There are few ways to express yourself at the office. There is the occasional framed photograph, a collage of postcards from exotic places, or an uplifting quote pasted to the cubicle wall. Some opt for creativity. I have a colleague who keeps a small toy horse on her desk, and in times of stress, will surreptitiously stroke its mane. When asked if she had a horse, she said no, and when asked if she liked horses, she said, sort of. The point is this: she’s definitely expressing something.
With the advent of technology, the easiest mode of expression at the office is through the computer desktop. Our bosses control so much of our lives—our hours, our daily tasks, our anxiety while using the public restroom—but in many offices, they can’t control what photographs we paste to our desktops. Here are some common themes:
Look At My Lover
The photograph of the lover is explaining to the rest of the office: Hey, I have a life outside of this hellhole. People love me and want to sleep with me. I’ll prove it—look at me and my boyfriend on this mountain, hiking. I’m smiling at the camera while he snuggles my neck or kisses my cheek. Yes, I’ve obviously taken this photo myself, holding the camera as far as my arm will stretch. Because I’m not Inspector Gadget, it’s actually a pretty unflattering photo, but look — LOOK AT MY LOVER.
Look How Active I Am
The activity desktop often employs the dark silhouette against a pretty background. Look at me galloping on the beach, backlit by an orange sunset, while wearing my Lululemon workout gear. Or, look at me with my snorkel pushed up over my face, having just surfaced from a deep sea dive, dripping wet and smiling. Attractiveness is not on the priority list, and I will often be sweating profusely, having just finished a marathon or jumped from a very high airplane. This is to explain to the rest of the office: I know I’m forced to live the life of a sloth in here, but if you guys saw me out there, in the real world, you’d be impressed. I’m pretty damn active.
Look At My Pet
This desktop background comes in a variety of options and is a personal favorite of yours truly. Having no boyfriend to speak of and living a fairly inactive lifestyle, this is my means of expression. Because I’m a fan of animals doing people things, my pet desktop usually involves my small, black dog wearing something funky or clever, or doing a human activity, like typing on the computer. Sometimes the pet owner is in the photo, cuddling said pet, but often the pet is sans human, alone, an individual. It says: I’m funny when I’m not around you all. I can dress my pet up like she’s a ball player or an office worker, like me—her owner, her lover, her entire freaking social life.
Look How Social I Am
This social desktop is favored by the office twenty-somethings. Red cups or Heinekens are never shown, but my colleagues can get the feeling by the glossy eyes and the too tight hugs of many smiling blonde girls that several drinks are somewhere in the periphery. Usually, all of my friends aren’t looking at the camera (they’re having too much fun!) and someone has their mouth open because they’re probably telling a very funny story or screeching loudly in gleeful enjoyment. To the office, I’m saying: Hey, trust me — I don’t need you guys. I have plenty of friends and plenty of fun outside of this dump.
Look At My Vacation
Usually, the vacation desktop makes use of an exotic local. I might be pressing hard on the Leaning Tower of Pisa (ha! I’m bending it!) or smiling from atop some white-washed terrace of Greece or zip lining through the tree tops of Costa Rica. Usually, this desktop is supposed to prove to my co-workers that I’m worldly. (However, I’ve seen this backfire when the vacation photo depicts a family reunion at Disney World.) If it goes according to plan, the vacation desktop is supposed to say: Hey co-workers, I’m not a boring nine to fiver like the rest of you. I get out and see the world! HOOYAH.
There are some creative, miscellaneous desktops—backgrounds which consist of hundred dollar bills, planets in the solar system, or my favorite pony. But the personal photograph remains a tried and true favorite. So get out there, and choose that computer desktop that best represents you. The whole office is waiting to judge.