Katy Katopodis: Stop the nastiness

I was on a plane back from Cape Town as I watched a young guy, in his mid to late 20s, snatch an empty Coke tin from the clutches of an old man, crush it in his fist, mutter obscenities loud enough for those immediately around him to hear and buzz furiously for the flight attendant. At some point I thought his index finger would go straight through the top of the plane, that's how cross he was.

The crime? The old man sitting next to him had the audacity to place his empty cold drink tin into the pouch directly in front of the cross man with the strong finger, and not in his own.

The older man said nothing during or after this macho display of childlike behaviour. Instead, he stood up slowly a few minutes later and made his way to the bathroom. He struggled to move, his paper-thin skin dangling loosely off his boney structure, his knees so wobbly they couldn't straighten.

I felt so terribly sorry for him. Why do we have to be so aggressive, so rude, so nasty to each other, I wondered? Why can't we be kinder?

I thought about the terrible road rage incident in Northriding on Valentine's Day, another reminder of the insanity of guns. What went so horribly wrong that the motorist and motorcyclist pulled guns on each other in peak-hour morning traffic? Why were they even carrying guns? It defies logic, and had tragic consequences. One dead, another seriously injured and behind bars.

It also took me back to the opening of Parliament and State of the Nation address - the reason for my Cape Town visit - and I cringed as I thought about the way South Africans took enormous pleasure in tearing apart the larger-than-life MP who wore the tight, short, crimped, bright yellow dress at the event. Yes, that one.

No doubt, it was fashion hara-kiri. A massive error of couture judgement. Forget colour blocking, this was colour splatting...of the extra-large variety.

What was she thinking and why didn't those around her stop her from walking out of her house like that. Who designed/sold her that dress, I asked myself repeatedly as I watched her on the red carpet, just metres away from where I was standing as the camera lights around her flashed away.

I also took a photo ... and then, like many others around me, I tweeted it with the words "What not to wear!"

What was intended to be fashion commentary on my part turned out into a free-for-all, with one awful response after another coming my way. My followers LOL'ed SMH'ed, LMAO'ed and OMG'd.

Some of the nastier responses included: "Whale hunting season open", "What has been seen cannot be unseen", and "She was insane enough to wear that, but whoever dressed her needs to be slapped".

I was retweeted 132 times and before I knew it, I was trending on Twitter. I certainly wasn't the only one who tweeted and my timeline was filled with commentary and criticism from all the self-proclaimed Gianni Versaces and Kanye West wannabes. But ultimately it didn't make it right.

It was out of hand.

Since when did a "What not to wear" comment about fashion degenerate into such awful abuse?

At some point a Mail & Guardian reporter tweeted me to say that Thandile Sunduza was in fact seven months pregnant. I retweeted it in attempt to stop the nastiness.

It got worse. One person came straight at me asking if she was carrying one baby in front and two in her behind. The response was cruel and I immediately regretted my tweet.

What happened to Thandile Sunduza was no different to the cyber bullying stories we read and report on all too often. We bullied her. We mocked her. We poked fun at her for all to see and share in the laugh. And she collapsed, landing up in hospital.

I for one am sorry for my part in it, and I'll say it again; we need to remind ourselves to be kinder to each other.

Katy Katopodis is EWN's Editor-in-Chief.