12 flashmobs proposed to a girl in Xidan, Beijing on Sept. 2. Photo: stardaily.com.cn
Passers-by in front of Zhongyou Department Store at Xidan in Beijing were shocked at around 11 o'clock Saturday morning when they witnessed 12 young people with roses in their hands got down on one knee and proposed to one girl. The observers were even more startled to see three girls among the marriage-requesters.
"Will you marry me?" A young man holding a rose suddenly appeared out of the crowd on this busy commercial street and kneeled down in front of a girl. Within a minute, 11 more young people including three girls showed up and did the same. "Do you chat on the Internet through XX (name of an online chat software)? I only marry the one who uses it," said the girl to the kneeling group in front of her. The hopefuls all claimed they used that software and shouted out the name of it in unison with the girl. Then, all of a sudden, the whole group disappeared quickly among the astonished onlookers.
These weird young people are so-called "flashmobs," which refers to a group of strangers who contact each other via mobile phone or the Internet, and plan to meet somewhere public to do something unusual together, and afterwards disperse quickly to become strangers again. An idea originating in Manhattan, New York in 2003, the flashmob is fairly popular among foreign youngsters, but it has been scarcely seen in China.
Mr. Yan, the host of this one "proposal" event in Beijing, is very active online with nearly 300 cyber friends' numbers programmed into his mobile phone. When he called for this flashmob, 50 people answered, but many of them backed out at the last minute. Yan says that the flashmob is a great way for young people to entertain themselves, and it has nothing to do with other people's lives. He says it's natural to create such flashmobs in China.
Ms. Wang, a witness of this flashmob marriage proposal, says she found it interesting and enjoyed it, even though she didn't understand it at the beginning. She added that young people in big cities are under a lot of pressure, and it's only fair for them to find a way to relieve it.
However, for most witnesses, especially elderly ones, the flashmob idea seems more nonsense than beneficial. One worried mother held her children closer when the flashmob appeared, saying what they did was senseless.
This is not the first time a flashmob has appeared in China, and experts attribute this to the decline in heartfelt communication between people, in contrast to the highly-developed communication tools of this age. On the surface, flashmobs seem to try to distinguish themselves from the average Joes; but in a deeper sense, what they are really looking for is the feeling of belonging to a group. Experts suggest that society tolerate the flashmobs as long as their behaviors are not against the law nor harmful to themselves or others.