What is a flash mob?

A Flash Mob for Every Reason

While mocking hipsters is always fun, as the popularity of flash mobs grew they started to become a scene that cheerfully celebrated popular culture in its cheesiest glory.

The early flash mobs were mostly nonsensical acts. People gathered at Central Park and made bird noises, a "zombie walk" took place in San Francisco, a silent dance party occurred at London's Victoria Station. Soon the mobs became more ambitious, organizing choreographed dances and broader participation.

And while the mobs may be fleeting, the preparation required for hordes of synchronized activity is not. A flash mob at Ohio State University, for instance, had two and a half months of weekly practice to organize about seventy students and staff for their dance to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'." Mob organizers usually have a few rehearsals, or have an instructional video online for participants to practice with.

When the first flash mobs were started, directions were disseminated through email. Slips of paper would be handed out at the location for more specific instructions. Of course, as technology evolved, instructions for flash mobs were given on Facebook, through Twitter, and texts. Now, a simple web search of "flash mobs" in your city will lead to slick companies that organize flash mobs, with professional pedigree. E-mail lists will alert you to meet-ups in your area.

The practice has become so popular that flash mobs have been co-opted by elements even seedier than hipsters and politicians. There have been several reports across the country of groups organizing robberies through flash mob-like means. Using Twitter or other social media, a crowd of people will flood a store to essentially loot its contents in what has been coined a "flash rob."

By and large, of course, flash mobs are about as dangerous as joining a community theater production of "Pippin." But let's all meet up at the next page to discover some other flash mob history and uses.