If you’re easily triggered, don’t read any further.
The subject matter posted on Instagram’s Kensington Beach page is deeply disturbing, and viewer discretion is advised.
As a metro columnist, I don’t get shocked easily.
But then I logged on to a social-media site that chronicles the toll of drug use in the neighborhood at the epicenter of Philly’s opioid epidemic and saw things I had never seen before. It was as if I had descended into a dark underworld.
One video shows a young couple bent over as they inject syringes into their arms while riding public transit. Others show people lying on sidewalks as Philadelphia police try to revive their lifeless bodies. People who appear to be under the influence of drugs yell gibberish and rock back and forth. In one video, all of this takes place as the music from an ice cream truck plays in the background. One of the most disturbing videos shows a young woman dangling from a second-floor window in her underwear, before falling to the sidewalk.
Just when I thought I had seen it all, I spotted a video of a young man wearing nothing but a pair of black track shorts as he writhes on the sidewalk. His body is covered with huge scrapes. Someone yells, “You’ve got to leave that s— alone!”
Mike Coyle, 37, a longtime Kensington resident, got the idea to start posting images of the drug use around him during one of his daily walks with his pit bull. At first, he posted them on his personal account. But after they got a lot of views, he created a separate account and called it Kensington Beach.
“I’m just bringing awareness to what’s going on in my neighborhood," Coyle told me. "It’s already here. It’s been here for years. And I’m just a guy who just so happened to start an Instagram page and it’s catching a lot of light.”
Less than a year old, Kensington Beach already has more than 16,000 followers — and is growing rapidly.
Coyle calls his page Kensington Beach because seeing drug users lie around on the pavement reminds him of how beachgoers sun themselves when they’re down the Shore.
Usually, when I write about a social-media account, I link to it and show examples of the posts it contains.
Not this time.
I have serious concerns about how easily identifiable some of the people are in the videos. They’re still private citizens. Some might not be on drugs. They could be suffering from mental-health issues or other conditions. And we haven’t independently verified the authenticity of the videos. Also, if I were a parent and it were my child, I would raise hell if she or he were shown in a negative light.
But that's me.
Coyle isn’t a journalist. He’s a caring person who is upset about how drugs have ravaged what was once a thriving blue-collar community. The sidewalks outside his family business, which he asked me not to name, are often littered with used syringes and human excrement. Users frequently lie around outside.
He tries to help them when he can. Coyle hands out bottled water, relays messages from family members who follow his site, and urges users to call their relatives. On the videos, he can be heard asking users: “Are you all right, man?”
If nothing else will persuade you not to use drugs, seeing the insanity depicted on Kensington Beach just might. A 13-year-old follower once wrote Coyle to say he would never try narcotics because of what he had seen on that Instagram page.
Positive feedback like that encourages Coyle to keep posting — and to keep shocking us.