Monday, November 11, 2019


This means monitoring Instagram constantly, identifying those who are close to the edge and alerting the police and ambulance services. She admits to having sleepless nights. She knows that being so distracted by her phone can anger her family and friends, but she worries that without her vigilance, someone might die.

"It goes bad, because it has done before," she says.
The woman who tracks 'dark' Instagram accounts
Instagram, I must admit, lies outside of my expertise. I came late to the personal social media game, and left it when Google+ was closed to the public earlier this year. But I'm also much older than Ingebjørg Blindheim, the young woman the story opens with. The crowd that I connected with had worked through their issues some time back. And so the story, as told by the BBC was something that seemed reasonable, but was completely new to me.

As I read it, I wondered what the world would be like, if we were all as vigilant about other people as Ms. Blindheim is. I have difficulty imagining it, mainly because I can't work out how people would support themselves if they felt the need to spend their waking hours attempting to keep tabs on strangers. Of course, I suspect that I'm over-thinking it. Perhaps, were we all in the habit of looking out for the health and well being of those around us, we wouldn't need to put all that much time into it. Ms. Blindheim presents as having shouldered the burden of a lonely vigil. It would be lighter if it were more broadly shared. But, of course, this leaves me in the uncomfortable position of understanding that I'm just as capable of sharing that burden as anyone else. And so I have to answer the question, "What's it worth to me?"

I don't recall when I first had the thought, but one day it occurred to me that for all that people will argue that human life is priceless, in practice, a life, any life, is worth precisely what others are willing to pay to preserve it. Nothing more, nothing less. It's unromantic, and it sets aside the notion that there is some great purpose to existing, but it lines up with what we often see in the world around us.

So, I find myself asking, what is it about Ms. Blindheim that the lives she looks after are worth so much more to her than they are to me, or to other people? One can point to an empathy born of shared suffering, as Ms. Blindheim once suffered from an eating disorder herself, but that seems empty. After all, there are plenty of people who survived eating disorders and don't feel the same drive to protect others from the call to self-harm. There seems to be an element of choice involved.

And I think that when we ask why people make the choices that they make, we wind up reducing our understanding of their volition. We choose the things we choose because we choose them seems circular and unsatisfying, but it leaves room for people to make choices without needing to tie those choices to other factors. And it leaves room for us to be more free to choose.

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