Gazing at the Face


I’ve never lost my phone or worried someone would pick it up and start snooping. Maybe I should be more concerned: imagine all my secrets revealed. And there’s always the first time it happens: you say you never lose your phone and then you do.

So I recently added facial recognition to the lock screen of my phone, with a password backup. That’s how you enter the inner sanctum now.

I’ve shared my numerical password with several personal VIPs, but the facial recognition feature is all mine. At first it identified me most of the time as long as I wasn’t backlit or in a dark room or wearing my glasses. That was the only question the app asked me when I set up the feature: Are you wearing glasses right now? No.

Facial data recognized.

Perfect. Worked beautifully, for a while. It’s only been a couple of months, but the app is recognizing my face less frequently, meaning I have to type in my password. A lot less frequently. Like never.

Have I changed that much, that quickly? I summon my grit and face myself in the mirror. Everything is familiar: the prevailing gray, the drawn battle lines, the sandbag defense system guarding my still-blue eyes. All familiar, yes, but not the same face of ten years ago, or twenty, or forty, not the face in the old family photos I’ve been looking at recently, the face of youth, of unknowing, the fresh face gazing at a faraway future.  

But there’s still something of the same cast to my eyes, and a similar semi-smile I rely on today, so the face of youth isn’t gone forever and not entirely forgotten and I get to see some of that face in Owen and Julia, and in that way my face, a little bit of it anyway—an angle or a look—remains young and then I too am young.

But none of that is important. What’s important is why the facial recognition isn’t working. Initial theory: something drastic has happened to my face. Up until now it’s been a fairly steady decline, neither a freefall nor a gentle glide. Just the inevitable path we all must travel. But have the jowls suddenly sunk deeper? Have the lips completely flattened? Has the gaze turned cloudy and vague?

No, it’s not that bad. I’m sure it’s the software malfunctioning. The app doesn’t let me view its current rendering of my face; it simply states that facial recognition data is stored. I delete the data. I register my face again. Now the feature is working well, recognizing the current version of my face almost all the time. But for how much longer, how much longer?

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


Subscribe to this Blog

Enter your email address to receive notifications of new posts by email.

Get in touch