A flash mob is a group of people that convenes at a specified time and place for a limited period of time and then disperses.
While there are almost always other similar aspects to a flash mob – participants meet and organize online, they do unusual things, like performing a dance or reciting the lines from a play – these things are all secondary aspects of the flash mob.
A mob, by definition, is simply a large group of people who make some sort of impact on a given space (just appearing in large numbers can do that).
So, any group that overwhelms a space for a short period of time can technically be considered a flash mob.
What are flash mobs created for?
While any group that gathers in large number and then disperses can be considered a flash mob, when flash mobs first appeared on the scene they did so with gusto and intention, so we have come to expect more from them than participants just standing around.
Flash mobs have been known to randomly applaud, freeze in place, perform music, and dance.
Since their invention, some flash mobs have taken political (and even violent) turns, and today flash mobs are thought of as performance art, but the very first flash mob was meant as a social experiment.
When did flash mobs start?
The first ever successful flash mob took place on June 3, 2003 at Macy’s in Manhattan.
But the concept of the flash mob was around 30 years before… in fiction.
According to Arkansas State University, a sci-fi story called “Flash Crowd” by Larry Niven was all about people suddenly gathering in mobs.
The main difference was that, in the story, the people gathered through teleportation.
Who started flash mobs?
The first successful flash mob was planned by Bill Wasik, who worked as senior editor at Harper’s Magazine.
Are flash mobs real?
Well, there have been plenty of them, so, yes, flash mobs are certainly real.
If you mean “are flash mobs real?” as in “are they spontaneous?,” then the answer is more of a “no.”
The flash mobs with the greatest numbers of participants that have made big splashes on public spaces have always been pre-planned.
Like this one in Central Station Antwerp:
And this Mamma Mia! flash mob in São Paulo:
It’s hard not to plan a flash mob in advance when participants have to learn all the right moves.
Our Favorite Flash Mob Example
To finish things off, here’s a super cute flash mob from fiction.
We don’t know about you, but the first 3:25 puts us in all our flash mob feels.