On February 14th, a large mob of people gathered in San Francisco to fight sexual oppression and violence by participating in a flash mob called One Billion Rising. Since the first one in 2003, flash mobs have steadily become an international phenomenon, being used for proposals, advertisements, and publicity.
In 2003, Harper Magazine’s senior editor, Bill Wasik, decided to create a social experiment that he claimed was to highlight cultural conformity and the desire to want to be part of the “next big thing”. On June 30, Wasik gathered 130 people on the ninth floor of Macy’s. If a salesperson approached any member of the group, they were advised to say that they lived together in a warehouse and were on a group shopping trip for a “love rug”. At the same time, 200 people were synchronized pausing in the Hyatt Hotel lobby and a shoe shop in SoHo was being invaded by fake bus tourists. Wasik’s social experiment quickly caught on and became a social phenomenon that’s more about gathering and organizing large groups of people rather than mocking conformity.
A year later, the term “flash mob” was added to the Condensed Oxford English Dictionary and officially became known as a “a group of people who organize on the Internet and then quickly assemble in a public place, do something bizarre, and disperse.” Since then, flash mobs have become a staple of our modern society, making appearances in commercials and films and spawning flash mob teams, like Improv Everywhere. Times Square flash mobs occur on a monthly basis.
As long as people remain interested in spontaneous and random of acts of absurdity, the flash mob will remain alive. Though it may not receive the media coverage that the first few mobs received, they will be immortalized on the Internet for years to come.