Observations of Ethiopians in Paltalk (‘Paltopians’) By Yared Ayicheh

August 28th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

After attending Paltalk(R) for four years I feel I need to put my feelings, thoughts and observations about Ethiopian interactions in Paltalk rooms. This is by no means an attempt to scientifically assess the Ethiopian Paltalk subculture; it is just an observation.

From the hundreds of nick names I have seen in the various rooms, one that has stuck with me is ‘Paltopian’ (It looks like a combination of Paltalk + Ethiopian.) So, from this point on, I will be using this term to refer to Ethiopians in Paltalk: Paltopians. The credit goes to whoever the person is that created the nick name, not me.

Some have suggested that Paltopians are not different from Ethiopians at large and that they, Paltopians, represent fairly most Ethiopians. I don’t know if that is a fact or not, since I have not seen a scientific poll taken about Paltopians, but I feel there may be some truth in that. Like most modern technology, Paltalk was not created with Ethiopians in mind, since we are usually at the bottom of the global food chain. Perhaps that may account to the ineffectiveness of most of the rooms and the abuse of technology and room participants by room administrators. In any case, what I found easily identifiable about Paltopians is we are under-developed, under-exposed, and under-civilized.


Paltopians seem to be unaware and unawakened folks. It is perhaps an indicator of the low quality of the Ethiopian education system. Basic concepts such as emotional maturity, personal ethics, basic scientific concepts, basic critical thinking skills, and interpersonal communication skills are at a primitive level in the land of Paltopians. The lack of curiosity and courage to question the basic assumptions of the Ethiopian society is common among Paltopians. How could this be when most Paltopians reside in the western world?! How come people don’t expose themselves to various philosophical questions raised 500 or even 4000 years ago?!

Paltopians are indeed under-developed intellectually, however what has startled me the most is the absence of emotional maturity or insight. The way people treat each other as if the other person has no feelings has alarmed me many times. It has also tempted me to link the many atrocities committed in Ethiopia in the past century to this emotional numbness. The anger and emotional outbursts, the pretentious denials, and the total repression of ones own feelings is reflected in the way people treat others. If Ethiopians are like Paltopians, no wonder we Ethiopians don’t trust each other. No wonder Ethiopian organizations are riddled with fundamental organizational weaknesses, mistakes and failures.


Exposure is what an individual experiences through life, work experience, travels to foreign places, reading diverse views, watching and listening to human expressions/art and so on. I feel most Paltopians are generally under-exposed and inexperienced. For example, the absence of posted Paltalk room rules and topics in most rooms says something about our weak understanding of basic communication skills. I have heard many Paltalk room administrators say, “We have room rules, please follow the room’s rules.” But can one know the rules when they are not clearly posted where they can be easily accessed? No.

Often even the admins don’t know what the rooms discussion topic is, and yet I hear them say, “Lets stay on the topic.” Some may see these issues as simple mistakes or even non-issues. However, to me these are reflections of how much under-exposed and inexperienced many Paltopians are to procedures and processes.


Yes, I am going to use the C word: civil. It is a word that many Ethiopians take lightly or not understand at all, but Paltopians lack basic civility. From the potentially mentally and emotionally disturbed Paltopians, to the rude, abusive and incompetent administrators; from the narrow-minded-flag-worshiping-ultra-Ethiopianists to the ethnocentric-Amara-haters, from the young to the elderly, I have witnessed excessive lack of basic civility in Paltalk rooms.

The first thing is to understand that everyone can express their ideas without the need to undermine other individuals. Disagreeing with others does not have to be a love and hate issue. And yet, as an emotionally under-developed society, emotional dependency is rampant not only among Paltopians but among most Ethiopians as well. I am not responsible for how you feel. That does not mean I will intentionally provoke and trigger your negative emotions, but I am not responsible for how you feel. You are responsible for your own moods, nobody else is.

Paltopians also seem to have no boundary what so ever. Boundary is how far I can go with out making an issue personal. It is as if Paltalk is full of wild animals. Do we not understand that people have boundary? Are we not capable of imagining what individual boundary is? Or do we feel setting boundary is being westernized? Whatever the reason is, Paltopians lack boundary.

“I wish I was born in America”

Paltalk has in its own way helped me reflect about how sad and tragic the “Ethiopian condition” really is. It is right that Paltalk can not be used to judge all Ethiopians, but I feel there are too many patterns of behaviors that parallel between Paltopians and Ethiopians.

