Politics, Community & Society > Pull Systems, Compulsion & Procrastination

Pull Systems, Compulsion & Procrastination

Published: April 23, 2009

There is a strange human compulsion that is dramatically affecting our lives. It is actually a fairly new phenomenon and is summed perfectly in the comic pictured (here's a link to the original). As is spelled out in the comic, you don't realise you do it, but mechanically you intermittently check different news websites to see what little golden nugget is sitting there waiting for you in between your regular computer tasks (whether they be work or play related). It's like a mini-lottery; sometimes there is nothing, occasionally there is a little something and other times there is a major news windfall that tends to result in you telling the whole world (or at least your close friends) about whatever awesome thing you have just found.

This trait can actually be witnessed in a number of different areas:

  • Email (this is includes devices like the CrackBerry)
  • News sites and news feeds
  • Stock markets
  • Facebook and other social platforms
  • Computer/Website Statistics
  • This phenomenon is linked to systems know as pull systems.

    An email pull system is where you have to click on something to "get mail". Depending on the email account, people can end up checking their email every 5 minutes to see what has come in. A lot of email software systems have moved to push systems to relieve this pain for the user.

    Those addicted to Facebook are essentially in the same boat. They constantly hover around the site looking for a diamond in the rough, and tend to do so without realising.

    It's not exactly known what drives this compulsion apart from the chance of a reward. Perhaps the brain does some massive calculation and figures out how often to check the system for the maximum reward and least amount of effort. Often the brain is way off and thinks checking repeatedly is the most effective way even when anyone could consciously see there has been no change since the last time you checked and there is no need to keep checking. In someways this condition shares traits with OCD but it is something altogether different.

    In some senses it is closely tied with procrastination. Knowing this, software developers like Apple are helping to curb these bad habits. There are also a number of FireFox extensions like LeechBlock or BlockSite if you know you need serious help.

    Pull systems do occur in nature; such as checking on fruit and vegetable plants to see if is time for harvest, or looking out for the safety of those you are responsible for e.g. children, invalids, pets, etc. Maybe it is just the ease of access to these systems, which we are historically unaccustomed to, along with the desire to focus on anything but the actual thing we should be doing, that has brought about such an interesting and time wasting phenomenon.

    Any Comments?


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