I recently learned about AnxietyBox (tagline: Stop making yourself anxious – that’s our job!). The site is not currently active, apparently because it got completely overwhelmed with demand. But the basic premise was that you would enter in your main anxiety sources, and then it would “send you anxious, urgent, deeply upsetting emails.” I think the idea was a combination of exposure therapy and that literally deleting your anxious thoughts can be oddly satisfying. Under “Representative Bot Output”, it says things like “People in your neighborhood think of you as cheesy.” and “People on Facebook look at your picture and think: strangely repulsive”. (You can see more by clicking the link in the first sentence.)
Hearing about this made me think that it would be natural to have ReviewBox and EvaluationBox, to deal with anxieties related to reviews and teaching evaluations. An actual review I received on my first NSF Graduate Research Fellowship application was “Success is doubtful.” I could have the bot email me that one periodically.
It has been interesting to me to think about what I would include in my personal ReviewBox and EvaluationBox, because that has led me to think more specifically about the things that cause me anxiety related to reviews and teaching evaluations. For both, there are criticisms that I could get that would be reasonable (e.g., my exams are challenging) or things that I don’t worry about because I am confident about my abilities in that area (e.g., related to experimental design). So, thinking about this has made me think about what are sources of anxiety for me. One of the main things I can think of related to manuscripts is that I have completely (or largely) missed a relevant area of literature. So, my ReviewBox would include statements like: “It’s shocking that she is apparently unaware of the work of Smith, including Smith 1903, 1905, and 1908.” And I know lots of people share the fear of running out of good/interesting ideas, so comments like “This is the best you’ve got?” would probably be in many peoples’ ReviewBox.
Thinking about what I would include in ReviewBox and EvaluationBox has been entertaining for me, though does get at a serious issue: academia is full of rejection and harsh critiques, and I know a lot of academics who have imposter syndrome and anxiety. If only we could delete those as easily as a bot-generated email!
What would your ReviewBoxBot and/or EvaluationBoxBot email you?