Let me share with you a true story. A family came to America from Ethiopia with young children. After living in the States for few years, the mother has a new baby in America. One of the kids that came from Ethiopia made a comment that shocked the parents. He said, “I wish I was born in America too.” The parents rebuked the kid and ordered him not to say that again. But what is wrong with the kids statement? Nothing. Perhaps the parents were upset because the kid said what they were thinking but were afraid to say out loud.

After observing Paltopians for four years, I wish I was born in America too.

The writer may be reached at yared_to_the_point@yahoo.com

  1. Anonymous
    | #1

    Your observation about behavior of communication among Ethiopians in Pal-talk rooms may be correct. I only listened to one for about a month, and felt pretty much what you mentioned. However, the other thing i hoped is that through these interactions we will start to develop the manner of talking to each other on varying issues would develop through time. Thank god we have this medium of communication. You can’t all of a sudden expect us to be like the “westerners”. We spent all our ages under dictatorship and some bad cultures. People just got the chance to vent their frustrations thanks to the available technology developed by the Ferenges (god bless them!!!).

    As much as i like your critical analysis that are spot on, you need to have faith in us. This is how it starts.

    Keep up with your courageous articles


  2. koster
    | #2

    Paltopians are behind the screen and one does not know who they really are? Are they really concerned Ethiopians, woyane cadres, killers, looters or just spending their time and save money which they would have spent pubs. But all this does not mean that paltalk is not good because there are also somethings to be learnt from Paltalk and Paltopians.

  3. Anonymous
    | #3

    That is why i avoid palta;k. I never was a fan of paltalk.

  4. Fikru
    | #4

    Totally agree with your critical analysis about the Paltalk behavior. I listened only to one for about 3 months, and felt same as you wrote. Only thing i thought you left out is the fact that we Ethiopians, having spent significant portion of our ages as society under dictatorship, we are only beginning to learn to talk to each other over varying opinion. You can’t expect such society to start CIVILIZED communication all of a sudden. Thank god we have this medium of technology (God bless the Ferenjis!!!!) that allowed us to even start to talk to each other in what ever manner. We will then start to develop maturity, civility and others you mentioned in due time. Please do not close articles that deny people to HOPE. We can never give up on our people, as it means giving up on ourselves. As poor, uncivilized, and embarrassing our status is, i never wished to have been an American born. I admit i wished to have the legal document to live and work here. But the Ethiopian-ness running in my blood never stopped in me.

    cherish that. so much has been paid for us to feel this way.

    thank you

  5. Seken
    | #5

    Now that you clearly saw the tremendous need for civilized behavior among Ethiopians it time to do something about it! You didn’t say if you have started to act. I would start with “myself.” This is Primordial brain material with most of us. The mostly patriarchal culture in the highlands, the revolution, red terror, liberation fronts, oh boy … if this happened to Americans I wonder how they behave… I will give us all a break.

    When I see the new and upcoming generation in Ethiopia I am so encouraged. So should all of us. Let’s expect the best from our young ones. This will be a very basic departure that would help cut the recurring cycles of “mourning and complaining” culture. I still remember what one Ethiopian replied when asked “ኑሮ እንዴት ነው?” He replied “ከነገ ይሻላል” I have been working to reverse such doom and gloom thinking. This is what I learned so far. One doesn’t have to be in denial to believe in a bright future in such apparent and immediate depressing vista. Just need to realize how “powerful” we are for we are created in the image and likeness of the Creator.

    As to the current “Paltopians” well it may be just a great start… for expressions – albeit angry and uncivilized, are far better than Helplessness and silence due to crippling fear.

  6. አለቃ ብሩ
    | #6

    Wow, what a generalization!!

    Don’t you know that you can be born in America and still be stupid? Probably you are too stupid to know this. I was expecting you to give some solutions on how to avoid such “uncilvil” behaviours, but instead you ended up hating yourself and where you came from. Doesn’t this put you at a lower level than the other “Paltonians?”

  7. Anonymous
    | #7

    No point! You are typical paltopian!!!

  8. Abiy
    | #8

    Hi Yared,

    Thanks for your exact opinion which also reflects mine. I’ve sent an article on what I feel about “Paltopians” (as you named) to about all ethiopian related web sites but no one could dare publish it.

    What’s really astonishing is, ethiopians and somalians are the top paltalk users in Africa.

    Even in paltalk rooms which supposed to be serious (like some current affairs discussion forums), you’re not allowed to have a different opinion than the one which is accepted by some regular members. I always finished by being bounced out.

    I think those paltopians are not different from us, ethiopians in general. We’re mentally backward and uncivilized. Don’t forget that all our political leaders are pure products of us, thus, people that never tolerate those with different opinions.

    If we don’t change this behavious, I promise you that Meles has still a bright future in the Ethiopian leadership.

