Can Shock Therapy Cure Internet, Email or Social Web Addiction?

Ouch! That hurts. Shock therapy is used when all other methods have failed. That too, in cases of excessive depression and anxiety; I did not hear any instance of shock therapy (also known as electro-convulsive therapy or ECT for short) being used to cure addiction. But when I came across an article describing how to use electricity to stop and cure Internet addiction, I thought it is time I research how to cure social networking sites addiction – if at all there is such a thing.

Cure Internet, Email or Social Web Addiction

No, Shock Therapy Cannot But Probably Shocks Can

This is based on a report that a group of students in a university (MIT) were trying to get off Facebook and in a bid, developed something mildly dangerous. However, the gadget – called Pavlos Poke [1] – they created, can be tweaked and used to reduce, if not cure, Facebook addiction. The original research page says it is a joke but I find it can be of help – considering that the very basis of the technique is to create subconscious rejection by the brain. I would not endorse it as such but you might consider tweaking the technology keeping “natural rejection” at the core.

Right now, their gadget is a kind of keyboard that sends high electrical impulses to your body, when you are spending too much time on Facebook. These electrical impulses are real electricity flowing via your hands to shock you if you exceed a certain time-period on Facebook – or for the matter, on any website you prefer to get rid of. Few such shocks will keep your brain alert and your urge to play around on the website will reduce.

Of course, as with any addiction, there may be methods to supplement the addiction. For example, you stop using the computer for using Facebook and go mobile. That is easy and hence would fail the entire project mentioned above. But if you have had quite a few shocks on the site using the computer before switching to the mobile, you might see yourself on guard and closing the website quite too often – an attempt by your subconscious brain to avert physical electric shocks.

That, in turn, means there needs to be a certain number of exposes to the shock before it can program your brain. Also, the brainpower of each individual varies and cannot be right-away predicted as to how many shocks are needed. Maybe a study on the average age group can help.

While the above experiment is dangerous – the level of electricity released is of the same power as that which comes out of the wall outlet – it has some uses. Using a lower electricity impulse might or might not be of much use. You need something that shocks you for a while. I will leave the discussion on how much strong electricity is safe as I don’t have much knowledge on that. I do know that it needs to be shocking your brain to an extent that it fears next instance and that you need a certain number of shocks before your brain stays cautious, reminding you to get off the website as soon as possible.

Speaking of tweaks, as with any technology, there is much possibility of creating similar devices or redesigning the technology to provide information (in this case, the electric shock) in a different way.

That has to be done carefully though. The brain may be frightened so much that it would prevent you from working for long hours on a stretch as such or on a particular website – instead of just Facebook and other social media addictive sites. In either case, this technology employs a natural rejection technique and I think a little alteration to the same can provide the desired results.

What Are Other Methods?

Among the most endorsed methods is self-control, blocking the websites and using third-party applications to remind you or freeze the computer when you have been on the site for long. Self-control, if were as strong as required to quit any addiction, the addiction wouldn’t have been there in the place so I reject it completely. It is like – I will quit smoking, from tomorrow.

Blocking and third-party applications can be twisted and uninstalled. And there is no guarantee that if a third-party app froze your computer for being on Facebook, you won’t go and log in via mobile. These too are better said than done.

Bottomline – What is The Best Method To Cure Social Sites Addiction?

What we need is a process that involves ‘natural rejection’ – a case where the brain itself is monitoring for excess and triggers you off the site from time to time. That can be achieved by two methods:

  1. Frighten the brain by attaching Facebook to something very bad
  2. Offer the brain incentives too good to keep it away from the site

Overall, this has to be looked at from a psychiatry point of view rather than just a technology issue. Or maybe, use technology to prove the psychiatry point of view like the device above does.

The best method, in my opinion, is to associate Facebook and such sites with something unpleasant. The electric shock device is just an example. Maybe, triggering off some irritating sounds or providing you with some image that is particularly unpleasant – upon lengthier use of Facebook – can be rewarding. The other could be offering incentives to stay off Facebook. At the moment, no such incentives are in my mind. Maybe you can suggest something.

Is Facebook Addiction That Bad?

I do not know for sure. While some may consider the social web to be the new opium for the masses, I’ve seen happy people both working and playing on and off Facebook. I’ve heard of people becoming reliant on Facebook. I have been able to stay away from social sites for days – probably due to some other issues.

I would – however – include a reference to a study on Facebook addiction in the References section below. You might find it helpful in understanding how Facebook works inside the brain and what effects (negative) it has on the human mind.

Let me know your thoughts!


  • Robert Morris Organization, Pavlov Poke
  • PLOS: Study of Facebook Effects: Reduces Well-Being.

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