I never thought owning a smart phone would be tantamount to a Gothic experience.
Last December I bought a Huawei Mate 10 Pro as a Christmas gift to myself. The main attraction was of course the Leica lenses that came with the phone. In modern living, a mobile phone is the ear and the eye, and the scrivener, of the phone-owner. But it has been assuming more and more the role of a butler in a new house, a house not too unlike that in eighteen-century Gothic novels where dark drama lurks at every corner and awaits the unwitting female character.
Creepiness could come in the form of sounds or tunes emanating from the phone. I might not have closed some running apps (could not fathom it anyway) and took a few moments to figure out how to snuff it out.
My phone can be stubborn at times. It would, for example, of its own accord dim the screen at times I least expected it, presumably to protect my eyes and to save on the battery. It took quite a few rounds of negotiating the screen-lit level with the genie in the case before it finally seemed to dawn on it that its master is someone who needs all the light in the world to see clearly. The dog finally sees that it’s a seeing eye dog.
Not so the built-in speller. It’s still making far-flung assumptions of what I have texted or will be texting next. It’s doing a lot more than dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s. Poor me still agonize over going back and forth to unaccept and retype the texts.
I guess I shouldn’t fault my phone for being civilized. Sometimes when I want to download an app, it would ask me for permission to share something about me. Being a tech-paranoiac, I would be like Mr. Lockwood in Wuthering Heights who thinks he hears the ghost of Catherine Linton crying outside the window: ‘Let me in──let me in!’ Being a tech-paranoiac, I declined every time for fear that part of me would become fodder in the cyberworld or the data marketplace.
When the phone is smarter than the man, or woman for that matter, the romance may turn Gothic.
This article was originally published in No. 519, Newsletter.