How Flash Mobs Ruined My Sense of Trust in Strangers

Imagine you are walking through a crowded area, such as a public park or a shopping mall, and all of a sudden the person next to you starts acting strange. You take notice, but decide not to think too much of it until another person in front of you begins to act in the exact same way. Before you know it, the diverse group of people around you are all coming together, flailing their limbs in some sort of choreographed fashion, leaving you to simply sit and stare, wondering what the hell is going on. Finally, the music begins to play and the group of strangers finishes their song and dance as the ‘audience’ applauds, all before retreating back into their usual persona and dispersing as if nothing happen.

What I have just described is known as a ‘flash mob’ and this trend is the reason why I can’t trust anyone anymore.

It didn’t have to be like this. At one point in my life, hard to picture now, I used to have an inherent sense of trust in strangers. I always tried to see the best in my fellow humans. After all, we’re all just trying our best and we all deserve to believe in others. Back then, I was foolish enough to call myself an optimist, but now I know better.

The scene above took place when I was just 15 years old. I was the only person in that shopping mall that wasn’t tipped off that the flash mob was taking place and for the very long 8 minutes and 36 seconds of ‘American Pie,’ I sat there, horrified by what was taking place. Coincidentally, this was also the first time I’d ever experienced a panic attack.

Flash forward two more years. I had been going to therapy and my anxiety was becoming something I could handle without too much brain stretching. I was at my happy place, a baseball stadium, watching my favorite team play, when all of a sudden the entire crowd began to rise in sync with another song and the waves of fear began to pour over me, undoing almost all of the progress Dr. Melfi and I had made. I was so petrified I pissed my pants. It was the worst moment of my life.

Or so I thought. This trend continued, over and over again, where I was the odd man out in a sea of dancing theater school drop-outs, wishing I was dead. It got so bad that I had to be admitted to a mental institution and then another mental institution after a flash mob broke out at the first one. My life had become hell and the Harlem Shake was still years away.

I knew then that unless I removed myself from the world, I would never be able to trust strangers ever again. I’ve been living in the woods for the last 10 years, alone, never seeing anyone for fear that they might be part of a surprise flash mob.

This is my burden. This is my curse.

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