Social Media Trends That Dominated 2017

By Tauseef Razi Mallick and Rabia Garib

The shelf-life of online content is very short, generally because there is so much stuff already in the pipeline and mostly because the content is produced that way — to have a real-time effect than to last long-time. Still, there are events, stories and trends that manage to have a larger than life impact.

These are the happenings which define the course of our life and help us understand and realize things in a much better way. Year 2017 was no different; it saw some events having a greater impact online some of which even became long-lasting trends and continue to live in the digital world as new as ever.

Here is a list of such eventful trends the mention of which is enough to recall the whole story or episode of events.


The continuous curious case of #MissingBloggers

The year started with the alleged abduction of four human rights activists known on social media for their leftist views. The state of Pakistan was suspected of involvement in the disappearance and illegal detentions of the activists, a claim both civilian and military agencies categorically denied.

The activists abducted during the first week of January 2017 included Waqas Goraya, Asim Saeed, Salman Haider and Ahmed Raza Naseer. The ‘missing’ activists later returned to their homes safely, but no information was shared by the government about the alleged captors.

The trend which started in the first week of 2017 still remains valid, even in the last week of the year, since rights activist Raza Hasan went missing on December 2 and his whereabouts are currently not known. #FindRaza campaign is going on in full swing as we pen these words.

Pakistan beat India in #PakvsInd #ChampionsTrophy #CT17Final

A miracle happened in June when Pakistan thrashed favorites India by a comprehensive 180-run margin to clinch the Champions Trophy title following an enthralling competition at London’s Oval ground. The green shirts set up a daunting 339-run target with a loss of four wickets for the men in blue, but Indian batting collapsed under a calculated bowling attack, with all men out for just 158 runs in the 31st over.

Soon after the victory, celebrations started across the country and everywhere around the world where Pakistanis have been living. And it won’t be wrong to say that the taste of jubilations still lasts for many.

When Maryam was accused of ‘high-Calibri’ forgery

The otherwise innocuous Calibri font became a trending topic among Pakistan’s Twitterati after suspicions about its use were raised by the joint investigation team (JIT) probing allegations of money laundering against the Sharif family in its report submitted before the apex court.

The report alleged that certain documents were created ‘post-facto’ on the basis of the font used in them. Following this development, Pakistanis observing the case proceedings were quick to unleash their wit on the internet as #CalibriFont became the most trending topic of that time.

When Nawaz said #MujhekyunNikala?

In July, the Supreme Court disqualified the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif from holding any public office in a landmark decision on the Panama Papers case.

Shortly after the order which deemed Sharif unfit for holding office, he stepped down from his post as the premier. But then started the never ending tirade against the judiciary by Sharif in which he kept on asking, and still does, “#MujhekyunNikala (Why was I ousted)”.

It was just a matter of time when this became a social trend. It got so popular that PML-N’s rival PTI launched its “awareness campaign” with and intent to “inform” the masses why former prime minister was “actually” disqualified.

When #SharmeenObaid pressed #harassment charges over a #FriendRequest

Pakistan’s Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy found herself in the center of yet another controversy, this time because she leveled harassment allegations on a doctor.

#SharmeenObaid posted on Twitter that her sister “went to AKU emergency [and] the doctor who tended to her tried [to] add her on [Facebook]”. She termed it a breach of boundaries and summed up the ‘incident’ as “#harassment”.

This sparked an aggressive campaign on Pakistan’s digital space, and almost everybody contributed to this by adding their two cents on the issue. Many thought of it as an opportunity to stir a healthy discussion on the harassment issue, however, it couldn’t get farther than the personal remarks and taking sides.

Some debated whether a #FriendRequest was synonymous to harassment, while others expressed sympathy with the accused. Sharmeen responded to the reaction in a note regretting that despite drawing much comment and controversy, her tweets about the doctor’s “inappropriate behavior” had failed to address real concerns — the safety of women, unchecked unethical practices and harassment.

#AyeshaGulalai claims #PTI chief #ImranKhan harassed her over texts

The topic of harassment in a digital space had initially surfaced when PTI MNA #AyeshaGulalai announced her exit from the party and cited ‘ill-treatment’ of women in the party as the.

Gulalai leveled a flurry of scathing allegations against party chairman Imran Khan accusing him of sending “inappropriate text messages” and “dishonoring respectable women”. “He [Khan] tells women to keep BlackBerry phones so that messages are not traced. Check his BlackBerry,” she had alleged.

Following the allegations, the countrymen holding forwards posts on social media descended into an ugly and inappropriate debate on Ayesha Gulalai. Keeping aside the integrity of the allegations, as that was for the investigators to decide, the responses to Gulalai’s allegations by general public highlighted several troubling aspects of the way people talk about harassment in Pakistan.

Lynching of #MashalKhan over alleged #blasphemy

In April, a 23-year-old student of Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, was killed and another seriously injured in the university premises by a vigilante mob for allegedly “publishing blasphemous content online”. The lynching of Mashal Khan opened debate on the observation that most of the people in Pakistan, either tacitly or openly, do endorse violent punishment of suspected blasphemers.

Mashal was described by his teachers as a “brilliant and inquisitive” student who did complain “about the political system of the country”, but his teachers vowed they “never heard him saying anything controversial against the religion”.

When paparazzi caught #MahiraKhan smoking

Pakistan’s digital space lit up with a series of blurry paparazzi pictures in which actress Mahira Khan was seen smoking in New York City while taking a break outside in New York City accompanied by Bollywood actor Ranbir Kapoor. And suddenly Mahira was on the receiving end of abuse, character assassination, slut shaming and downright asinine comments.

The photographs also sparked off rumors of an alleged Mahira-Ranbir relationship and led to a backlash that predominantly targeted Mahira alone. #MahiraKhan was trolled.

It set off a ridiculous chain of events where reasonable people were forced to defend smoking, basic privacy and women’s agency in the most ridiculous of terms.

The tragedies that hit us hard

#SehwanBlast: 2017 started with the tragic death of 70 people in a suicide attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan in February.

#Ahmedpur oil tanker incident: In June, more than 200 people died in the inferno as a result of the blast which engulfed the villagers who had gathered to collect the leaking fuel from an oil tanker after it met an accident and overturned near Ahmedpur Sharqia.

#QuettaChurchAttack: In December, nine people were killed and 30 injured in a suicide attack on the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church on Quetta’s Zarghoon Road during the Sunday Mass.


The cricket craze in Pakistan reached a new height when cricket returned to Pakistan earlier this year. First it was the final of Pakistan Super League held in Lahore in which international players participated. Next was the Pakistan vs World XI series which saw many famous international players touring Pakistan to play a full fledged tournament.

Subsequently, Sri Lanka also toured Pakistan to play the final T20 match of the three match series , the first two matches were played in UAE.

It is regrettable that political instability and possible security threats kept cricket suspended for a long period. But future seems bright, as more PSL matches are expected to be held in the country — this time in Karachi too.

What were some trends you followed or contributed to? Add #TNS or #TheNewSpaces to the conversation so we can follow along!

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