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By Marnus09/05/2024In Uncategorized

Other people’s lives are not as great as it looks

I’ll never forget my 16th birthday—I was bawling my eyes out.


Most of my friends were gifted quad bikes for their birthdays that year. Turning 16 in South Africa meant you could legally drive a motorcycle, and quad bikes were all the rage in Harrismith.


But on my 16th birthday, my dad pulled up the driveway with a plate and two slices of bread topped with melted cheese. We didn’t own a microwave, but my dad knew I loved bread with microwaved cheese, so he drove to my grandma’s house and made it for me.


That was it.


I burst into tears.


I wished my parents had money like my friends’. I wished we could live in an affluent neighborhood and go on fancy holidays. I wished life was different. And it saddened me.


Fast forward two years, and I began working at an auditing firm in Harrismith. Many of my friends’ parents were our clients, and I got a glimpse into their real lives and finances. Most were drowning in debt, some embroiled in legal battles for fraudulent business practices.


It was like a veil had been lifted from my eyes.


Things weren’t as rosy as they seemed.


This reality check was profound, and over the years, I’ve encountered similar revelations repeatedly: what people project outwardly about money and happiness rarely reflects reality.


If it ended there, it would have been bearable. But it doesn’t. We incessantly compare ourselves to these illusions and feel inadequate.


Social media has only magnified this. On Instagram, we see perfect lives. We all acknowledge its falsity, yet we still entertain the notion that it might be genuine, leaving us feeling inferior.


However, my journey and profession have taught me otherwise.


Whenever envy creeps in, I remind myself that everyone has a shadow side I may not be privy to. It’s taught me to focus on my own life and strive to be the best version of myself, every single day.


What about you? What are your thoughts on the illusion of perfection portrayed on social media versus the reality of people’s lives? Have you had any similar experiences?

svgMaster this and you master life
svgWe are going to die


  • Shawn

    May 9, 2024 at 12:43 pm

    Your father gave you a lesson in that cheesy bread.

    It wasn’t what you wanted, but it looks like it part of what made you into the person that you are today.

    If you got the Quadbike (or the rest of the things the other kids had), would you have been so driven ?

    Sometimes the things that hurt us the most teach us the best lessons – Anon.

    • Marnus

      May 15, 2024 at 10:25 am

      Hi Shawn. I often wonder about this. In the end, I guess everything happens just the way it should. I wouldn’t have wanted anything different today – but I also would not have minded being a trust fund baby. Lol

  • CM

    May 9, 2024 at 4:24 pm

    I had similar experiences, but in a really strange way. We would have many months when there was very little food in the house, I think the worst of this was when we would only eat pap with seeds. Which indicates a really dire situation. Even times when we would actively keep track of the electricity meter and usage because we seemingly couldn’t afford electricity. This along with never celebrating anything, no holidays, few new clothes, always just some element of struggle.

    This on its own is enough to ruin a kid. I even felt the need to shoplift and steal food sometimes when I was around 10 years old. It got more complicated when I began realising that a lot of these experiences may have been simulated by my father. I began suspecting my father to be a relatively wealthy man when I was 13. For my 12th birthday he gifted me a bank card. I never thought much about it until I would get comments from cashiers and the cash office lady at school whenever I used the card. They would say things like “you must be rich” or “your parents worked very hard for that” or even “I wish I could also give my kid this card to play with”.

    I was always confused about these comments because I knew my circumstances at home and how I wished I could celebrate Christmas like my friends, or have a birthday party or some kind of celebration with lots of food and happy moments or shop for new sneakers instead of school shoes, have nice big school lunches, etc. But after some online research I realised what this attention grabbing card symbolised. A FNB private wealth card, the symbol of money, lots of it. How can this be when I have literally had to steal food because of hunger. This confused me at 13 and continues to confuse me as a 20 year old today.

    I can understand my father wanting to instil some of the value that can only come from growing up in poverty like he did, I disagree with his approach as it did far more harm than good. Due to how extreme things got at some points, I am still unsure if my father is wealthy or not. Despite him now having multiple properties and non flashy cars, I am still unsure. He still tells me the same struggle stories that I heard and experienced while growing up.

