Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What is a flash mob?

Late Sunday night, @newsheraldinoh received an at-reply on Twitter from Lake Catholic student Jesseca Keller (@killer_keller17) asking if we had covered the flash mob at Lake Catholic's Freshmen Welcome. She sent me the link to the video, and I posted it on News-Herald.com. With so many schools in our coverage area and so many activities happening on any given day, it's impossible for us to cover it all. But sites like YouTube and people like Jesseca can help us expand our coverage by sharing what they see going on in the community.

Here's the video Jesseca shared with me:

I was expecting to see anonymous negative comments in response to the flash mob - mostly because I expect to see anonymous negative comments on every story posted on our website. But what surprised me was that several of the comments were arguments about whether the activity was actually a flash mob.

Some definitions of a flash mob:
  • Merriam-Webster: a group of people summoned (as by e-mail or text message) to a designated location at a specified time to perform an indicated action before dispersing
  • Cambridge Dictionary: a group of people who agree to come together suddenly in a place and do something funny or silly and then move away
  • Oxford Dictionaries: a sudden mass gathering, unanticipated except by participants who communicate electronically
  • Dictionary.com: 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

Depending on which definition you prefer, the event was or was not a flash mob. I'm not sure the exact methods in which the participants communicated prior to the flash mob, so I can't say if this incident fits any of the definitions perfectly. Given the way teenagers tend to communicate electronically, I'm sure that somehow fit into the planning of the performance. It was something fun and silly, and unexpected except by those who were anticipating.

Flash mobs are not illegal. Planning and gathering for flash mobs in which the purpose is to commit an illegal activity is illegal.

In June, a flash mob of mostly teenagers robbed a Sears department store in the Greater Philadelphia area (link has video of surveillance footage). I think it goes without saying that that sort of activity is illegal. More recently (and closer to home), a flash mob broke out at Coventry Fair in Cleveland Heights and turned violent. Cleveland Heights Police Chief Jeffrey Robertson told Cleveland Heights Patch:
"I use the term flash crowd. I don't use flash mob because these gatherings are crowds of kids getting together, and the vast majority of them are good kids. But there's always going to be a few in there, and that's when it becomes a flash mob and we get some of the bad influences in there ... that's when you have problems."

The comments left in response to the Lake Catholic Freshmen Welcome flash mob show me that the term "flash mob" has developed a negative connotation - without a doubt because of events like those described above. I left minimal description before the video because I didn't want to spoil what happened. (If you're looking for more information, Mentor Patch did a better job of showing and explaining what happened in the gymnasium.)

My intention with the video was to share something fun that happened at an event that The N-H was unable to cover. I didn't intend to misled anyone into thinking something awful or negative or illegal occurred at Lake Catholic. Now that I've seen the reaction to the term "flash mob," I'll reconsider using it in the future.

-- Cheryl Sadler | CSadler@News-Herald.com | @nhcheryl



Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is no way meets the definition of a "flash mob", regardless of which source you pull your definition. There was no social media component, and there was ZERO spontaneity.

The routine was cute, the response was happy, and I enjoyed the video.

But no way was this a flash mob. Stretching the meaning of a word oor phrase to generate interest in an event does fit the definition of "hype".

August 26, 2011 at 7:45 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS: Extending the definition also goes along with "exaggeration", "creative writing", "fiction".

Using phrases falsely for whatever motivation... ignorance or deliberate attempt to lure... makes for NOT CREDIBLE news reporting.

Something to think about...

August 26, 2011 at 7:54 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...


January 7, 2012 at 4:44 PM 

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