The Other Illness Is Here: Social Unplugging

Calvin Lee
4 min readApr 23, 2021


It’s April 2021, and we are living in a lockdown state. The other illness is here and it’s spreading quickly. I can’t definitively say what it is beyond the subconscious feeling that a big chunk of the population are becoming more and more reserved in regards to meeting new people. Most call it staying safe and they’re probably right. I call it social unplugging.

If the thoughts and observations of social unplugging feels like it borders on the line of paranoia, that’s because it probably is. To recognize and observe this phenomenon feels like the type of vertigo you get when you look off of a condominium balcony 30 floors up.

The other day I took a walk through the streets and came upon a rally. Nurses against lockdowns. Current and former nurses shared with the crowd testimonies of their experience in the healthcare industry during the last year.

“They’re censoring us! Any type of conversation that goes against mainstream thought on vaccinations, lockdown measures, and mask wearing, and our license will be on the line”.

The crowd was energized by sentiments of freedom and liberty. It was a multi-generational gathering of people from all sorts of Canadian walks of life. Families, couples, cynics, older folks with cigarette problems, and others whom you could still smell yesterday’s alcohol on their skin.

The religious were there too. A pastor who fits the prototype for father of a nuclear family and raises God-fearing children. Prayers were made for those who make public decisions — “God, please grant those in power with your clarity to make policies in a more humane way — in Jesus name we pray, amen.” Their cries of hope filled the ether.

While the message there was the same as the ones being purported a few taps away on your phone if you search #endthelockdowns, there was one unspoken message that rang at a frequency that you can only feel when you’re in the crowd. These people were looking for community and social acceptance in a time where the classical sense of community is non-existent, and social acceptance is teetering on the realm of polarity.

Four blocks down the road, a not so different social gathering was occurring.

A quartet of charismatic and in shape fitness coaches lead their form of protest by leading a workout.

“Mountain climbers for 30 seconds, LET’S GO!”

In front of them on this park lawn, was a swath of millennials — all trim and fit. The majority of whom you would suspect to be “social media famous.”

Their message? Open up gyms and lift the restrictions on exercise. Outdoor physical activity is safe to do. Their protest was one spoken through the physical exertion of working out.

Once again, the workout and message was loud, but the affinity for community and social gathering was louder.

We’ve entered a society where social gatherings are done so under the pretense of protesting. In so far as the ramifications of that on our psychology, I’d be interested in seeing what social psychologists have to say in the years to come.

What’s worrisome to me are all the individuals who have been alone and remain alone during this time.

Social isolation has the power to unravel the mind in a potent and powerful way. Prolonged isolation will pull on the strings of your hormones, sleep patterns, and immune system. All of which lead to systemic health problems. On a more psychedelic scale, isolation leads to an altered sense of time, visual and auditory hallucinations. Of course these happen in extreme circumstances, but let me ask you — what’s the metric for extreme? Different people have different thresholds.

Silence of our surroundings can be a fearful teacher. It’s easier to inundate and dull the senses with external gratification. Pornography addiction, gluttony, television marathons, video game consumption, drug abuse, alcoholism. As if they weren’t an issue before — you better believe that the demons hiding behind those vices have made new recruitment’s in the last year.

I’ve seen the lines in front of the local liquor stores, and I’m sure you have too. I’m reminded of the memes elucidating double standards on alcohol consumption. If you’re poor and an alcoholic, it’s considered trashy. If you’re wealthy, it’s considered glamorous. How long can urban elites live their lives behind that veil until their livers give out, and we have an explosion in this bracket for deaths: patient had liver failure and died with COVID.

And here’s another thing that was always in our face, but we can’t ignore anymore: the lonesome folks who carry body language of unpredictable behaviour roaming the streets day and night. Public transit is seemingly now a service where only the vulnerable and racialized uses. I’m a 6’2 man, and confident in my own ability for self-defense, and yet, there are real moments where I feel uncomfortable. The fabric of social safety has been torn apart — patchwork pending.

These are my thoughts. Hopefully it adds a little colour to the statistics. If the colours seem dark, that’s because they are. Our current circumstances reads like a dystopian fiction novel, and upon reflection, this is not the type of society I want to thrive in.



Calvin Lee

One approach to questioning life as it is |