INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
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Elliot BenjaminElliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 150 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.

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Integral World and Internet Addiction

A Personal Experiential Account

Elliot Benjamin

I find myself continuously wondering: will my new article make it in the Top 10 ratings? If so, how high will it get there?

Perhaps it seems a bit far-fetched to be writing an essay that associates Integral World with Internet Addiction? But this is a personal experiential account, and I think it is interesting to explore this association, from my own experiences of having published nearly 90 articles on Integral World.[1] As I was reading the book Irrestible[2] by Adam Alter, I was feeling rather smug as I pictured the multitude of my fellow U.S. citizens being hooked on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, video games, continuously successive television reruns, etc., and incessantly checking their “likes” to their uploaded postings and photos.[2,3] I don't play video games, I seldom indulge in Facebook and I don't do Twitter, I don't upload photos on the internet, I virtually never watch television, I seldom use my cell phone, I intentionally don't own a smartphone, and I was confident that I do not suffer from “internet addiction.” Indeed, I have now published a number of articles related to cell phone and social media addiction, and gave a talk about this at a conference, based upon my experiences of teaching undergraduate psychology at a college in Maine and having to deal with this disturbing phenomenon in my college students.[4] Certainly I was confident that I was not addicted to seeing how many Facebook “likes” I received on internet postings.

However, it was somewhat surprising to me that when I took the miniature internet addiction test that Alter included in his book,[2,5] I actually came out as having “mild” internet addiction. This miniature internet addiction test included a sample of five questions from the full 20 questions of a widely used Internet Addiction test.[5] The ratings were chosen from “not applicable,” “rarely,” “occasionally,” “frequently,” “often,” “always,” and the questions were as follows:

  1. How often do you find that you stay online longer than you intended?
  2. How often do others in your life complain to you about the amount of time you spend online?
  3. How often do you check your email before something else that you need to do?
  4. How often do you lose sleep because of late night log-ins?
  5. How often do you find yourself saying “just a few minutes” when online?

As Alter conveyed[2] :

46 percent of people say they couldn't bear to live without their smartphone (some would rather suffer physical injury than an injury to their phones), and 80 percent of teens check their phones at least once an hour. . . . This shift to mobile devices is dangerous, because a device that travels with you is always a better vehicle for addiction.. . . Up to 59 percent of people say they're dependent on social media sites and that their reliance on these sites ultimately makes them unhappy. Of that group, half say they need to check those sites at least once an hour. After an hour, they are anxious, agitated, and incapable of concentrating. Meanwhile, in 2015, there were 280 million smartphone addicts. If they banded together to form the “United States of Nomophobia[6] ” it would be the fourth populous country in the world, after China, India, and the United States.[2] (pp. 26-27)

To briefly convey how enormous and detrimental the phenomenon of addiction has become, Alter described the conclusion of research that involved 1.5 million respondents from four continents that focused on gambling, love, sex, shopping, internet, exercise, and work addictions, as well as alcohol, nicotine, narcotic, and other substance addictions,[2,7] which found that almost half of the population had experienced the following:

Other activities are given up or, if continued, are no longer experienced as being as enjoyable as they once were. Further negative consequences of the addictive behavior may include interference with performance of life roles (e.g., job, social activities, or hobbies), impairment of social relationships, criminal activity and legal problems, involvement in dangerous situations, physical injury and impairment, financial loss, or emotional trauma..[2] (pp. 25-26)

But what I want to concentrate primarily on in this article is the phenomenon of “likes” on Facebook, and specifically my initial confidence that I was not addicted to how many Facebook likes I received on internet postings. With this in mind, it is worthwhile to look at how Alter has portrayed this phenomenon of Facebook likes[2]:

It's hard to exaggerate how much the “like” button changed the psychology of Facebook use. . . . Users were gambling every time they shared a photo, web link, or status update. A post with zero likes wasn't just privately painful, but also a kind of public condemnation: either you didn't have enough online friends, or, worse still, your online friends weren't impressed. Like pigeons, we're more driven to seek feedback when it isn't guaranteed. . . . Liking became a form of basic social approval—the online equivalent of laughing at a friend's joke in public. Likes became so valuable that they spawned a start-up called Lovematically. The app's founder, Rameet Chawla, posted this introduction on its homepage: It's our generations' crack cocaine. People are addicted. We experience withdrawals. We are so driven by this drug, getting just one hit elicits truly peculiar reactions. I'm talking about Likes. They've inconspicuously emerged as the first digital drug to dominate our culture. (pp. 128-129)
Irresistable, Adam Alter

