Desktop Wallpaper Isn't a Thing Anymore

Does personalization matter when you work in a browser?

Back in the golden days of personal computing, choosing desktop wallpaper was a ritual, an exercise in self reflection. How do I want to feel, we’d ask ourselves as we scrolled through endless libraries of inspirational scenes, when I return home? No matter how much the forces of the workplace or the internet or pornography shook you, your desktop was always there to remind you: This is who you are.

But thanks to Google Chrome and Apple’s relentless ability to remember exactly where you left off, we don’t go home anymore. The desktop image, once a visual totem of our best and realest selves, is now nothing but a surface on which our screenshots and downloads pile up.

I just saw my desktop wallpaper, a blurry, black-and-white iPhone photo of Toronto’s skyline, for the first time in weeks because I made a concerted effort to see it. A small part of me, the melodramatic, totem-carrying part, obviously misses the place I grew up. But the functional part of me is doing other stuff, which is presumably why I clearly chose this wallpaper in a rush. I must’ve been busy AF, otherwise I would have sought resolution — that works on multiple levels BTW.

I’m far from alone on this one, which is why I asked the Inverse team to share their desktops and reflect on their varying degrees of sentimentality about those images. My co-workers are strange, but they’re not outliers. Wallpaper isn’t what it once was.

Matthew Strauss

“I used to change it every few months in my freshman year of college because my best friend did and he was cool. Then I hit on this and, like the mountain, I gave up.”

Hannah-Margaret Allen

“I use the colors in the background to keep things organized.”

Eric Francisco

“I <3 Ben Affleck.”

Andrew Burmon

“Not to be an asshole, but I’ve been to a lot of places. Yosemite is not one of those places. This picture of Half Dome reminds me of that time I bought a computer and never minimized all the browser windows at the same time ever again.”

Ben Guarino

“My rhino says hi.”

Peter Rugg

“It’s as cluttered and barren as my life.”

Gem Seddon

“Might undermine the point!” (This photo of Gem’s old backyard somewhat undermines the point. Gem had a nice backyard!)

Sam Eifling

“Usually I slap up a nature scene — mountains or sunsets or space or some shit like that — just so I can remember that there are things to do in the world besides yoking myself to a computer. The current photo has the advantage of having dark edges, because I’m one of those people who leaves folders on my desktop. Hashtag visual contrast.”

Sean Hutchinson

“Carl Sagan FTW”

Colin St. John

“This is boring.”

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