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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 12/21/2010

♪♫ Flash mob fallout: Has the popular practical joke run its course?

By Melissa Bell
Flash Mobs
(Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

Flash mobs, a decidedly 21st-century invention, started off as a protest against conformity and rapidly became the de rigueur feel-good practical joke pulled off in train stations and for T-Mobile commercials.

But are social media finally tolling the death bell for flash mobs? NPR wrote Monday about how Twitter ruined the flash mob thanks to leaking its stealth status to a rapid media. The planned D.C. Metro Christmas Carol Flash Mob went from hundreds of participants to just a couple dozen after the schedule leaked on TBD. On Twitter yesterday, users started a tongue-in-cheek "How TBD ruined Christmas" hashtag, but the organizers of the mob did tell NPR that Twitter ruined their surprise.

Over in California, meanwhile, social media had the opposite effect: It led to too many people showing up for a flash mob at a shopping mall. More than 5,000 people mobbed the second-floor food court and the entire mall had to close down and evacuate. There were concerns the floor was shifting under the weight of the crowd.

The trouble with flash mobs, no matter how trite they may be or how much social media ruins a couple of them, is there's little chance they'll stop happening anytime soon. The flash mob makes people live in that storied world of Hollywood musicals for just a little while. When it rains, Gene Kelly will really break out into tap. When you fall in love, all of Central Park will start dancing at the same time as you. And, for every holiday, when you're in the doldrums of Christmas shopping, a full choir will break out into Handel's Messiah:

By Melissa Bell  | December 21, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
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