Politics, thrills or social media: what drives the new breed of urban explorer?

By Stephen Moss

The global craze for exploring secret, closed-off city spaces is on the rise – as are the risks some thrill-seekers are willing to take. So what's the appeal? There was only one way for Stephen Moss to find out …

The pursuit of urban exploration has always been dangerous, but – largely as a result of the oneupmanship generated by social media – the risks taken by today's young breed of explorers are reaching new and terrifying extremes. They are not just descending into sewers but climbing ever-taller towers, risking their lives in train and tube tunnels, and indulging in photogenic stunts in an effort to win instant internet fame.

“The community has changed drastically,” says Bradley Garrett, author of Explore Everything: Place-hacking the City. “A lot of these kids are putting themselves at greater risk to gain credibility on social media channels. There have been an increased number of deaths in the urbex community worldwide in the past few years, and that's gone hand-in-hand with the increased desire to publish these exploits on social media.”

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