To Pakistani social media trolls, don’t you have any manners?

Published: November 17, 2013

It is high time our esteemed ‘commentator’ community start learning some etiquettes too.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines etiquette as ‘the rules indicating the proper and polite way to behave’.

The history of etiquette dates back to prehistoric times when man first began interacting with others and hence started devising rules for making these interactions bearable and pleasant. Over the centuries, as societies and human interactions started falling into specific slots, etiquette was drafted for different settings. For instance, there is etiquette for behaving with elders, with neighbours, with teachers, with siblings, with parents and so forth.

Similarly, as the presence of social media grew progressively pronounced in our lives, the proper etiquette of behaviour in these settings emerged too. This includes proper manners for making comments in these written interactions.

Sadly enough, either our Pakistani commentators are not aware of these rules or choose to ignore them. The discreditable conduct of the majority of our commentators not only affronts the writer but is also embarrassing for us as a nation since social media sites, including blogs, are accessed by the global community.

Many good writers with good ideas to share on Pakistani platforms are deterred simply due to this apprehension of getting trampled by these impertinent and ungracious ‘trolls’ that hound our blogs gleefully.

In the dictionary of social media etiquette, ‘trolls’, named after the villainous characters of children stories, are the commentators who are primarily out to harass both the writer and the serious commentators on a topic.

Trolling is defined as them ‘anti-social act of causing interpersonal conflict and shock-value controversy online’. Trolls are emotionally immature Internet browsers who seek environments that allow them to purposely express their racism, hatred, misogyny, or take pleasure in sparking endless bickering between commentators. They love to raid discussion forums, game chats, and news and blog sites. Given their antagonising behaviour tactics, they of course rarely reveal their real names but hide behind curtains of fictitious names, as seen on most of our blogs.

As the number of blogs and the public interest in them grow exponentially every year, so does the pleasure of these uncivilised trolls. According to NM Incite Company, there were more than 181 million blogs from around the world just last year. This was a gigantic leap from the 36 million recorded in 2006.

With regards to our Pakistani blog commentators, interestingly, the same public is comparably civilised when commenting on international blogs or on blogs that are written by a westerner. This makes one wonder — if these trolls are indeed aware of commenting etiquette, why do they not deem Pakistani writers worthy of that respect?

Tamar Weinberg writes in the ‘Ultimate Social Media Etiquette Handbook’,

‘Social media mimics real relationships in many cases. Would you do the following in real, face to face relationships? Jump on the friendship bandwagon without properly introducing yourself? Consistently talk about yourself and promote only yourself without regard for those around you? Randomly approach a friend you barely talk to simply ask for favours—repeatedly? Or introduce yourself to another person as ‘pink house gardening’? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, you may need a refresher course on social media etiquettes—and perhaps real life etiquettes also.’

Judging by the callous lack of manners displayed by our commentators, I am sure a majority has replied ‘yes’ to more than just one of the items listed above.

Other writers who have specifically talked about commentator etiquette include Elise Bauer, who requests the readers to consider her blog as her home and hence avoid saying anything that they wouldn’t say to a host or hostess when they are invited to their homes.

This rudimentary rule may be considered the only etiquette you need to remember when commenting on a social media site. Bauer encourages commentators to provide feedback that is both thoughtful and constructive, and does not even border on being rude, mean, or obnoxious in any way.

The entire purpose of commenting along these guidelines is to create a ‘community’ through positive dialogue with the other commentators as well as the writer. Again, this runs quite contrary to the ‘hate-mail’ often spewed forth by our Pakistani trollers. This is in addition to the bickering, or more correctly the brawling, that erupts between the commentators themselves that leaves the original topic ‘lost in translation’.

Deborah Ng’s commenting etiquettes most relevant to our commentators includes,

‘…practice respectful disagreement, not personal attacks, try to post something that adds value to a conversation (“me, too” doesn’t add value), stay on the topic, be brief and don’t turn every comment into your own personal blog post, it’s not about your so avoid making every comment a testimony as to how awesome you are (and how wrong the writer is), you’re a guest so keep this in mind when commenting.’

Another odd quirk of Pakistani trolls is the use of weird fictitious names in order to exhibit harsh trolling behaviour from behind a curtain of anonymity. Considered extremely ill-mannered by blogging etiquette experts, the consensus is that this is only done by cowards.

Priya Shah in ‘Mind Your Blogging Manners’, writes,

‘My personal policy for blogging and commenting is that it should follow the rules of common human decency. I don’t mind the comments, just the sentiment behind them. I don’t write anything on my blogs that I wouldn’t say to someone in real life. Nor would I tolerate comments that I would not tolerate in actual conversation. And that is what bloggers are — a conversation… It’s the comments posted solely for the purpose of being nasty that I delete, and I advise you to delete them too. Not because I give a damn for what the ‘trolls’ think, but because I simply choose not to allow negativity into my life.’