Let me now get back to my own “mild” internet addiction. I know I have become enmeshed in the enraging and horrifying to me continuous spectacle of U.S. President Trump's wide range of destructive actions, and I am glued to daily internet reports about all the sordid details[8] I figured that this must be the main source of my mild internet addiction, and I think this is without doubt a prominent explanation for my self-diagnosis. But then all of a sudden I got an insight that I was not as immune to checking on my “likes” as I thought I was. For right after I publish an article on Integral World, I am very excited to see how people are responding to my article. Integral World used to be much more low key, as I can remember when my first Integral World article: On Ken Wilber's Integral Institute: An Experiential Analysis[9] was posted on the site in 2006, it quickly took its place as No. 1 on the top 50 most read articles for the week, and stayed there for close to a month, but this was before Frank Visser aligned IW with Facebook and “likes,” or comments at the end of articles or the IW Newsletter. It was merely a matter of me checking the site every few days and seeing if I was still No. 1. However, as the years progressed, Frank became more technologically astute with IW, and cleverly included all the latest perks so that everyone could immediately see all the comments and Facebook likes on articles. And once I became attuned to this, I found myself incessantly checking to see “how my article was doing.”

Yes I admit it. Soon after I published an article on IW, I would frequently, sometimes once an hour or more often if I were particularly un-centered at the time, check to see if I had any additional comments or likes. At times this truly did feel like it was an addiction to me. But what is most important here for the purpose of this present article is that I understood experientially how one could get addicted to the internet. For me it involved my articles, which speaks to me deeply in regard to how I see myself as an authentic philosopher. No I am not prone to posting and uploading images on Facebook and seeing how many likes I get in that context. But yes I am affected by seeing the comments and how many likes I get on my articles on Integral World. Is this a form of internet addiction?

Well it depends. In one sense it can be construed as simply a modern technological means of receiving feedback on my writings from the public. But when I become obsessed with this feedback to the point of continually checking the site before I do anything else online, and continue doing this just to see if perhaps there is “another like” after there has been no activity on my article for quite some time, and when I compare how many likes I have with the number of likes on the other recently posted articles on the site, something feels like it is getting out-of-hand for me. Before Frank posts the new weekly Top 10 articles, I find myself continuously wondering: will my new article make it in the Top 10 ratings? If so, how high will it get there? If it makes it in the Top 10, then I want to see if it will stay there a few weeks. In short, I get hooked on IW for quite some time after Frank posts one of my articles on the site. And you know—this is starting to sound like a “mild” case of internet addiction to me.

Let me affirm that I have the utmost respect for and appreciation to Frank Visser for all that he has accomplished with his Integral World site, and for his continuous openness and support to my varied repertoire of Integral World articles that he has posted for over a decade. Frank has successfully used modern technology to make Integral World a captivating site for its highly intelligent readers. Of course it needs to be captivating to be competitive with all the sites that are out there that have similar types of philosophical articles to offer. How I respond to the technological ingredients that Frank has included on IW is my own responsibility. And I will try my best to turn over a new leaf and not incessantly check on how this present article is doing on Integral World—well I will try!

Notes and References

[1] See my articles on Integral World at www.integralworld.net/readingroom.html#ELB

[2] See Adam Alter (2017), Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. New York: Penguin Press.

[3] For another informative account of social media and internet addiction, see Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell (2009), The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. New York: Atria.

[4] Some of my articles on social media and cell phone addiction as available as follows: "Do We Live in a Social Media Technology Addicted Society?" (2015), www.integralworld.net; Benjamin; "Humanistic Antidotes for a Social Media Technology Addicted Society" (2015), www.pjpub.org; "A College Psychology Teacher's Experience of Cell Phone Addiction in the Classroom: Autoethnographic Reflections" (2017), socialscienceresearch.org

[5] The complete Internet Addiction Test is available online.

[6] Researchers have coined the term “nomophobia” to describe the fear of being without mobile phone contact (an abbreviation of “no-mobile-phobia”) (see [2], p. 15)

[7] This research study is taken from Sussman, Lisha, & Griffiths (2011), Prevalence of the Addictions: A Problem of the Majority or the Minority?, Evaluation and the Health Professions, 35, pp. 3-56.

[8] See [1] for my Integral World articles on Trump. See my Integral World article that relates Trump to internet addiction (before the 2016 U.S. presidential election), entitled : "US President Trump: The Ultimate Outcome of Social Media Addiction and Unbridled Narcissism in America?", www.integralworld.net

[9] See my Integral World article "On Ken Wilber's Integral Institute: An Experiential Analysis", www.integralworld.net





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