Has anything like this ever happened to you?
Last week, I was sitting at work and I got a text. It was a friend asking me if my dog was missing because she had seen a photo of a dog posted on Facebook that looked exactly like him. I called the kids at home to ask, and lo and behold, he was missing! Meanwhile, my husband had already seen the post, called home to ask the kids if good ole Harley was missing (they didn't even know he was missing, by the way), tracked down the Facebook poster and was on the way to retrieve the dog.
According to Jeff Tinsley, CEO of MyLife, it is stories like these that contribute to a growing anxiety related to social networks -- FOMO, Fear of Missing Out.
"Here's what we know," Tinsley explained, "For people, their relationships matter to them. Your friends, your family, your professional connections, there are a lot of connections that people are trying to manage and they are just afraid of missing any news, any updates."
On July 9, 2013, MyLife.com announced the results of a national survey on social media behavior. The study reveals that social networkers are overwhelmed with managing their increasing numbers of social networks and email accounts to the point that 52 percent of respondents have either taken or have considered taking a "vacation" from one or more social networks in the past year.
"I was shocked to find out that people have very different sets of connections. We actually found that 68 percent have their friends, their colleagues, their different contacts strewn across the different services they use," Tinsley reported. "So it's a lot of different connections, a lot of different news they are fearful of missing out on."
The survey found that 42 percent of online adults manage multiple social networking profiles and 51 percent belong to more social networks or visit their networks more frequently than two years ago. The average adult manages 3.1 email accounts, an increase from 2.6 last year, and Tinsley was surprised to find out that 57 percent stay in touch via personal email accounts rather than social accounts.
"You connections are just all over the place. The updates are all over the place," Tinsley pointed out. "And yet at the same time no one wants to miss anything. We all feel the pain, it's just no one has really brought forward a lot of the facts and the statistics for this whole problem."
This is where MyLife.com can help by housing everything in one spot, according to Tinsley. In addition to identity monitoring and finding and organizing connections, the site allows members to house email and social networking accounts on one site and one dashboard to help streamline online management. You can prioritize and deprioritize your connections so that you get the information that matters most first.
"It helps you pull all of your connections together, and it helps you not miss anything that matters from the people that matter the most to you," Tinsley added. "We are getting a lot of positive feedback around the product. I, for one, am getting much better use of my time. I love being able to have everything together and my messages get prioritized based on who I talk to the most and who I designate as a priority contact in the service. It doesn't matter where they are sharing, I get to see those messages first."
Even in the face of social media anxiety, most people would rather give up some interesting things than to give up their social media.
"We have some funny questions related to people not wanting to give up these services. People will give up a lot, do a lot instead of giving up social media and email," Tinsley said. "They'd rather go to jail. They would rather get a root canal. They would rather give up smoking. They'd rather go through a lot of pain is what it boils down to. The relationships are too important and these services that keep them tied together are just too important."
Of those that take a break from social media or email, it doesn't seem to last.
"Even though it's 52 percent who are taking a break or who have considered taking a break, they go back," Tinsley said. "You can't live without these social services and email services because that is how we stay connected to each other these days."
Tinsley believes that the Fear of Missing Out is a legitimate one.
"People are using these services for all their relationships. For everybody, their career is important," he explained. "Everybody has professional connections, too, across email and social, and so they can't miss any of them because you never know when there's an important opportunity that will arise as a result."
According to the MyLife survey, 27 percent of respondents check their social networks immediately upon waking in the morning. Using MyLife.com can reduce the time this takes.
"I have three email accounts," said Tinsley. "I represent the average. Email accounts usually get checked first thing in the morning. It's a lot of trouble. We allow people to deprioritize and at the same time prioritize message that are important. That's how we are trying to help with the whole problem of having multiple accounts."
MyLife also helps educate members about different social services and how to get the most out of them.
"They are valuable services. I love Facebook. I love Twitter. I need these services, but we are trying to streamline what you do every day in line with the problems that people are having," Tinsley stated. He added that MyLife recommends and showcases different services in a way that works most efficiently for individuals, including discovering where your connections are sharing that you may have missed before.
MyLife.com can incorporate Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL and Outlook. They are looking to add Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and Google+ in the near future.
"Ultimately we want to help people get more out of their relationships. It's just too overwhelming to people," Tinsley concluded. "If you are going to miss things that are important to you, you are not going to get as much out of those relationships. An ultimate goal for us is to help you get more value out of all the relationships you have or those you need."
And in my case, that includes my relationship with the family dog.