  9. Ferenj Lebaw
    | #9

    Weather you are from Ethiopia or the US, you will always find incompitent social groups. Different social or intellectual groups have different performances. It is a given in any society that intellectual levels differ from person to person or collectively. If you believe there needs to be more compitent communications between Ethiopians, then you should start the platform. Believe me there are many Ethiopians that you will find at high levels. Don’t tend to underestimate the people’s intelligence.

  10. lal
    | #10

    You wrote good, but at the end you dismantled everything. You mixed proudness with arrogance and being self-criticism with self-shame. The kid in your last story should be told to be a proud self-criticising Ethiopian, but according to you his families are ashamed of being an Ethiopian and want their child to be arrogant about it. And you also said they think inside their minds what he said is true…what makes you say that? Dont you think you are being irrational when saying that? So, it is good to comment on the bad online culture seen on most Ethiopian sites, but to extend it further into the sphere of identity crisis is a little over the top.

  11. Anonymous
    | #11

    The author is inflated with inferiority complex. To understand the heart and mind of true sons and daughters of Ethiopia on paltalk ask, share your point of view and open yourself to learn with positive attitude.
    Considering yourself over-developed, you labeled us as under-developed. Considering yourself over-civilized, you also painted us as under-civilized. Your like is described with one simple Ethiopian saying… “Kerasu gar Yetetala”.

  12. Anonymous
    | #12

    Dear Yared , before criticizing all paltalk rooms you have collect enough information about the motives and the forces behind each and every paltalk rooms. Most paltalk rooms are running by weyanes because weyanes can not sleep if ethiopians get together . Butpaltalk room like ECADF has done alot of good things by organizing ethiopians.1. ECADF collected money and supported for ethiopia’s women in lebanen , for the boarder committes, solidarity movement for a new ethiopia more than two times, for kinijit, for militia Ali bereket and it pays over 5000 dollars per year to increase the capacity of the room, more over it has collected petitions for different goals and I hope continue doing so. So it is immorale to compare such a room with other rooms which are shouting day in and day out in support of anti ethiopia’s elements like TPLF. The word you have used is totally full of arrogancy and shows your stupidity. If the paltalkers are un civilized and under developed, can you tell us what have the so called ” intellectuals accomplished for ethiopia and it’s people except being a parasatice sworm for ethiopia and it’s people? Born in America is not enough by it self, you have to go to school and work hard day and night to be successsfull . They are so many Americans who can not tell you sum of 45+85=? untill they count their fingers. So when you are pointing your one finger towards others you should not forget three of your fingers are pointing towards your big belly. If the paltakers are un civilized and un developed ,you must know that you have your own responsibility and share for their low level metal maturity. as saying goes ” amede be dukete yisekal”

  13. Eney
    | #13

    For FOUR years you WERE a part of this subculture and now you wish to separate yourself from it and get on your high horse and look down on it? I am not one to support the going ons in the paltalk rooms but I tell you your observations and analysis are ‘under-developed’and could have benefited from a bit more thinking through.
    That said, I would like to thank you for taking the time to write this and open a dialogue.

  14. Gragn Ahmed
    | #14

    The most important question is what type of people most frequently use the paltalk? Are they lonely people? Are they antisocial people? Are they web/tech addicted people? or are they people with plenty of time? or are they people with good intentions who have no access to air vgiews in a group setting? It has come to my attention that level of mistrust in such group is so much so that we are unable to use it effectively for a common purpose. As one person in civility room said “paltalk has made everybody equal”. So, this free access to mic can insinuate huge chain of back and forth tit for tat bickering over seemingly minor issues.

    Then there is a separate matter:
    They tell you, they are free rooms, Ethiopian rooms, but then have little tolerance for any of differing views. Why do we hijack people’s minds???? It is sad in this culture of closed mindedness, we will never get people who can think like Mandela.

    Social studies should study the different paltalk rooms and evaluate the people’s values that use it.

    But one thing is true. Plattopians and Ethiopians are not the same.

    So, we do have hopes for a tolerating culture?????

    It is sad Ethiopians don’t have Mandelas. Clearly our

  15. some one
    | #15

    Good job Yared, thanks for your critical observations and clear explanations about the ‘paltopians’ I completely agree with all the three unders…
    it is meaningless simply taking talking in paltalk rooms and every where rathar what is good to be done to avoid these unders… TAKE ACTION
    Go Yared, take the lead, go to one of the paltalk rooms and show as, practice it. be an admin of one chat room and show as the rules, let all paltopians get it and try to be like the civilized, developed…. paltalkians.

