When I was in high school, I scoffed at the college students who outfitted their laptops with a hodgepodge of vinyl stickers—obviously meant to inject some sort of individuality into the grey universality of the student persona. But then, I started college…and my relationship with my laptop changed dramatically. In college, your laptop is not merely the medium on which you do your English homework and catch an episode of Shameless before bed. In college, your laptop becomes so much more.
Take, for example, the first time you pulled out your laptop in front of a class, or in a new club. Whether you admit to it or not, you watch to see whose face lights up at the sight of your Monet sticker, or your Heather’s reference, or your Captain America shield. And you look, too—who’s laptop is the one with the Office quote? Is that a Pokémon? Are they from Pittsburgh? We use our laptop stickers as social feelers, putting them out into the public eye as extensions of ourselves, constantly looking to connect with someone whose stickers reflect our own. They’ve become a way to reach out without risking anything, as well as a way to yell at everyone in eyesight, “This is what is important to me. This is what I want you to know!”
Especially around exam periods, I find students often spend their time in places like Conn, the reading room, or the library cafe—high traffic environments that also happen to play host to people who are surviving solely on iced coffee and sheer willpower to get their last papers written and submitted. These are bleak and unsocial times, where we hunker behind our laptops as if they were physical barriers between the rest of the world and ourselves. And in a way, they are. An open laptop (coupled with headphones or earbuds) has become a defense against interaction, a way to hide when you need a moment to yourself or a bit of peace and quiet.
The laptop stickers are placed on this metaphoric shield like crest on literaones. They let the outside world know who is behind the fortress without ever having to speak to them. They let allies identify allies and keep strangers away (or draw potential friends near). They are a means of expression that, if read into, can give you away entirely. So, what do your laptop stickers say about you?