    He would always warn me about people who live flashy lives going on holidays, having expensive possessions but in reality often don’t have the money to sustain these lifestyles. In my case it was like the opposite, likely having money to sustain a lavish lifestyle but still growing up in a poverty-esque state. After about 3 years of thinking maybe I’m not really poor, I stopped envying the lives of my friends. I knew despite me not even having Wi-Fi at home, and having to share a phone with my mom, they weren’t paying for the full year’s school fees with the swipe of a card in their pocket. Although I stopped envying their lifestyles and possessions, I began to envy more abstract things about life in general like love, happiness and power.

    • Marnus

      May 15, 2024 at 10:22 am

      WOW CM, what a fascinating story. I’ve never heard anything like it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Wesley

    May 9, 2024 at 10:01 pm

    Hi Marnus,

    Social media is has certainly taken the world by storm, with people desperately trying to stamp their mark on society. These days everyone wants to be an influencer, especially the younger up and coming generations.

    That being said with regard to some platforms I ask myself the question, do i think that most people are like me and use say instagram to save memories with friends and loved ones , easily accessible and fun to re-visit? If so, then is it not the onlooker of my profile thats interpreting my life to be something that perhaps it isn’t?

    But there is no question that social media definitely has an impact on the lives of us, its users. It can be addictive and be a horrible thief of time, the most precious commodity. I have found it also leads ti antisocial behaviour in groups at times when people find themselves glued to their phones in company.

    I absolutely agree with your outlook, best we focus our attention on ourselves and our own lives and try to be decent, kind and uplifting, always aspiring to deliver the best we can.

    I have come to terms with my life and its circumstances for the most part. I admit its not easy to try and be happy and content, but its something i strive for every day!


    • Marnus

      May 15, 2024 at 10:20 am

      Love it Wes!! It can be good, it can be bad, it all depends on how you use it. BUT I do think the negative side weighs more right now.

  • Marcel vd Berg

    May 10, 2024 at 8:49 am

    Hi Marnus.

    I think it’s sad to see how many people get bullied or gets the illusion of what people lives is and that it’s always going good in people’s lives, with the majority of people it’s always going good, but the reality is there is always someone that can happen in your live that it would take the “going good” away and people need to know that. Like you said you were sad when you didn’t get a quad bike when you were 16 and your friends all got, like you said that was half of the truth. So with social media and podcast happening and what you are doing with the platform now, with this online blog. You are showing people the other side, that this is reality, this is what I went through. Yes I’m successful and I have all this material things, but I’m still human and I’m also have struggles in life, so you can bring more reality and show everything not just the good and etravigent.

    So social media can be good and bad at the same time, depends on how you use it.

    A lot like our lives, there is the good and the bad.

    • Marnus

      May 15, 2024 at 10:14 am

      Love it, thanks for the kind comment Marcel! The good, the bad, that’s life hey!

  • Marilie Parsons

    May 10, 2024 at 12:18 pm

    Each ecosystem we find ourselves in or at least where I have found myself in – has some form of this pretense. In today’s life the social media just put pictures to it – and we somewhat allow it to adjust our lens of the world and people.

    I remember when I started my studies – we had to send in pictures which was displayed in the reception hall. Parents were allowed to join for the introduction lecture.
    My heart sank when my photo (which I send in very proudly) was in a completely different style to what all the others submitted. All the others had headshot/model type photos taken. My dad sensed it immediately and just said:” You are the only one that shows you are real. You are going to show all these same-same people just how they shouldn’t underestimate a farm girl from the Northern Cape.”

    Today in the work-life I experience also all sorts of pretense and as an INFJ – and fortunately having such an intuitive nature my BS monitor goes off fairly quickly. I yet need to learn the skill to start trusting it more.

    • Marnus

      May 15, 2024 at 10:13 am

      Nice one Marilie, I’m INTJ – we definitely experience the world more intense as introverts. Also love how your dad gave you comfort.

  • Ferdi

    May 13, 2024 at 3:02 pm

    Hi Marnus,

    It’s disheartening to see what we’ve become. The pressure to keep up with others, combined with the presence of bullies, has been with us for years. However, social media has taken this to a new and disastrous level. It presents a perfect world where everything seems more than okay. But when you engage with teenagers, you discover a much more distorted view of life, which is quite alarming.

    • Marnus

      May 15, 2024 at 10:09 am

      And it seems like everyone can see it, but no one is making the effort to change it? I can’t imagine the impact this will have on kids growing up.


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