If you want to know me, look at my laptop

The growing trend of stickers on laptops portrays who we are better than any other medium


Hanna Preston is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. 

Riley Walsh | Cavalier Daily

I remember placing my first order. It was the July before my first semester, and I had been preparing for quite some time. I had spent hours scrolling through the website and selecting the best ones. My obsession — Redbubble. The objects of my affection — stickers. I ordered copious stickers, all of which were destined for the front of my laptop. It was a necessity. Everyone I knew that was in college and owned a laptop had sticker collages on their covers. I felt that, as an incoming first-year, I too needed stickers to show off what is important to me. 

While an obsession with stickers may seem childish, it is very real among us “young adults.” We take our stickers seriously. Stickers have different meanings in as much as each tells a story — about our likes, dislikes, experiences. Furthermore, I believe stickers fall into two main categories. 

The first category includes any sticker intentionally ordered from websites such as Redbubble or Society6. These are quotes, screen-caps from favorite TV shows, drawings by artists and the occasional meme reference. I have one that is a picture of Michael Scott from The Office with the caption, “[quietly] I’ll kill you.” I also have one of Rafiki from The Lion King meditating. Quotes I have include “cool beans” and “don’t be a prick” written on a cactus. 

I ordered these because they, of course, all meant something to me. Like other college students, I have repeatedly binge-watched The Office, and I just had to memorialize that. The Lion King never fails to make me feel a surge of emotions, and Rafiki is one of my favorite characters — I especially love when he whacks Mufasa over the head with his stick. Seeing Rafiki every time I take out my laptop makes me lighten up.

My stickers are references to my personality. I never know how to respond to an awkward interaction, and I usually end up saying something silly like “cool beans” — something no one else would ever naturally say. And I don’t think people should be unnecessarily obnoxious, hence my “don’t be a prick” sticker. I believe these stickers represent what we like, what we believe and even just what we think is funny — they obviously do for me. But see how many The Office or Parks and Recreation stickers you find. With the crazy amount you’ll see, I’d say they do for other people too.

The second category includes stickers not ordered online but still collected. These are given by the University, clubs and organizations we are a part of, campaigns and platforms we support or events we have attended. Whereas the first category reflects our personality, the second reflects our lived experiences. These stickers say what year we are in school, what clubs we are a part of and so much more. I have my “U.Va. Class of 2022” sticker right in the middle, with my CavDaily and “Wah-Jew-Wah” stickers surrounding it. 

The balance between the two categories of stickers on the faces of our laptops creates a well-rounded image of the owner. Anyone can see who the person behind the screen is, and building the collage helps us also understand who we are, who we want to be and what we want to share with the world. 

As we join new organizations and discover new interests, we add more stickers. It’s inevitable — have you seen how many clubs sell stickers and encourage all new members to buy them “for just $1?” There is no way to avoid them. So we layer up stickers, visibly showing the latest thing taking up a part of our lives. We can remove old ones, but most of us don’t. It leaves a sticky residue, and keeping old stickers shows our progression as we grow and try new things. It’s a timeline of what we choose to incorporate into our being. 

Furthermore, I think laptop stickers portray who we are more accurately than any other means of identification — including our resumes and social media profiles. Resumes and CVs are simply lists of accomplishments and work experiences that condense us into one or two pages. Yes, stickers can also show off our accomplishments and work experiences, but they’re also more personal. A resume is formal — there are no feelings behind it, and its job is to impress a potential employer. We choose which accomplishments we want to highlight with stickers, and the act of choosing and customization makes stickers infinitely more meaningful. 

But stickers also differ from social media. To a certain extent, social media platforms, such as Instagram, are about garnering as many likes and followers as possible. To do so, we post content we think others will enjoy. Our pictures are posted for our followers’ approval. We want to look our best, brag about our latest vacation or showcase our most recent accomplishment. We don’t often post something just because it makes us laugh or without caring about what other people will think. If there’s something not-so-cool we want to share, we edit, photoshop or come up with a “punny” caption so the picture will still seem cute.

On the other hand, we’re not searching for anyone’s approval when we put stickers on our laptop. You can’t really edit a sticker after it’s bought to fit an aesthetic. Every sticker stands on its own, and together, they make up one huge mess of person — which is who we are. Our lives don’t naturally fit one aesthetic, which is why laptop collages are a combination of different colors, shapes and ideas. They’re a  jumble of likes, dislikes, jokes, experiences, stories and random things we collect as we go about our days. That is why, if you want to know who I am, look to my laptop cover — it will tell you more about me than any resume or Instagram account ever could. 

Hanna Preston is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com. 

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