I remember listening to Drew Pinsky on Loveline on KROQ, back when he sat opposite Poorman. I never thought that, years later, Drew and I would be working together on a TV series, set to air on Discovery Health Channel next season.
On the recent season of Drew’s show, Celebrity Rehab, two of his patients underwent functional brain scans as part of their evaluation and treatment (videos here and here). I reached out to Drew after the shows aired and we struck up a wonderful conversation discussing our respective fields of work. It turned out that we live quite close to each other. One thing led to another, and we are now filming our show.
The short series we have developed will address the growing phenomenon of Internet Addiction Disorder. This problem is much more socially disruptive than it is deadly, but it can have tragic consequences.
Addiction is better understood when it is seen not as a disease by itself, but as a symptom or consequence of an underlying problem. In many cases, the addiction comes about as an attempt by the patient to, unknowingly, self-treat the underlying condition. There is real disease that comes about as a consequence of any addiction, but given the staggeringly low success rates of conventional addiction treatment programs, this new perspective can profoundly affect patient outcomes because it treats the whole person.
This is where Drew’s expertise and mine come together: he as addiction specialist and me as an expert in functional brain imaging. We have put together a group of twelve individuals – known and unknown – who have troublesome relationships with the Internet. We have utilized functional brain imaging to help us and the participants understand what is going on with their brains and how that is related to their Internet use or abuse. Granted, my role is a supporting one, but I am happy to advance my field while helping some people.
In the group featured in our show, are bloggers, twitterers and Facebookers. I was fortunate to have recruited five people know to wine blog readers. The show’s participants are living in a large rented house in Santa Monica, California – in close proximity to the imaging center where their brains are imaged.
Many who know Ron Washam’s HoseMaster of Wine blog are familiar with his on again, off again relationship with his blog. With Ron’s permission, I am able to say that his current hiatus was self-imposed strictly for the purpose of seeking treatment. Being back in Southern California will allow Ron the opportunity to pitch his M.S. Conspiracy as a dramatic TV series. He still has contacts in this town and I hope they don’t rip the soul out of that story.
While he does not overtly exhibit the destructive signs of addiction, Hardy Wallace‘s well-documented foray through new media is actually a hallmark symptom of Internet Addiction. He did, after all, uproot his life and move from Atlanta to Healdsburg for a six-month job. We were able to negotiate a solution where Hardy flies up to Healdsburg to fulfill his obligations to his clients, while still spending enough time in Santa Monica to benefit from the commitment he has made to the show. He did request that we find a way for him to play some one-on-one with Dennis Rodman – which he did get to do in the first episode. After editing, that made for a great minute of basic cable television.
Those who have wondered who Morton Leslie is, (and what happened to him) need wait no more. All will be revealed in less than 12 months. I was able to convince Morton (whose real name will be disclosed in March of 2011) by finding a publisher for his memoirs. You will find that Morton is quite a loving family man and the reasons for his reluctance tor reveal his true identity will be made clear. Morton was quite modest and made no other requests of the producers.
I was also able to convince Charlie Olken to join the group – though it was a contentious discussion. Charlie has long been know to post extensive comments on blogs. While he has threatened to begin blogging, he has not made good on that threat. Drew and I flew up to the Bay Area and, in an organized intervention in Charlie’s Alameda home, we were able to convince him to come to Santa Monica. As part of his rider, Charlie will also be filmed attending UCLA Extension classes on Internet Media (in off hours). This is also part of his treatment.
Recently laid off computer professional and prolific blogger, Joe Roberts, will also join us. He jumped at the opportunity to have Discovery Channel fly him and his family to Southern California for the duration of filming. We had to arrange for season tickets to Universal Studios and a chance for Joe to meet and jam with Mike Starr (thanks for your help, there, Drew), but it was a small price to pay for the opportunity for such a fascinating case study.
The series is titled “Internet Slaves. The New Addiction” and it will air in March of 2011. Discovery.com will add the show to its website after the New Year. Throughout the series, we will have guest appearances by Ashton Kutcher, Perez Hilton, Tom Wark, Alder Yarrow and Stephen Tanzer. Eric Asimov declined an invitation to participate.
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