The summer before college started, my parents gifted me with a brand-new laptop. I was stoked to have the shiny new piece of technology and all the features that came along with it: the fancy touch bar that allows me to log in by scanning my fingerprint, the crystal-clear Retina screen that displays my Netflix shows — I mean, my work — so perfectly, and the increased battery life that lasts a full day. As advertised, the device was truly a “touch of genius.” I treated the laptop as if it were my unborn child, making sure not even the tiniest of scratches was made on the pristine silver back. Besides, I promised my parents I would use it for years and years to come, based on how much of a costly investment it was.
When I arrived on campus, I discovered that many students had received a similar high school graduation gift. If not the same as mine, everyone had a nice laptop of their own. However, to my dismay, the pristine silver, black or gray backs of their own laptops were hardly visible. Rather, the backs were plastered with colorful stickers, barely leaving enough space to be able to tell what color the laptop was originally.
“Why would they do that?” I admittedly thought. “It looks so chaotic and disorganized.”
At first, I thought having laptop stickers was just another quirky “Stanford thing,” like the Band or the Wacky Walk. Before long, I realized I was wrong – this was a nationwide phenomenon amongst college students. My friends at different universities also posted images of their sticker-filled laptop cases on social media. I was determined not to cave to the trend. I would keep my laptop sleek and clean, without any stickers or funky cases.
Sitting in class, however, I found my eyes wandering to the backs of my classmates’ laptops, smiling at the cute, creative stickers that covered them. When studying with my friends, I found myself asking, “Can I look at your laptop stickers?” and listening as they told the unique story of how they got or why they chose each one.
My friend who wants to study bioengineering explained that her favorite sticker was the one of the skeletal formation of serotonin, the chemical compound that transmits happiness in our bodies. Another friend bragged of her huge heart sticker that says “nugs” in the middle–she really does love chicken nuggets. A friend who is Jewish pointed out that she really likes her sticker that says “shalom.” Some other favorite stickers that I’ve seen include one that says “Dunder Mifflin Paper Company,” one that has the “Central Perk” logo and ones that have various Harry Potter references.
Slowly, I’ve come to understand and appreciate the phenomenon that is laptop stickers. By looking at the stickers on the back of someone’s laptop, you truly get a glimpse of the kind of person they are. You can tell what TV shows they like, what passions they have, what kind of aesthetic appeal they have, what they identify with. Each sticker represents a small part of what they love — who they are.
Plastering your laptop with stickers is a fun, creative way to show off your unparalleled identity. Though I have seen the same sticker on more than one laptop, there are no laptop skins that are composed of the exact same combination of multiple stickers. That, I think, is a result of the beautifully unique nature of each individual person.
On “Cyber Monday” earlier this week, I did not find myself shopping for clothes, electronics or books. Instead, this year, I splurged on some laptop stickers.
Contact Angie Lee at angielee ‘at’ stanford.edu.