getupp: Harnessing Support or Shame?

I read at Gizmodo this morning about getupp, a new personal motivation app that provides a platform for a deceptively simple process:

  1. You commit to an activity
  2. getupp tells your friends
  3. getupp verifies your commitment
  4. getupp announces the outcome

At the getupp site, the developers elaborate:

getupp is a location-based commitment service. Commit to activities that require your presence at a specific location at a certain time, for example, going to the gym after work or being home on time for dinner. getupp verifies and shares whether you keep or break such commitments. Open the getupp iPhone app at the right location at the right time, and your commitment is completed. But if you fail to show up, your commitment is broken, and your failure is automatically shared with your friends on Facebook.

I suppose you could spin this in two different ways.

Positive: The app helps build a support network of friends and family who will read about your accomplishments and cheer you on.

Negative: The app motivates you by harnessing your fear of shame, threatening to announce to your family and friends whenever you fail to keep a commitment.

I remember when I was a kid, in 6th grade I believe, I had as serious a crush as a 6th grader could have on a girl who I was spending increasing amounts of time with. And, one night at the dinner table I refused to eat some mushy green vegetable, the exact variety of which escapes me, and my parents said that I couldn’t leave the table until I’d eaten one spoonful.

While the details, like the type of offending vegetable, are fuzzy, for some reason I remember that it was a Sunday and that we always ate dinner around the time the TV show 60 Minutes came on, sometimes watching it while we ate, other times after, and I remember that on that particular night it was on after dinner was formally over, but that I sat at the kitchen table with that spoon in my hand during the entire program. I also have a memory, though it’s less likely accurate for obvious reasons, that one of the segments on the show had to do with deplorable prison conditions.

When the show was over, my mother threatened to call the girl on whom I was so crushed out and tell her that I was afraid of eating the vegetables.

Quite a scene erupted, and in a moment of panic I held my breath, forced the spoon into my mouth, felt the, by then, cold, slimy lump of veggie slide down my throat, slammed the spoon down on the table, and finally I ran to my room and blasted some KISS as loud as I could, staring at a photo of Gene Simmons with fake blood coming out of his mouth.

So, this getupp thing. It would be interesting to hear what the late, great B. F. Skinner would say on the matter. He pretty clearly concluded that positive reinforcement was better than negative reinforcement, and even though getupp provides access to positive feedback, the threat of negative feedback is always there, whether it gets activated or not.

One thought on “getupp: Harnessing Support or Shame?

  1. ” I ran to my room and blasted some KISS as loud as I could, staring at a photo of Gene Simmons with fake blood coming out of his mouth”

    I Laugh Out Loud at this!

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