It sounded like someone playing the bagpipes on a cat. Out of tune and out of time. Discordant.

I looked up the definition of “discordant.” It said sounds that are “harsh and jarring because of a lack of harmony; i.e., playing the bagpipes on a cat.”

The melodious mess emanating from my computer speakers took place on Christmas Eve. Across Zoom. A family stretched through three states – Florida, Virginia and New York – all gathering together to sing – for the sake of the story, we shall call it “singing” – Christmas carols.

Even without the coronavirus, many wouldn’t be together on Christmas thanks to the distance or the cost or other familial commitments. But now, here they were, joining one another for songs like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Jingle Bells.” Butchering them.

But if not in key, definitely in unison.

Thank you, 2020. This year, you taught us that technology could finally live up to its promise of bringing us closer together. That it could be useful and essential, not just cool, gimmicky and an escape. Most of the time we think of tech as transporting us away – in revolutionary video games, in the promise of perfect pictures through ever-thinner TV screens, in isolating wireless earphones.