Monday, March 29, 2010

The City of Brotherly Love? Teen Flash Mobbing Takes Control of Philadelphia

When we hear the word “flash mob” many of us are reminded of the brilliant T-Mobile dance in the London train station or the Trafalgar Square sing-along. However, in recent days, the word “flash mob” is beginning to take on a new form. While the original flash mobbing was organized and carried out in a harmless and fun manner, new forms of flash mobbing are starting to turn violent. According to the Associated Press, at least 5 different violent flash mobs have occurred in the Philadelphia area in the past year.

Flash mobs, which are often organized on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, have recently become more popular among teens in Philadelphia. However, while most teens choose to carry out flash mobs through song, dance, or even pillow fights, Philadelphia teens have taken things to a new level through the use of violence. According to the Associated Press, an estimated 2,000 teenagers took to the streets of Philadelphia on March 20th to wreak havoc. Witnesses claim that teens were blocking traffic, jumping on cars, and roughing up bystanders around the South Street area. Seth Kaufman, a 20-year-old pizza deliveryman was one of the bystanders attacked in the flash mob. Kaufman suffered from gashes along his back and arms and bruises on his forehead from kicking.
“By the time you could hear them yelling, they were flooding the streets and the stores and the sidewalks” said Kaufman.

The March 20th attack was not the first flash mob to hit Philadelphia. In the past year, there have been an estimated 4 violent flash mobs organized and carried out in the Philadelphia area. The first flash mob to create violence occurred on December 18th, 2009 at the Gallery food court and resulted in teens assaulting pedestrians in the Center City area. Authorities discovered that the gathering was organized via Facebook. On February 16th, between 50 and 150 juveniles rampaged a Macy’s department store ruining signs, mannequins, and displays. Also, fights broke out on March 3rd that were related to teenage rioting and flash mobbing that resulted in 28 arrests.

While it appears that flash mobbing teens are taking over Philadelphia, officials are vigorously fighting back. On March 22nd, 10 teenagers from the Macy’s riot were charged of felony rioting. Also, on Wednesday, March 24th, Mayor Michael Nutter addressed the flash mob issue to a crowd gathered at Headhouse Square in Philadelphia. The Mayor aims to control the flash mobbing issue and to reassure business owners and Philadelphia residents of their safety.

Prior to his public speech, Mayor Nutter and 40 uniformed officers took to the streets of 40th and Market to address an online rumor of a future flash mob occurrence in the area. Mayor Nutter requested businesses to close their doors and stationed officers at various corners. In Philadelphia, they mean business. Nutter plans to continue with his serious efforts to control the flash mobbing through curfews and various citywide restrictions to minors. However, while city officials work towards keeping the streets clean of flash mobbing, Nutter urges parents to keep a better eye on their children. In his public speech Nutter bluntly stated,
“I ran for mayor. I didn’t run for mother. I don’t know what causes someone to act like a jackass.”

Considering this new teenage adaptation of flash mobbing makes me wonder about the negative affects of social media. We have clearly seen how social media can positively bring people together for causes and goals, but the recent Philadelphia flash mobbing attacks really make me wonder how social media can negatively impact people. It is up to each individual to decide whether or not to use their social networking and Internet resources for good or evil, but are we giving adolescents too much power? Perhaps it isn’t social networking that is the danger but rather the actions that occur outside the realm of the World Wide Web. But is social networking to blame for bringing the individuals together?

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