Flash Mobs—Vicious or Virtuous?

flash mob of Santas in London

Santa Clauses brought to Trafalgar Square, London, by social media

Not too many years ago, the ability to talk with another person—no matter where that person was—made the cell phone a phenomenon that changed communication forever. Then various social media hit the air waves, and again everything changed completely. Now we can communicate with hundreds of people at the same time, and often those communications are to gather a crowd, called a flash mob, to the same place at the same time. Societies have been deeply affected—for good and for ill.On the benefit side of the scoreboard, flash mobs fall into two general categories. One is the just-for-fun flash mob. Hundreds of people may show up to dance, to stage a pillow fight, to help a nervous young man propose to his girlfriend by singing their favorite song. These mobs astonish, amuse, and delight. Another type of flash mob is organized for serious but constructive purposes. During the Arab Spring, protesters used social media to arrange huge demonstrations against oppressive governments. In the aftermath of the August, 2011 London riots, flash mobs showed up to clean the streets as soon as they could.The London riots highlight the down side of flash mobs, however. There and in other British cities, looters and arsonists used social media to stay one step ahead of police as they rampaged through the streets. In recent months, “flash robs” have been on the rise. During these events, a crowd shows up, overwhelms employees, and takes thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise within just a few minutes. One clerk compared the mob of teenagers that robbed his store to a swarm of locusts.

What is to be done? Should governments be allowed to shut down social media networks if they feel public safety is threatened by flash mobs? The British prime minister proposed doing just that during the riots. Or should freedom of expression never be limited? Focusing on social media may be the wrong tactic. As one writer observed, technologies don’t have political viewpoints. Social media are not to blame for criminal flash mobs; it is the people who use flash mobs for criminal purposes.

Image credit: AP Photo/Sang Tan

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  1. Riann says:

    all i gotta say is REALLY yall gone put a santa hat on a statue where da do tht at

  2. rigby says:

    go flash mobs :O

  3. first says:


  4. o hai says:


  5. TERRANCE says:


  6. rav says:

    i <3 flash mobs!!!!!

  7. priscilla says:

    i wanna be in a mob lookin like an elf lol hurray hurray

  8. me says:


  9. fabian says:

    i like this article great for curent events!

  10. hailey says:

    cool ;>

  11. mm says:


  12. kyle says:

    aww i thought the mob was gonna flash haha jk its kool it reminds if that one commercial

  13. ya mom says:

    whats up? XD
    I think they should just let it go on whatever!

  14. BRITNEY says:


  15. Olivia says:

    I think flash robs should be stopped. It is horrible that people would show up and steal things. On the other hand:Flash mobs (dancing kind:) are awesome!!!!!!

  16. Anonymous says:

    totally awsome

  17. ES says:

    It’s not christmas yet!

  18. ~A says:

    I’m watching you.

    HAHAHA jkjk thats from Pretty Little Liars 😉

  19. Simone says:


  20. Me says:

    I <3 flash mobs

  21. Me says:

    They r fun cause u can make a fool of ur self

  22. Gohan says:

    Flash mobs help you express freedom. 🙂

  23. Gohan says:

    Remarkable! 😉

  24. chiwawa says:


  25. Gohan says:

    Such Talant!! 🙂

  26. kyle says:

    so if all the tall people are mr?mrs santa does that mean the short people are their elfs(? hahaha

  27. you says:

    grapes are delicious

  28. pizza says:


  29. Anonymous says:

    i performed in a flash mob before. 😀

  30. BEILEBERRforefer says:

    falsh mobs…ehh? kewlieeeooo

  31. hiiiiii says:

    i love flash mobs

  32. bob says:

    very interesting

    • Rebeca says:

      When you watch the Texans’ DE play, its easy to be impressed with his atehtlic ability, speed up the field and his power at the point of attack. That’s legit talent right there. But let’s not forget about the technique Watt displays with his hands. He can “press” an offensive lineman and create some separation to work his counter moves. Fast and violent with the hands. That’s what I took from the game. CSS10-26

  33. john says:

    i like this topic

  34. anonymus says:


  35. ashley says:

    i wanna go to flash mobb

  36. Aint NoBody Got Time Fo Dat :P says:

    I like this topic and i think this is very interesting
    but I have a question
    who wrote this current event?

  37. Big boy says:

    That’s a lot of santas

  38. Shay says:

    I think that flash mobs are cool I guess…