Ello, California

There's been quite a bit of buzz recently surrounding a new social network called ello. It sounds very cool, hip and artsy. The guy who conceived of the idea is from Burlington, so I guess that makes me like it just a little bit more. Though, to be sure, Vermont is crawling with brainy, talented, creative people, so it's not that big a surprise. Overall, though, I have a deep sense of weariness around the thought of yet another online, people-come-together time-suck. Sure, it might be ad-free, and streamlined and visually appealing. Yes, there's a whiff of exclusivity in the air, as apparently one needs to be invited to join. I think I'll stop there, actually. Because what I really need is an invitation to depart from the online social noise in my life. I need someone to take me by the hand and lead me gently away from my computer and back to the land of the living on a far more regular basis.

Which, actually, is what I'm doing this week, here in California. I came out here a few days ago to bask in the heat -- and, man, has it been hot -- and the glow of my two young nephews and my brother and his lovely wife. I came out here to sniff the new baby's breath and to play ridiculous games in the pool with Dylan. I gave Dylan the nickname Zippy before he was born two years ago, and the last time I was here, he named me Woo Hoo. Picture the two of us, hand-in-hand and headed to the park, Zippy and Woo Hoo. It's the best. The best. 

I was tasked with creating something called a Genogram for one of my classes this week. It's basically a souped-up family tree that contains lots of extra information, like who had what illness, who was an alcoholic, who battled depression, where the broken relationships are. The idea is that a family can track the flow of things through generations and thus be better-prepared to deal with what everyone is facing in the here-and-now. It was a stark realization, but no surprise, to be reminded that almost everyone in my family is dead. From my parents (and my parents, alone -- no siblings there) down we're all still kicking, but go back just one generation before that and everyone is gone. They took with them their stories -- my stories -- and a whole lot of our history. But it's OK. It really is OK. Because I'm in California giggling with my baby nephew, Justin Silver. And I'm experiencing new things. My sister-in-law is Jewish, so I learned a bit about Yom Kippur the other night. I got to partake in the family's celebration. It's not the easiest thing in the world, for me to leave behind my life back home, to come all the way out here, but it's one of the most important things, that's for sure.

Because of the sheared-off family tree. And because of the never-ending tsunami of artificial opportunities for interacting with people. Because there's a grave danger, in the world in which we live, that we may all fall farther and farther out of touch with one another. Do we need another glossy, sexy, web-based social media vortex? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say no. I'm going to suggest something a little radical, a little outdated, a lot beautiful: if you're looking for a way to interface with people you care about, go see them. Stop staring at a screen into the lives of people you may or may not actually know and spend time in the company of the people you love. They smell really good.