Cocktail-drinking party-goers have been showing their Facebook love in a series of jovial Facebook events-turned-outdoor-celebrations in France over the past few months. These events have been organized over a series of Facebook groups, and an event in Nante, France reached over 10,000 revelers earlier this month. However, a massive police presence prevented the latest attempt to bring together Facebook fans in Champs de Mars from being the aimed-for largest event yet, in part due to a recent party-related death.
Beginning last August with a call for an apéro géant, or giant cocktail party, on a local social network, these France-based Facebook parties have become unofficially condoned public gatherings. According to the Globe and Mail, a November apéro géant saw 3,000 people come out with picnic baskets and champagne. The party got bigger late March with over 4,000 participants and quite a few found unconscious by the end of the night. As of the end of May, there have been 56 such cocktail parties around France.
Most of the party-goers just want to drink and be merry, but French officials worried that younger people, in their early teens, were using the parties as an excuse to binge drink. This worry was compounded by a death in a Nantes Facebook cocktail party on May 13. A young man of 21 fell off a bridge after consuming over 10 oz of alcohol.
This led to stepped up security and monitoring of the latest Facebook-organized party in Champ de Mars, the large green space leading up to the Eiffel Tower, on May 23rd. While officials did not outright ban the event, they did station officers to check bags and eliminate any alcohol during the event – the main reason why many of the partier were showing up in the first place. The event ended up being a pale comparison to the tens of thousands who had come to events in the past.
The semi-flash-mob-type gatherings beg the question of how to deal with the real-world implications of social networks. A group gathering online, either by employing the same hashtags on Twitter or by signing up for a Facebook event, is manageable. But when that group meets in the real world, things can get out of hand quickly, as French officials found out. Stepped up security costs money and time, and problems like intoxication, vandalism, and even death can crop up. And if you add a political element to the mix, like arranging protests, there’s no telling whether a flash mob may turn violent.