The Rockwood Files: Insulted by my iPhone

There are benefits to being an “early adopter” of new technologies. If you’re a parent, the ability to navigate new technology makes it tougher for your teenagers to write you off as completely clueless.

If you’re in the workplace, being able to talk the technological talk makes people born after 1985 decide that perhaps it’s not yet time to put you out to professional pasture.

In addition to the parenting and professional perks, sometimes new technology is just plain fun. Virtual Reality apps will let you see how a new sofa would look in your own living room before you buy it at the store. And the iPhone’s “Animoji” technology lets you send friends a voice text message in the form of a talking panda bear, which really is as cute as it sounds.

But I must warn you: Sometimes technology is hard on the ego. Ever since I got the new iPhone X with facial recognition technology, I’ve had an ongoing argument with it first thing in the morning. Just in case you have an older phone, I’ll explain how the facial recognition feature works. When you get the new phone, it will scan your face several times from different angles so it can memorize your features.

Then, instead of unlocking the phone with a passcode or a fingerprint scan, you simply look at the phone and it unlocks as soon as it recognizes your face, which usually happens within a second. It’s extremely convenient.

When I set up my phone, I made sure to have my face scanned on an “average” day – meaning I had on a little makeup but not too much. I didn’t want my phone holding me to an overly polished high standard just so I could check my email. For the most part, my plan worked – with one notable exception.

Like many people, my smartphone doubles as my alarm clock. It charges and sleeps on my nightstand while I snooze on the bed beside it. Then at an hour that’s always earlier than I’d like, it starts loudly chiming, insisting I get up or shake it into snooze mode. But before that can happen, I must look at the phone to unlock it. At that early hour, when I’m half-asleep with a bad case of bedhead, the phone claims it doesn’t even know me.

I stare into the screen, but it shakes me off with a lock symbol and asks instead for a secret passcode to prove my identity. At 6 a.m., I barely remember my own name, much less an arbitrary series of numbers I’ve set up to be my passcode. So my electronic buddy and I begin the day with an argument. “It’s me, you stupid phone!” I say, squinting into the bright screen.

Meanwhile, the phone takes one look at my puffy face minus the help of cosmetics and silently says, “Yikes! There’s no way that’s really her. Looks more like a blobfish.” (If you haven’t seen a blobfish, Google it and you’ll see the worst case of morning-face on Earth.)

On most days, it takes a hot shower or a cup of caffeine before the phone will claim me as its master. Being given the cold shoulder from your own phone isn’t pleasant, nor is it a boost to a struggling middle-aged ego. I already know my face is changing, without having it electronically confirmed by the phone.

But I suppose that’s the price of progress, right? Perhaps one day the phone will be able to just scan my eyes (ignoring the crow’s feet beside them) and know it’s me. Or maybe developers will add a “morning face” accommodation that allows the facial recognition feature to factor in what a face looks like in the morning when it hasn’t had enough sleep or caffeine.

In the meantime, I’ll have to keep proving myself to a heartless, technological snob that doesn’t understand that anti-aging creams can only do so much.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of You can read more of Gwen’s work by clicking here to visit The Rockwood Files.