Dan Morrill discussing the modus operandi of blog trolls writes that their entire goal is to,

‘Get you to come unglued and lose your perspective in a public manner. Many of them have an uncanny ability to find everything they can about you to make you angry and respond back to them. They want you to lose your cool, and they want to show their ‘power’ by keeping your from blogging. Trolls are driven by process and seek to gain fame and notoriety at your blog’s expense.’

Having had quite a number of my blogs published on Express Tribune and suffered these trolls on a number of topics, I think it is high time our esteemed ‘commentator’ community start learning some etiquettes too.

In this context, a recent New York Times article stated,

‘A few high-profile figures in high-tech are proposing a blogger code of conduct to clean up the quality of online discourse…chief among the recommendations is that bloggers consider banning anonymous comments left by visitors to their pages and be able to delete threatening or libellous comments without facing cries of censorship.’

Pakistani social media sites also need to take serious note of the trolls and enforce strict measures to control them. This is imperative for improving the quality of the dialogue between writers and readers, and for encouraging wholesome discussions on topics that really do matter.


Aalia Suleman

A freelance writer and poet who is keenly interested in the status of women in 21st century Pakistan. Her writing also zones in on Pakistan's new social and political status on a redefined global chessboard. She has a masters degree in English Literature and blogs and invites debates at 'Socio-politically Pakistani'. She tweets @aaliasuleman (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • BlackJack

    While it is difficult to argue with the points themselves, I find it unfair to target Pakistani commentators alone. Go to the CNN site or any other international site with minimal moderation and you will find trolls of all shapes, sizes and affiliations waiting to pounce on you. Most of the Indians you find commenting on this site do not do so on ToI or other Indian news sites (The Hindu is the only one with a comparable, if rather biased moderation policy, similar to Dawn) because you will find 10 trolls for every one sensible comment, preventing sensible discussions from taking off.Recommend

  • aka

    “With regards to our Pakistani blog commentators, interestingly, the same public is comparably civilised when commenting on international blogs or on blogs that are written by a westerner”
    How did you come to this conclusion?Recommend

  • knightridrr

    There is no such thing a Pakistani trolls. This problem is in the whole world. Go to any social media site and see it for yourself (simplest example for is Youtube)

    To Author:
    What you are suggesting to media sites is to make a “Troll Control Department”? ;) The only solution for you is to disable comments and that’s it. There is no other possible solution that exists.

    To Express Tribune & all social media sites:
    Would you risk banning trolls or in other words losing fair bit of traffic to your site?Recommend

  • 123xyz

    when bloggers themselves have no manners then what can you expect?
    you dont see people trolling on pervez hoodbhoy’s articles. because he writes with maturity and in a serious manner.

    if blog is titled ‘why men rape?’ or ‘baby bilawal sucks’
    then you know the level of intelligence the author has. then you should be ready for ‘trolls’.Recommend

  • TTPkaFAN

    Indians are most civilized people as we are oldest civilisation of the world….Recommend

  • Unknown

    Every one in Pakistan wants to criticize everything so that he/she looks smart. Fed up with these type of criticizing blogs. Waiting for a blog from any Pakistani in which People appreciate others, I hope there will be some good work will also be going on in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    I think
    Its a bad idea to controll the blog from an opinion, even of a troll. If someone is too scared to float the idea in webspace the please keep it in your MSWord document. As for the etiquettes, madam with all due respect introduction, replies and consent can be for the social networking site not for the blog space and if you prune the commentators by witch hunting them site may loose the hits and visits. I think Mods are there to do all such that and doing fine job here.
    I have been commenting of this space for like 2 + years and its good to see the improvements, like the editiiing, aps, adding images and sign in its alow me to express in my way as me as i like it.

    Lastly there no such thing as A “Pakistani” Troll or “Indian” or any other for that matter Cant we make one place where we don’t need visa to visit. or a press to express??Recommend

  • Nobody

    Agreed that ET seems to attract a number of trolls from both sides of the border; however, this problem is definitely not limited to Pakistan or any region/country for that matter. Go to any site:CNN, YouTube, HuffPo, MSNBC, Yahoo, Google, AOL, etc etc.; you’ll come across a plethora of trolls from all countries. Anonymity (being able the hide behind a computer screen in this case) has given people wings (replace that with another word ET probably wouldn’t let me publish); people who would most likely NOT say the ridiculous things they publish on here were they sitting at a round table with fellow readers and those who comment. Healthy discussions take a hit when you read some of the drivel people are brave [read: stupid/mean spirited] enough to post.
    Cyber-bullying is, in part, possible and frighteningly common among youngsters because of this anonymity. (Partly possible simply due to lack of good parenting).Recommend

