Saturday, September 20, 2008

Facebook Nightmare: Block Party Bummer

Beware the power of social networking. A student at my alma mater found out the hard way what happens when a fun idea gets posted on Facebook, goes viral, then gets out of control.

Jimmy Lemke, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, thought it would be fun to organize a block party and generate some spirit among the 29,000 students who attend the urban campus. So he tentatively arranged the Sept. 20 gathering and announced the details on Facebook. That was in the spring.

By summer the number of people interested in showing up had approached 5,000, setting off alarms with neighbors and campus officials, according to the story at, the Web site of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. They feared the sort of drunken riot that has occurred elsewhere, including one attracting more than 10,000 people called the Mifflin Street Block Party, held near the UW-Madison campus.

Hearing reports that the local SWAT team might be called and that he might be expelled for encouraging the event, Lemke has tried for the last month to dissuade those who insist on showing up. We'll see if he succeeds.

It just goes to show how powerful word of mouth and social networking have become. And how quickly things can go awry.

(Flickr Photo credit: "Spinning Out of Control" by ortizmj12)


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