  16. truth prevails
    | #16

    What is very much frustrating about Paltopians is that, most of them are individuals who are exposed to some form of modern education. If the educated part of the society emotionally behaves like wild animals, no wonder, that Woyanes from the dedebit jungle display behaviors – from the time of Lucy.

  17. Anonymous
    | #17

    Yared thank you for bringing the issue forward. Not only in paltalk but in all aspects of life we luck humility when ever we try to share our views to others. If some one tries to interpret what you say in a posetive way we have a lot to take and If we take it for the sake of argument we have a lot to say about it. I wish we take the best from what you said and disregard what is not comfortable to us. Those brothers and sisters who commented on your point should have given us a better idea so that we all can develop our minds with better views . Thanks to some they tried to to defend reality. YEBEKELNBET HIBERETESEB WETATE NEW.

  18. Humility
    | #18

    Thanks yared you gave us another topic for paltopians . May be you can share us live in discussion where ever the topic is raised .

  19. Z-yakob
    | #19

    Yared thank you for bringing the issue forward. Not only in paltalk but in all aspects of life we luck humility when ever we try to share our views to others. If some one tries to interpret what you say in a posetive way we have a lot to take and If we take it for the sake of argument we have a lot to say about it. I wish we take the best from what you said and disregard what is not comfortable to us. Those brothers and sisters who commented on your point should have given us a better idea so that we all can develop our minds with better views . Thanks to some they tried to to defend reality. YEBEKELNBET HIBERETESEB WETATE NEW.

  20. Dongo
    | #20

    Wxcept abbysinian rooms, all other ethiopian rooms discuss in good manner. They communicate in thoughtfulway. They teach and learn. They respect each other. conversely, abbysinian rooms are full of insult, ridicule and cursing each other. Shameful abbysinians!!

  21. Zerayakob Yared
    | #21

    ህብረተሰባችን የ’DC ስጠኝ አለበለዚያ እሰድብሃለሁኝ የቀን ላሊበላዎች, የማሌሊት ሓሳድ አወናባጆችና የሻዕቢያ አሳባቂ ወሽላኾች ምርኮኛ እስለሆነ ጊዜ ድረስ ከዚህ ህመም ለመገላገል ቀላል አይሆንም!!

    ግን የማይሆን ነገር የለምና ብቻ የተሻለውን ቀን ያምጣልን !

  22. Molla
    | #22

    Most of the Paltopians are ordinary citizens concerned about the political situation of their country. It is true that most of them are not well versed in politics and may not have good communication skills. So we shouldn’t raise the bar very high. We shouldn’t expect much from them as if they are members of an organized group following specified rules and norms. You can simply imagine Ethiopian who are strangers to each other and happened to meet in a bar and discussing about various issue in their country. But I agree with the idea that they need to be more civil and disciplined in the future to make the room more effective. The Paltalk is an extremely important forum for Ethiopians in the Diaspora. In the past, a lot of social, economic, and political issues were brought in these forums and effective actions were taken on some of them with successful results.

  23. just a thought
    | #23

    been in a couple of paltalk sessions … what i found:
    -waste of time (hrs of talk) – people don’t work for a living?
    -arrogance (i know it all) – even iphone is on route to 5th ed
    -fun :) – great ethio humor which i always mis
    -anger – yep! hear that a lot in the voice
    -belonging – there is a deep love for ethio there!
    -the X rated – mis the afternoons (in Addis) and the clubs ;)
    my 2 cents guys/gals.

  24. ali
    | #24

    what is up abugida? why did you sensor my little post… hmmm.. Do you want me to praise him, or should I go with your liking. If that is what you want just send me a tiny note … I am used to this..Derg weyane.. aye yegna neger, even the seemingly democrats keep doing the same crap….

  25. Zeleke
    | #25

    አለቃ ብሩ ,
    You hit hard with straight nail.

  26. እውነት ይነገር
    | #26

    ጭንቅላትህ ቢመረመር በኢትዮጵያን ላይ ያለህን ጥላቻ ከምን እንደመጣ ማወቅ ይቻል ነበር

    1. ለማንኛውም በአቶ ፍቅሩ ኪዳኔ የተጻፈውን
    የፒያሳ ልጅ
    የሚለውን መጽሐፍ አንብብ

    2. ያም ካልበቃህ ኢትዮጵያ ገጠሩ ሕዝብ ጋ ለትንሽ ወራት ተቀመጥ
    ትህትናው ደግነቱ ሃይማኖተኛነቱ ላንተ ቀርቶ ለተቀመጥክበትም አገር ሕዝብ ይተርፋል