  • Nobody

    Please do the honors. I’m sure you will attract plenty of readers….and some trolls too.Recommend

  • wajid

    This article is a compilation of dictionary definitions.Recommend

  • Parvez

    In principle agree with you, but I do feel that the informality of a ‘ blog ‘ gives the commenter a little more leeway to express his / her feelings and thoughts and the party reading should have the good grace to be more tolerant and respond accordingly.
    The line of course must be drawn at crass profanity or personal insults.
    I believe the people who monitor blogs have to shoulder a responsibility, because it is their judgement that has the power to shape views and perceptions and even on a small scale this has importance.
    On a lighter note if you shut down all the nonsense … it kills the fun and thats not good.Recommend

  • Pappu

    The authors who think trolls are going to hijack their blogs should better stop writing. Everyone has the right to comment with in the specified rules of social media.Recommend

  • thinktank

    indians go loco thereRecommend

  • thinktank

    by both you mean Indians and Afghans right cause half my comments are gulped upRecommend

  • thinktank

    the ET moderaters dont let anti indian and anti mqm comments passRecommend

  • Pappu

    By the looks of it, you can be appointed as”Head of social media Police” for the prevention of cyber bullying and for delivering of good parenting education to the trolls.Recommend

  • doom

    It is mind-boggling how this article has been made out to be about “Pakistani” trolls in particular. Have you never seen youtube? How about reddit? Or any other major website that allows un-moderated comments? Are all the commenters there Pakistani, you think?

    Remove the words “Pakistan” and “Pakistanis” and you’ll get a perfectly valid article.Recommend

  • mesh

    Being the oldest civilization doesn’t mean to be civilized according to the recent normsRecommend

  • TheAverageMoe

    Most of these “Pakistani commentators” on ET and Dawn, happen to be Indians

    Dawn and ET get more visitors from India than Pakistan.Recommend

  • Baba Ji

    Aalia bittya … real time examples would have served better purpose than just defining all this copy paste effort …Recommend

  • A blogger

    What you point is very true, but! in defence, the titles are in fact chosen not by the bloggers but the web editors of ET blog.Recommend

  • U.M Sadiq

    Why men rape? because some of them are monsters.

    Why on earth would you expect anything less from the internet. Extremely naive of you. Recommend

  • Unknown

    Unfortunately, I am just a reader not a writer just like you ( i think you are the author of this blog as well, might be i am wrong). I also don’t know why Montessori teachers want to control everyone just like very very small children :)

    I hope next time you will write on something constructive and interesting. Wish you best of luckRecommend

  • tungi

    then i am brad pitt,Recommend

  • Imad Uddin

    Good Read in the beginning. Cant agree tht problem is specific to Pakistan. In the end it seemed you are scolding ur readers, really, whoever trolled you in the past. No wonder u r a teacher:)
    Hope this doesnt come under the difinition of troll…Recommend

  • X

    Totally agree with you. I prefer to remain anonymous and although I’ve never ‘trolled’ anyone, I express myself more openly under a pseudonym. Commenting on blogs allows a voice to the introverts as well.

    “On a lighter note if you shut down all the nonsense … it kills the fun and thats not good.” Absolutely, I sometimes enjoy comments more than the actual blog although profanity or insults should be filtered out.Recommend

  • Vikram

    If there will be no bad people, will there be any good people in this word. One may consider some one a troll but others may not see it that way. I see nothing wrong with disagreeing with a blogger.Recommend

  • Black Widow

    ET has the worst and the most biased commenting policies ! they only allow people of matching thoughts and values to comment. Others differing from them are never published. The worst media house with toilet cleaners of railway stations working as moderators.Recommend

  • 123xyz

    society assumes only men rape. check child abuse data from US . 80 percent of them are women.

    my point is things like gender equality or religious issues are not one dimensional.Recommend

  • grandmasti

    Problem with pakistani people r that they r very emotional lot at the same time very judgmental.You cant judge people just through comments.Recommend

  • grandmasti

    a suggestion to you as well,as a woman dont post under anonymous would be vulnerable to the troll most of the time..troll war always takes place b/w trolls ,serious commentators should keep themselves a side neither they should hide their identity..Recommend

  • broken chooza

    Yes we are trolls, but the reality is we rule the internet.. You could have written a good concrete article inspite of just CTRL+C and CTRL+V. And FYI u have mentioned here blog writing etiquettes but u yourself dont even know article writing etiquettes , you never start with ____ dictionary defines this as _____________ . Go to your Montessori school learn some skills 4m your colleagues then come here and let us know that you can write something other than rubbish.Recommend

  • azfar

    People dont follow traffic signal here.. and you expect them to follow the ‘unwritten’ rules of commenting on social networks :S.. grow up !Recommend

