Silicon Beach: Internet Addiction on the Rise

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Technology is both a blessing and a curse. It helps connect people, but also keeps them  from having real lives. The first true Internet addiction residential treatment center opened its doors earlier this year, according to USA Today:

The center, called ReSTART, is somewhat ironically located near Redmond, Washington, headquarters of Microsoft and a world center of the computer industry. It opened in July and for $14,000 offers a 45-day program intended to help people wean themselves from pathological computer use, which can include obsessive use of video games, texting, Facebook, eBay, Twitter and any other time-killers brought courtesy of technology.

Fourteen thousand bucks just to shake off Twitter? What's next, an A&E Intervention episode about social media addicts, right up there next to alcoholic crack whores?

No joke. Yours truly has spoken with couples who tweet from bed together. (Although who knows what else they're doing in bed, besides sleeping.)

The idea of social media rehab is nothing new to South Florida geek Jeffrey Sass (@sass), a technology and entertainment exec self-described as a "a gadget geek and early adopter at heart." Sass has one up on the American Psychiatric Association. He started pondering social media rehab in 2007, when he invented a fake treatment facility called InvitationsThe mock Invitations center was the original focus of his tongue-in-cheek blog, Social Networking Rehab: 28 Days. In the past two years, Sass has written about all the steps -- 12 of them and counting -- that he's taken to "recover" from his second life online. He has also shared sneaky ways to get away with "relapse."

"Hollywood celebrities have always had a place to go to when they needed help, like Promises in Malibu," said Sass during a phone interview. "When I saw how much people like myself and others were spending time online, I thought we also needed an exclusive place to get off the wagon. When you poke fun at it, though, you realize we really are enmeshed in our social networks."

Though Sass's site is purely humorous, the opening of ReSTART in Redmond does beg a serious question: How addicted are you to social media? Does it interfere with or enhance your real life?

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