There you are, sitting in the food court at the mall. You're minding your own business, eating an ice cream cone with your friends. Suddenly, music begins to play and people begin to appear out of nowhere and start to dance. What's going on? It's a flash mob!
A flash mob is defined by Webster's New Millennium Dictionary of English as "a group of people who organize on the Internet and then quickly assemble in a public place, do something bizarre, and disperse." Flash mobs got their start on June 3, 2003.
On that day, more than 130 people showed up in the ninth floor rug department of Macy's department store in New York City. When asked what they were doing, the people told salespeople they were shopping for a rug as a group!
The idea for the flash mob came from Bill Wasik, the senior editor of Harper's Magazine. Why did he start these crazy gatherings? Because he could! Flash mobs were invented as a fun social experiment meant to encourage spontaneity and large groups of people to take over public areas temporarily just to show it could be done.
Flash mobs quickly became popular, particularly amongst young people. Videos of flash mobs went on YouTube. Other social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, allowed flash mobs to be organized between friends and acquaintances and then shared with non-participants after the event occurred.
The essence of a flash mob is a large group of people suddenly assembling in a public place to perform an unusual act for a brief period of time before dispersing quickly as if nothing had happened. Some flash mobs are meant to entertain, while others are purely for artistic expression. Still other flash mobs are purely for the enjoyment of the participants, as they watch the reactions of those around them.
Today, flash mobs are still popular in many cities around the world. College campuses are also often popular spots for flash mobs. Although they're not as popular as they once were, flash mobs will continue to live on as long as there are large groups of people willing to take part in short, random acts of pure silliness!