate you every time you find yourself slacking off.

This system uses a UI inspector, a python script and Amazon’s crowdsourcing job site Mechanical Turk to monitor your Internet usage and automatically recruit someone to call you and yell at you when you don’t stay on task. Check it out:

(NSFW, mild language.)

So, we can agree that the Pavlov Poke is extreme — but the real question is, does it work?

Kind of. On his website, Morris explains that while the Pavlov Poke did help him reduce his Facebook usage, he’s not sure the effects would last once he stopped using it. Would you commit to a lifetime of enduring electric shocks in order to keep you from wasting time with your favorite Internet distractions? Hey, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than a digital detox camp.

If you’re interested in building a Pavlov Poke yourself, you can find instructions here.