Flash mobs spread holiday cheer

Twitter allows Christmas carolers to plan spontaneous performances and to surprise shoppers; or to overwhelm them

Published December 21, 2010 11:30PM (EST)

Since the advent of mobile social networking tools, such as SMS text, flash mobs have been popping up all over the place. In Philadelphia earlier this year, they threatened to grow out of control as throngs of teens swamped shoppers on South Street and elsewhere. But, elsewhere, these spontaneous affairs have often showcased street theater and other aspects of public crowd-sourced creativity.

This phenomenon has gone mainstream this Christmas with emergent caroling invading libraries and overwhelming malls. These impromptu events have been seen across the country in recent days. Often the performance of choice is the "Hallelujah Chorus" but offerings include "Jingle Bells" and other seasonal favorites. 

On Monday, when a flash mob descended on the Roseville Galleria, near Sacramento, Calif., the mall became so crowded that it required evacuation after reports of "pops" and "shifting" on the upper level.

Meanwhile, hipsters decry the increasing fore-knowledge brought to the process by aggregating sites such as Twitter. While widespread knowledge resulted in an overloaded California mall, it also has caused the cancellation of a similar event in Washington, D.C., when the stealth was spoiled by a local newspaper and website. Event co-organizer Melanie Spring says they "were pretty much like, forget it," once the element of surprise had been ruined.

By Christopher R Walker

Related Topics ------------------------------------------