Sunday, September 25, 2011

Recently in the news I have been seeing a lot of stories on ‘flash mobs’ that have taken a turn for the worse. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought flash mobs were meant to be something fun and unexpected.

I wasn’t sure, so to satisfy my curiosity I looked up the definition of Flash Mob. Here is what I found; defines Flash Mob as: ‘a large group of people mobilized by social media to meet in a public place for the purpose of doing an unusual or entertaining activity of short duration.’

Please note the word entertaining. Nowhere does it mention, violent or hatred acts.

I mention this because recently in Maryland, two dozen teenagers gathered at a Seven-Eleven at 1:36 am and robbed it within 60 seconds. In Philadelphia, upwards to 200 teens have been gathering for random acts of violence via “flash mob” technique. The International Business Times website writer Daniel Tovrov stated, “A flash mob occurred on July 29, when about 30 teenagers near City Hall severely beat two people, leaving one unconscious and the other needing surgery for a broken jaw. In June, some gangs attacked pedestrians and people leaving restaurants while others robbed train passengers. Still others walked into stores and businesses and walked out with stolen goods. “

This behavior prompted Philadelphia Mayor Nutter to put a 9pm curfew on the city youth for Friday and Saturday nights and have personally held the parents responsible for any child found out after curfew with fines upwards of 500 dollars. In the words of Mayor Nutter; “We've got the biggest, baddest gang in town - a committed group of citizens and a committed government and we're working together and we're not going to have this nonsense anymore."

Yeah, that’s how he rolls.

I was going to give a good tongue lashing and finger pointing on how the young people in these states have taken something enjoyable, positive, and surprising like flash mobs into something mean, disruptive, and violent.

However, trying not to sound like a grandmother, I am here to tell you that I am not going to be wasting any more of my energy glorifying these morons.

So I began to wonder. Where did flash mobs originate and why don’t we ever see the evening news broadcast all the fun and creative flash mobs? Personally, I would like reporters on the scene of a dancing flash mob (perhaps even partaking in the fun) than on a murder scene.

But hey, that’s just me.

So being of the ‘older generation’,( meaning that I’m over 30, but clearly under 50), I didn’t put much thought into where it all generated from. It seemed as if it just appeared everywhere one day.

So I did some research and came across some interesting facts.

Bill Wasik, the Senior Editor of Harper’s Magazine started the Flash mob movement back in 2003 where individuals came together at a Toys R Us store in New York City to gather around a giant T-Rex dinosaur and stared at it for three minutes, then genuflected and cowered beneath the giant toy. Employees of the store called security due to the fact that they became concerned of a cult like activity occurring in their store. They dispersed before security could arrive.

Crazy fun.

Then there is Charlie Todd; an actor that some feel should receive credit for starting the ‘Flash mob’ movement. Charlie started the ‘Improv Everywhere’ missions back in 2001, where people get together for pranks in the New York City area that cause scenes of joy and chaos in public places within a short period of time. The website ( posts videos and summaries of all the pranks Mr. Todd organizes. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised at the silliness, creativity, and human reaction that goes into each of these ‘pranks’.

A men’s room attendant at a McDonalds in Times Square? Priceless.

A suicide jumper that is on a ledge that is 3 feet high? Twisted, yet comedic.
Then there are mobs that get together for the message of saving a life. In Cheektowaga, NY, people gathered at the Walden Galleria mall to perform CPR on mannequins to the tune of The Bee Gees song, Staying Alive. This act was in efforts to get a bill passed to mandate CPR training in the high school curriculum.

Others do it to demonstrate the power of park and recreation programs. In Upper St. Clair, PA, assistant director Ryan McCLeaster stated, "We, here in USC, wanted to show how recreation plays an active role in many lives from youth to older adults through our programs and amenities, including the Community and Recreation Center."
Regardless of the oddities, reasons, or messages, what we discover with each act is a lesson in humanity. Everyone has a story. It’s like one big sociology experiment.

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