When Flash Mobs Get Cultish

I pride myself on having experienced all shades of feeling awkward while publically dancing. I have been the girl who normally stands by the wall and lamely fist pumps during a dance party and I have been the girl who goes all out during a midnight Zumbathon. So I was curious to see how the flash mob would resonate with my subconscious. Would I release my inhibitions because I was in a group connected by headphones? Or would I feel even more self-conscious and isolated because I was in a public space?

Like a re-designed classroom, the mall became transformed by “60+ people running through the grass screaming”. Following the MP3 instructions meant acting counter to normal behavior. For instance, rather than being engrossed in their phones, everyone participating in the flash mob was struggling to keep their phone in hand. They were living in the moment while using their phones. Those two actions are usually opposites. If Christian Nold had created a Biomap on McKeldin Mall, participants’ heart rates would register as high. The visual and verbal components of the flash mob created a new social norm and re-defined the space, so when I waddled down the lawn like a penguin, I was the one acting normal. We created a new world for ourselves within the world everyone else was seeing. In a way reminiscent of Inception, I was the architect of my world and that gave me “an unprecedented level of emotional control over my life” (Bull).

However, I would disagree that the flash mob disrupted the days of people who passed by. One reason I felt so completely enveloped in the flash mob crowd was because there was little interaction with those around us. If anything, I saw people shy away from us. They felt isolated and defensive because they were left out. Had they crossed my path, continuing to trudge towards class and avoid eye contact, I would have been reminded that I was the exception to the norm and immediately would have reverted to being as self-conscious as a pre-teen. Like Blaine predicts, the positive energy of excited DCCers was contagious, but I would venture to describe it as cultish too.

Response to: http://dcc.umd.edu/portfolio/bhoffman/2015/10/26/5-reasons-flash-mobs-affect-everyone-participating-or-not/