Sixteen is that sweet age when the world starts to open up with a chockablock of opportunities. In the U.S., it’s when most teenagers receive their driver’s license, and with it, a curfew. When I turned that golden age, my mom gave me an 11 p.m. deadline to be home.

“But Mooooomm, James (my brother) had a midnight curfew when he was my age,” I would whimper.

She would quip, “You’re not James, and you shouldn’t compare yourself to him. Worry about yourself, not others.”

Mom was right, and as a 26 year-old, her wise statement became a replayed motto in a situation equally as important as curfew – social media. 

It was a low-key Sunday afternoon when I went online to check out what all my “friends” were up to. First on my news feed was Meeshy, who got engaged to “the love her life!!!!” Extra exclamation points apparently were needed. A couple of news prompts below that, Ben was shirtless and in Puerto Rico. Then there was a selfie by Jessica with the caption, “Love yourself, girl, or nobody will.” There might have been an emoji after, too.

Having just vacuumed my apartment, I thought to myself, “Well, my life sucks.”

Call it social envy: that feeling that everyone else is living the fabulous life and you, well... aren’t. You feel left out and not included. Today, because of photo filters, mobile apps and the never-ending number of photo editing tools, everyone seems to be prettier, younger and skinnier. But for me as a photographer, both by profession and by passion, I know that the final image is not always representative of the actual moment captured.

At dinner one Saturday evening just after appetizers were finished, our waiter brought the main course to the table. Steaming hot and full of beautiful colors, I knew this was a good photo op. I stood up and started arranging items on the table to get the right composition. After about five minutes, I began to get frustrated when the photograph was not turning out the way I wanted, and then after another five minutes, I gave up entirely.

You know what happened? When I took my first bite, my food was already cold. For the sake of the photo and impressing others with my decadent meal, I had just taken that first bite moment from, “this-is-amazing” to “eh-this-is-just-okay.”

That’s when my mom’s saying started playing like a broken record in my head: “Worry about yourself, not others.” In science, the process of osmosis is not immediate; it takes time for things to sink in. The same was the case with my mom’s sound advice. It took about six months after my food chilling “moment” for me to do just as she had taught me. 

It was a drab Tuesday when I saw a hometown friend, Bobby, upload a picture from his warm location at the beach. “No place like home” was the caption. In the dead of winter, I could have sighed in jealousy for the seat he was in versus myself, but that didn’t happen. I was happy for him -- happy that he was enjoying the warmth out in the sun, but also happy for the place I was in.

You see, despite the sometimes negative discussions about social media in our lives, I believe that it isn’t always a bad thing, and we shouldn’t always regard it as something negative in our lives. As corny as it sounds, I met some of my best friends through social media sites. We just have to be careful not to compare ourselves to other people’s lives.

Just like my momma said, “Worry about yourself, not others.”

Maddie Flanigan

Maddie Flanigan is behind Madalynne, the cool pattern-making and sewing blog. If Steve McQueen was the “King of Cool,” then Madalynne is the “Queen of Cool.” An educational, informational and inspirational blog, Madalynne provides how-to’s and tutorials on pattern-making and all things sewing related. Madalynne also documents the life of Maddie, including her own sewing projects, endeavors and sometimes struggles, so she can serve as an inspiration to her readers.

Maddie is one of our culture bloggers for The Opener, an exclusive, invite-only contributor network that will bring the best food, culture and innovation writing to the pages of Coca-Cola Journey