I don’t turn off my cellphone when I go into a movie theater. At one point I didn’t bother with the process because my phone couldn’t get reception in the sound-proofed rooms anyway. Now I turn on airplane mode in silent protest of the seemingly endless series of warnings to turn the device off. One of those messages asks the audience to wonder if phones dream when you turn them off. The clip instructs you to text the number provided after the movie to find out what your phone dreamed about.1 I mention this clip because it implies that your phone has a mind of its own and that you can communicate with it. Don’t worry, though, your phone is one of the good guys, not those computers that come to terrorize the human race in The Matrix or Terminator franchises.3
“We want you back.” So the automatically generated email from Yahoo! (sent to my Google account) just told me. Once the images appeared, the email from Yahoo! consisted of text informing me that my Yahoo! account will be deactivated in July and an image of a pretty Asian woman with long brown hair and a sweater looks at a smartphone (an iPhone, I think). I guess she is supposed to be looking at her Yahoo! email account. Further observation reveals that she is standing on a rocky beach overlooked by mountains that jut out into the sea. In the blurry background several of her blurry friends are setting up or taking down a blurry picnic. But she seems dispassionate about her surroundings and oddly enthralled by her phone and, by insinuation, her Yahoo! account.
Now, I have checked my phone while hiking along the side of a mountain the middle of New Hampshire, but, in my defense, I was trying to warn some other hikers about a treacherous stretch of trail. As it turned out, there was no reception on the mountain anyway. That was just as well. The message from this picture is clear though: go enjoy the outdoors, but nothing there is going to be quite as thrilling as whatever it is that Yahoo! provides.4
This email in and of itself has exerted a hold on me because while I have used certain Yahoo! services in the past few years,5 I haven’t actually used a Yahoo! email account in close to a decade. I sign into my Yahoo! services through my Google account. So when Yahoo! sent me an automatically generated message meant to imply that the people at Yahoo! care about me and want me to return to them, I interpreted the message as my Yahoo! account begging me not to end its existence. My Yahoo! account and the affiliated servers were the “we” in the message, not the company or the employees.
Maybe the Asian girl in the picture has an intimate relationship with her account that makes interaction with real people (let alone nature) unsatisfactory. I don’t know. In any case, my Yahoo! account is a stranger to me.
1 I have been vaguely curious whether anyone actually tries to find out what their phone dreams about about. For one thing, the same clip that supplies the number to send the message to has just ordered the audience to turn off their phones, the same devices that serve as memory crutches. How many people in that darkened theater have pen and paper to write down the number? And even for those people who stay until after the credits to catch a thirty second glimpse at an upcoming sequel,2 there is no reminder that your phone has been dreaming and there is a number you can use to psychoanalyze your phone. My phone stays on at almost all times except when I drop it sending the back cover and battery skittering across the floor. But that is less like going to sleep and more like being bludgeoned with a baseball bat or knocked cold after falling from a ledge.
2Or, as I sometimes do, you just must find out what that song was that was playing at the crucial moment.
3I assume this is the case. Who knows? Maybe your phone is dreaming of world conquest rather than of Giga pets romping around a digital yard.
4Then again, there is a danger of being so distracted by your phone that a bear will surprise you.
5For instance, fantasy baseball, fantasy hockey, and college football pick’em.