Without any charity or corporate involvement behind it, the English teacher and blogger thinks the completely mindless and fun event is a rare opportunity for Hong Kong people to get together. “The only other time really when some strangers get together in large groups like that is at a protest. It is not positive right?”
However, organising such a large-scale open event is hard work. It can take anything between a month and half a year to arrange a flash mob. But while Grundy finds the process stressful, he also finds it rewarding, “Seeing some of the photos, with some people’s faces, especially the kids. That made it all worth it,” Grundy says.
Today’s flash mobs are the result of modern telecommunications, social media and the power of the internet. “It’s friends inviting friends and it’s snowballing online with social media.”
Even with the help of social media, there is no guarantee a flash mob will go viral. The International No Pants Subway Ride was first held in Hong Kong earlier this year, and although it was widely publicised on the internet, only 12 people showed up, whereas hundreds turned up for the same event in the United States. “There is nothing more depressing than having only 10 or 20 people turn up at a flash mob,” Grundy says. “I think you need a tipping point, a threshold for the flash mob to be successful…Otherwise, flash mobs can be embarrassing.”
Sopee “So Ling” Siviwimon, a form four student at a local art school, also organised a series of flash mobs last year – a costumed “Party Rock Anthem” dance flash mob inspired by American dance music duo LMFAO, a dance flash mob of South Korean singer Psy’s “Gangnam Style” and a freeze mob in various pedestrian zones and malls around Hong Kong. She spread the word mainly through a popular online forum and concludes that organising a flash mob is a combination of stress, hard work and deep commitment.
So Ling recalls how hard it was to organise a “spontaneous” flash mob, handling logistical problems involving nearly 200 participants while dealing with endless school work. She once sacrificed three days’ sleep to organise a mob event. “I had to do a lot of follow-ups on my own. Assembling the people, set-ups, planning. Everything had to be done on my own,” she says.