To be quite honest I’m incredibly stressed out this week, and life is scary, and I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to write for this blog. So I’m not going to follow the typical structure; instead, I’d like to take the time to examine the simpler examples of media in Tufts culture. At the time that I am writing this, I am sitting in the Rez (the daily enabler of my coffee and muffin addiction). I am surrounded by people on their laptops, many of which (including mine) are emblazoned with stickers proclaiming support of causes, states, sports teams, phrases and fandoms. I firmly believe that you can tell a person’s personality by what stickers they place on their laptop, what posters they put on their walls. Even if you’ve never talked to someone, just glancing at their laptop is a character study.
In my Media and Society class, we recently read a book called Buying In: What We Buy and Who We Are by Rob Walker. The book primarily discusses the ways in which advertising is becoming more and more integrated into our lives. While this doesn’t sound too interesting, the book is actually highly entertaining and informative. I would have read it in my free time for fun, which is really saying something. In the entirety of the book, however, there was one quote which especially spoke to me: “You surround yourself only with who you are.” (Walker, p. 261).
The clothes we buy, the objects we use to decorate our house, the stickers which we put on our laptop: these are indicators of our personality. Take the girl I am sitting next to at the Rez, Julia, a freshman using a Mac with a pink cover emblazoned with different stickers. There’s a sun symbol from the movie Tangled, a with dancing baby Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy, a couple of Supernatural stickers and a phrase from The Breakfast Club. Just by looking at her laptop, I was able to learn that she was a fan of science-fiction, a feminist, and a user of the blogging site Tumblr.
My laptop has a similar fandom crossed with social justice theme. There’s a sticker from the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, which is where I interned over the summer, and another from an anti-human trafficking forum I attended while I was at the UN. Looking at my laptop, you also know that I’m a gigantic nerd, as sticker representatives of Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye comics and Captain America cover its surface. When people look at my laptop, I want them to know what I like, what moves me. I want them to know who I am. It’s also a good conversation starter: if you’ve seen Lost, you’ll maybe want to talk with me about what the Dharma Initiative was actually all about.
When people have clean, sticker-less laptop surfaces, I don’t think it points to a lack of personality. Rather it shows that they choose to exhibit who they are in a different forum. Perhaps through clothes, or pins on a backpack. As Walker discusses in Buying In, we ascribe meaning to objects, not the other way around. People love band t-shirts because of what the music means to them, they buy a colorful backpack because they feel it represents their personality. Objects are a function of who we are in modern society, and nothing is more representative of this fact than a laptop sticker.
So next time you see a sticker-covered laptop at the campus center, do a little time to do some modern anthropological sleuthing. It’s a great way to find out about this Tufts community, and also to take a little study break in between all of the stress.