You probably have a social media account or two, or maybe more depending on your age and other factors. And you probably let all of your various readers and hangers-on about the interesting things you are doing. And I assume you’re also interested in the things the people in your online life are doing, as well. But do you have a supportive social network?

Social networks are cited as important for many health and mental health reasons, particularly for keeping our happiness index high. They keep our blood pressure low and our heart rates more regulated. They give us a general sense of well-being. (see the link below) But what, exactly, is a social network?

A social support network is a group of friends or family members who know you well and whom you can call on in times of distress. They’re the people you call when you want to share good news or who can lift you up when you get bad news. They’re the people who call you when they need someone, too. It’s the ladies you go out with for happy hour or the friends you meet once a month for dinner just so you can check in on each other. They’re the neighbors who stop by to talk and bring you fresh tomatoes or the meet-up group you go hiking with on Saturdays. They’re the people you see when you go to your place of worship who know your name and know some of the important things about your life. They’re the other parents you see at the park or on play dates. The activities you do (or don’t do) together are not as important as the fact that you spend time being the presence of one another.

These same people might be your friends, followers, and associates on social media, too, but there’s no replacement for actual direct connections with the people who are important to you. Of course, you may not be able to have dinner with your college friends who are spread out across the country or across the globe very often, but you can have meaningful contact with them, even through a computer or phone. I get so busy just getting through the day sometimes that I feel like I don’t have enough time to keep up these contacts, but then every time I do, I notice how important they really are for me.

One group of friends I have plan a get-together once a month, rain or shine, and every time I go, I leave feeling refreshed and renewed. Other people I talk to on specific occasions, like holidays or planned events that happen a couple of times a year. And still others call me spontaneously to see if I’m available for something interesting that is happening right now. However it works for you, make time to enjoy the people in your social support network. You’ll be glad you did!