Cute, colorful and (at times) corny, stickers have become a sweeping sensation. Many have capitalized on the popularity of stickers by starting small businesses on Etsy, Redbubble and other sites. Souvenir shops have begun filling racks upon racks with stickers. Stickers are appearing in more and more merchandise collections. UCLA even mails every admitted student a package of stickers to congratulate them on their acceptance. Stickers have stuck, and with their continued growth, they don’t seem to be going anytime soon.
So what’s the deal with stickers? What makes them so ap-peel-ing to the general public, especially with college students?
The answer lies in self-expression.
The stickers a person chooses to use tend to say something about themselves. Stickers give people the choice to pick what parts of their personality they want to express to their peers. Some of the most popular types of stickers represent music artists, sports teams, communities, places and TV shows. Nearly every UCLA student who uses stickers will have at least one showing Bruin pride on their laptop or water bottle. And if there’s only one sticker to be seen, it will more than likely rep the blue and gold. So much of a student’s sense of self — what they devote time to, what they’re passionate about, what they’re proud of — can be seen through their stickers.
Swathya Chauhan, a third-year student majoring in astrophysics with a minor in English and a proud member of the queer community, believes using stickers allows her to express her sense of identity. “I think the biggest point [of stickers] is self expression. … For example, I’m queer — I have a pride sticker on my laptop as well. So I guess it’s a way of expressing our identity,” she said.
Not only can stickers act as a way to express oneself, but they can also be a way to connect with others. “We all need an outlet even if you don’t want to be vocal about it. It tells the person across from you something about you,” Chauhan added.
For Chidinma Okafor, a second-year student majoring in African-American studies with a minor in global studies, stickers tell the person across from her that she is a music lover. “There’s something about stickers and showing your personality, or your music taste and kinda being like, okay, you got a Frank Ocean sticker, I listen to Frank Ocean,” Okafor said.
Students also use stickers as a way to motivate them throughout the day.
Karen Li, a second-year student majoring in human biology and society and minoring in religion, enjoys documenting places she’s been through her stickers. Li says reminders of what is meaningful to her helps her get through her academics. “We are on our computers so much, [stickers] kinda add even just a little bit of fun to studying,” she said.
In fact, Chauhan says the reason why she prefers stickers on her laptop as opposed to placing stickers elsewhere (such as a water bottle) is because it’s likely that she’ll be stressed, typing away at an assignment, and looking at her laptop stickers improves her mood.
At its core, the sticker trend is a way for one to wear their heart on their sleeve. It keeps visual representations of the important pieces of their identity close to them throughout the day, providing bursts of happiness and motivation. With the fast speed of everyday life, it gives a passerby the chance to peek into the personality of a peer. Stickers act as the first step to learning more about another human being and can trigger feelings of comfort, understanding, excitement and so much more.
Stickers are a testament to what university students may seek — a cute, colorful, creative way to express important parts of themselves among a sea of people, and an invitation to establish deeper connections with the person behind the laptop.
“I think it’s just a time in our generation to show our personalities,” said Okafor. “Especially because college is hard, you need little outlets to show that you’re still a person and not a number. So, I don’t know. Even in a silly way, I just love stickers.”
Featured Image Photographed by Dominic Pham/BruinLife Photo Studio