Why do people walk on railroad tracks

The day Hannah was reckless, maybe even risked her life, was a beautiful spring day in April. Hannah is off school, in a few days she will be celebrating her 14th birthday. She wears her white blouse, her eyes are made up in black, her long, light blonde hair is tied in a ponytail. Every day she writes messages to her friends on Facebook. What her profile picture looks like on the social network is important to her. She needs a new one, preferably one that not everyone has. Hannah tells her friend that, as they are walking towards a railroad crossing. They think it's the perfect place for a photo shoot. Hannah sits cross-legged between the rails and makes her photo face. She proudly shows the result to her friends later. At the time she was not aware of the danger she was in.

Now, three years later, she is looking at the place where she was then. "How can you be so stupid?" She says, shaking her head. Vanessa and Nicole can't do that. A train came near them. The two girls from Memmingen, 13 and 16 years old, died instantly. They took photos similar to Hannah's. That was in 2011. Two years later, two girls died in a similar operation near Dortmund. And yet: The dangerous trend is unbroken, perhaps even more widespread than ever.

Malfunctions caused by "people on the track" are increasing

Everywhere on Facebook and Instagram, young girls present themselves on the tracks. They prance into the sunset, balance on the rails, nestle between them. How many there are exactly cannot be said. But the number of "major operational disruptions due to people on the track" has been increasing in Bavaria for years, from 2012 to 2014 by more than 45 percent. For this year too, Deutsche Bahn expects an increase. By the end of June alone, there had been more than 960 cases.

What are girls looking for on the platform? What is it that fascinates you so much about these photos? "The motif is as old as the tracks themselves," says Martin Voigt from LMU Munich. The sociologist analyzed more than a thousand photos and videos for his dissertation on girl friendships. Rails that are lost in the distance symbolize longing, wanderlust, a long way. The girls know the images from films or advertising and adapt them to their world. Much revolves around the "abffl" - the very best friend for life.

Rails mean inseparability for these girls

One motif appears particularly often: two girls walk on the rails towards the horizon, their hands meet in the middle of the rails. "The rails often mean inseparability for the girls," says Voigt. Just like the tracks, they too want to go their way side by side to infinity.

In principle, this is nothing new. Girls have always presented their friendship more aggressively than boys. While a hard pat on the shoulder was usually enough for the boys to greet them, girls used to lie in each other's arms in public. But the social networks do not spare the girl friendship either. Who is the very best and who is only the best friend, who is the most original documenting the togetherness - that is now followed and, above all, assessed by the whole class. "Presenting yourself as a best friend is now a social necessity," says Voigt.