    3. የፓልቲዮጵያን ተሳታፊዎች ባህርይ የ80 ሚሊዮኑን ኢትዮጵያውንን ባህርይ ይወክላሉ ማለትህ የአንተን ማገናዘብ ማነስ ያሳያል
    ፖልቲዮጵያን ተሳታፊዎች ተራ የፖለቲካ አሉባልታዎች ስድቦች በተቃራኒ ቡድኖች ላይ የሚሰነዝሩ መሆናቸውን እንዼት ዘነጋህ?
    ለመሆኑ አፓርታይድ ያራምዱ የነበሩ ሕዝቦችና አገሮች በአንተ መሰልጠን መመዘኛ መሰረት የት ላይ ናቸው?

    በመሰረቱ መመዘኛህ ስድብ እንጂ ሌላ የለውምና

    ኢትዮጵያ ተወልደህ አድገህ ሰርተህ ቢሆን ኢትዮጵያውንን ታውቅ ነበር
    ምነው ኢትዮጵያ በተወለድኩ ብትል አይሻልህም

  27. አንጻሩ
    | #27

    ኢትዮጵያዊነትን እንደ ንጹህ አንሶላ የምታዩ ወገኖች ተሳስታችኋል።

    ኢትዮጵያዊነት እንደማንኛውም ማንነት የራሱ የሆኑ ጎጂ ፡ ጸያፍና የተዋረዱ ገጽታዎች አሉት። ኢትዮጵያዊነት መለኮት አይደለም።

    ኢትዮጵያዊነትን በጣም አግዝፎ ማየት የአይምሮ ህመም ሊሆን ይፍላል ብዩ እገምታለሁ።

  28. አንጻሩ
    | #28

    @አለቃ ብሩ
    You sound like one of the admins from the Dergist and Shabia rooms. Insult and pointless blabber.

  29. Zerayakob Yared
    | #29

    መሰረታዊ ትእዝብት,

    ፎርምና ይዘትን ማዛመድ ያልቻለ ህብረተሰብ:: ፎርሙን እንደ ዘመናዊው የፈረንጆቹ ያስመስለውና ይዘቱ ግን የ15ኛውን የኢትዮጵያን ይዞታ ያሳቅፈዋል:: የዚህ ትርፉ ደግሞ በገዛ ራስ ተወናብዶ ሲያበቁ ሌላውንም ወገንን በባሰ ማወናበድ::

    ወዳጄ ኢትዮጵያዊ, ምእራባውያን ቭኪንገርንና አይንሽታይንን በማጣመር ቤታቸውን ያዳብሩና አንተን ግን ባለብህ መደናበር ላይ ድንብር ሲጨምሩልህ ‘ኢርዳታ’ በሚለው የመሸፈኛ ወረቀት የተጠቀለለውን የባሰውኑ ማወናበጃውን ያሳቅፉሃል::

    አንተ ደግሞ የሄንኑን ‘ኢርዳታ’ እና የራስህንም መደናበር አቅፈህ ከአህጉር አህጉር በመወናጨፍ የመወናበድና የድህነት ምስዮናዊ-ሃዋርያ ሆነህ ቀረሄው!

    ዋና-ዋና የዚህ ሃዋርያትን ለመጥቀስ ያህል: ……, ……, ……., ኢንዲሁም ሌሎቹ በየቀኑ ከአህጉር-አህጉር የሚናጠሩት ወንድሞቻችን!

  30. awdema
    | #30

    Yared –

    Good analysis to what you observed in Paltopians world, though I thought it is a strong categorization (most of them):
    – Under-developed
    – Under-exposed
    – Under-civilized
    – “I wish I was born in America”

    I admit the subculture can let some lewd behaviors to surface. (see, going in the open about our feeling and admitting the truth is not our thing and the anonymity encourages us to say what we wouldn’t dare otherwise – (i’m using a pen name myself))

    But, to draw a full parallel to Ethiopian is over stretching the Paltopians to the general mass – in my opinion.

    That being said, I will be the first one to admit that “there is no nation on this planet earth like us Ethiopians who dwell in denial about our state of existence.”
    If you have conversation with 100 people (who claim they are hardcore Ethiopians), you will get 100 outlooks of what a real Ethiopianism is all about …. ( and 99.9% of the time they have one thing in common – that we are a gift to this world from God, hence we must be special!!!) – now this type of delusional notion blows away my mind – what a DENIAL! (which enables me to understand the wish like the kid in your story wanting to be an American).

    My plight goes above and beyond that; Questions like : what does it mean to be a real Ethiopian? who are we really? where are we going as a nation?

    thanks for making us ponder …


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