  • Pappu

    Sorry but you dont look like humans?Recommend

  • Gurion

    Hello Brad Pitt!Recommend

  • Hannan Tariq

    Agreed with the stuff. Only dis agree that this should be addressed globally. Mentioning only Pakistan shows that everywhere else it works fine.Recommend

  • 123xyz

    you are really mature woman.Recommend

  • 123xyz

    so what problem do you have with this?Recommend

  • Nobody

    I’m not the author of this blog actually, and I often disagree with the author of this blog as we differ in our approach to many things; however, I will not discourage her or anyone from writing to her heart’s content as it has no impact on me. If I don’t like the subject matter, I don’t have to read it.
    And since you mentioned it btw, I have written one blog on ET. Feel free to find it and critique it mate! Cheers.Recommend

  • Nobody

    I’ll take the unnecessary and somewhat defensive sarcasm as a compliment, but I’d have to say I’m inclined not to accept “head of social media police.” I simply feel strongly about it because a close friend of mine lost her much younger brother at the tender age of 13 to suicide about a year ago. Reason: cyber bullies. So yes, I do think a modest amount of action is appropriate to implement change. Any problem?Recommend

  • Nobody

    Unfortunately I’m familiar with lost comments of my own.Recommend

  • Nobody

    You’re right; however, I don’t hide my identity to make a point. As everyone can see my picture is there; I’ve also posted a blog on ET under my actual name so I don’t mind anyone knowing my identity. Trolls are a pest no one can get rid of it it seems. Evidence of that above. ;) Cheers.Recommend

  • Nobody

    Since when is trolling within the specified rules of social media? Have you seen some of the stuff people post on here?
    But don’t worry, no one will take away your right to troll. Keep calm and troll on. Cheers.Recommend

  • grandmasti

    Most of the time i have seen,articles which r not related to India hardly get 4 to 5 comments.write about India and you will easily get more than 100 commentsRecommend

  • True Karachiwala

    Aalia this is the result, to a large extent, of “tebdilee” brought about by a man who himself lives a double life. One in Pakistan and other life style in Europe.Recommend

  • Parvez

    That was nice of you…….thanks.
    I have to write a response because have not figured how to get my name on the ‘ like ‘ or ‘ don’t like ‘ arrows, as yet.Recommend

  • grandmasti

    I m seeing ur updated pics just now today.You never know how many times unknowingly i have attacked you considering another troll ,Nobody.But frankly i m regretting now even more after finding you a woman.Recommend

  • Pappu

    I am sure ET moderators have specified rules for every comment and they believe in freedom of speech. Thank god you are not a moderator.Recommend

  • Aalia Suleman

    Dear offended readers, as it seems like the majority is offended.

    A few words in my defense, if I may…

    Yes, the article is targeted to Pakistani trolls
    but does not imply that the habit is unique to Pakistanis only. Otherwise why
    would all the research listed be done by foreign writers?

    Yes, comments are a lot of fun. I enjoy them
    immensely. But lets keep polite and avoid hurting others. Admit it. It does
    happen. Like the pun on Montessori teachers out to tame the entire world. Now what do my views have to do with my being a Montessori teacher or not?

    I remember when as kids we insisted on doing
    something unfavorable that our friends were also doing, my parents would say, ‘so
    if they jump in the lake would you also do that?’. Hence, trolling being a
    global problem doesn’t give us the right to do it too.

    Why do writers focus on the negative things of
    Pakistan? To create an awareness and to attempt to make us all a better nation
    so that the world respects us for our strengths rather then ridicule us on our

    Pakistan will prevail. Pakistan zindabad!Recommend

  • Pappu

    So basically you do not have any trust in ET moderators who i believe are very responsible people and they do filter comments come under bullying or trolling. Honestly speaking if you are so scared of bullying and trolling, than do not open your laptop and stay out of cyber life. Nobody is forcing you to jump into conversation.Recommend

  • Kappa

    Civilized people use deodorant.Recommend

  • Trollingthetrolls

    the worst breed is the PTI troll: naive, gullible and fragile…Recommend

  • Sid

    Good article and goof effort to pass on some sense to all Trolls in ET. ….. But this won’t go well with Trolls, so good luck :)Recommend

  • BlackJack

    If you log in (instead of choosing to post as a guest), you’re name will appear in the like/ dislike section.
    Separately, a pseudonym offers me the freedom to air political views and opinions in a public forum. This is not because I am ashamed of my views, but because I don’t want to provide unnecessary information (through search results) to people with whom I share a professional relationship (my family and some friends do know of the name that I use to comment). However, I could have made a fake ‘real sounding name’ like Ajay or Vijay something, but believe that this would be more misleading than a standard handle that represents me and my views on this site.Recommend

  • Nobody

    to be honest, your article does not make any difference altogether. Just another article where people could troll the writers :) Thank YouRecommend

  • Gurion

    Actually, civilized people do not have bombs in their belts!Recommend