o-two Attempts: Flashmobs

Amid a boring, grey campus, Matthew Jones attempts to make an afternoon interesting for the students in the form of flashmobbing

It was on a bright cold day in October that I checked my e-mail as normal. I found seven messages there, and I was initially excited. Alas, they were all messages from the UCD Students’ Union, inviting me to something called a Dirty Disco. I ask you, has anyone even been to one of them? It just sounds unsanitary. It was with that in mind that I would create my own student event, something fun and spontaneous. But what?

The answer came from France, believe it or not. I decided to get in on this flashmob craze and plan an event, while also subtly increasing my own popularity at the time. I had to do it secretly and quickly. If word got out, then it wouldn’t be very spontaneous, would it? Looking back, I can see that I was being a bit too secretive, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

But how to plan this gathering without letting everyone in on the big secret? Well, akin to most events nowadays, I would use the social networking colossus Facebook to amass the, well, masses. I quickly logged on and at exactly midday on that Tuesday, I changed my status to the following:

Flashmob! Outside Theatre L, Thursday at 13:55, when you hear the whistle… freeze, when you hear it again, carry on. Post this as your status and spread the word.

It was, if I say so myself, an optimistic proposal. I’m not one of those people who have 10,000 friends who always diligently read each other’s statuses. I have roughly 150 friends, most of whom care as much about my status as they do about the growing price of turnips in Siberia.

Furthermore, it was also Breast Cancer Awareness month and all the girls were discussing where they like their handbags when they arrive home and so it seemed unlikely that my flashmob proposal would ever be realised.

I had first envisioned it as a great plague spreading across the campus, growing larger and more powerful with each passing second. However, by the end of the day, only two other statuses were the same as mine. And according to the unwritten rule book of flashmobs, three people do not a flashmob make.

But I was stuck. I had promised my overlords in The Windowless Office of Doom that I would make a flashmob and so, the flashmob would go ahead no matter how small.

Thursday morning came and went. A quick look on the internet confirmed my worst fears – all other statuses were back to normal. At 13:50, I was outside Theatre L, alone, a man island and all that lark. Yet at the same time, the pivotal moment was at hand.

Suddenly, reinforcements arrived. Only four of them, but still, I would not turn my nose up at some help. At least then I wouldn’t look like a complete weirdo. Handing the whistle over to Emma, I gave a countdown. And at precisely 13:55, I struck a suitably heroic pose and ceased all visible bodily functions.

After ten seconds, Cuan remarked that it wasn’t working and that nobody was paying attention. We received strange looks, yes, but no cheering or applause. In addition, my nose was itchy. 30 seconds in, Áine noticed another group standing still. My heart soared, then fell. They were actually just talking and staring at us. After 45 seconds, Aoife said what we are all thinking: it wasn’t working. We each began searching the area for the easiest escape route.

After the full 60 seconds, Emma blew the whistle again and we quickly dispersed. We headed into the café for a much-needed cup of tea and some free biscuits to warm our spirits.

I put the question to my friends: why hadn’t more people shown up? The answer was simple: I was too secretive and nobody knew that the flashmob was going ahead.

Fearful about returning to the aforementioned Office of Doom, I decided to re-write this piece. Instead of focussing on how to make a good flashmob, it would be a journal of how not to go about it . This is being marketing as a guide to future flashmobbers.

And so, my dear readers, I leave you with this final thought, for the time being. Unless you are one of those people with an inordinate number of friends (or you have friends who actually care about you), all your attempts will undoubtedly have the same result as mine – a failure of epic proportions.