In Butler, everywhere I look, I see sunflowers, albums covers, iconic TV show quotes. I see cityscapes, puns, and unusual designs sprawled across the front of computers. Whenever I attempt to make some progress on my work before my next class, I look around in a sea of laptops. Columbia has it all: MacBooks, HPs, ASUSes, Surfaces, Dells, all decorated—or completely covered—with their own laptop stickers. My MacBook is also home to 10 stickers of its own, including a young Barack Obama, a Stanley quote from The Office, and a fragment of Sappho’s poetry.
All of these laptops were once pristine and fresh, unmarked by the personality of their owners. When I got a new laptop, I excitedly opened the sleek box, removed all the plastic wrap, and learned how to operate my new machine. For a while, there was nothing I enjoyed more than the shine of a clean case.
We make a significant investment when we buy a laptop, so why deface it with $3 stickers from Society6 and RedBubble? It's the equivalent of putting bumper stickers on a Lamborghini. And yet, there came a point in time in which I, as a laptop owner, decided to distinguish my property from everyone else’s—to mark up the once pristine surface with some of my interests and quirks. While I may have originally purchased these stickers because they were cute and worthy of an Instagram post, I would suspect that I was looking for a way to link my identity with my technology.
There comes a point when our identity becomes so intertwined with our technology that we begin to view our laptops as extensions of ourselves. A level of comfort forms with this connection, and it is easy to lose sight of the laptop as the pristine machinery we once invested in: We casually leave our laptops out in a public space while we go buy a snack or take a nap, like we would a notebook. Maybe we have a subliminal trust in society, but it’s more likely that the proliferation of these laptops and our stickers help us forget the value of the technology that we leave sitting on the library table unaccompanied.
For such an expensive product, technology seems to be changing by the day. Trends come and go and products release so often that it’s difficult to keep up, and we are constantly itching for the next—and newest—gadget. Laptops, are semi-permanent investments: They are expensive but they are not everlasting. In the same way, a laptop sticker is not a permanent decision; it can always be changed, covered, or removed at the owner’s whim. These stickers serve as a modern way of creating a timeline of who we are and where our interests lie.
A person becomes easily identifiable by this form of self-expression on the back of their laptop screen, simplifying their identity into categories. Laptop stickers display the shared interests of their owners, reminding them that they are not alone. Whether that be a fellow viewer of Friends or an advocate for Planned Parenthood, we use labels—based on our interests, something that only we know best—to represent the communities we belong to.
But when we personalize our laptops, we also use these decals to literally cover up the fact that we all invest in the same machines. Underneath our adhered identities lie the same few brand logos—a permanent reminder that we are not all as individual as we claim.
The laptop sticker trend seems to have stuck on Columbia’s campus. We are constantly striving toward an unabashed expression of personal identity, seeking to show ourselves to our peers through a nearly unavoidable element of our daily lives: our laptops. We bring images attached to our laptops everywhere—back and forth from Butler and class, out on city excursions, in dorm lounges, at club meetings. Whether our laptop stickers are the result of an aesthetic preference or a larger statement about our individuality, we carry with us these small fragments of ourselves, weaving our own narratives in a simply modern way.
Have fun leafing through our ninth issue!