Last fall I posted a survey to find out what people have on their desktops, in part to see if there was any difference between what men and women use for background images. At the time, I was at a conference and had noticed that more men than women had photos of their kids as their desktop background, and wondered if women were concerned about not seeming professional enough. I'm not sure if my hypothesis survived the data, but it was interesting to see what people checked off in the survey: family photos vs. landscapes vs. geometric patterns etc. I thought I'd provided fairly comprehensive coverage for options in the survey, but today I realized I left out an option.
Today as I was sitting in a meeting, the man next to me had his laptop open, and after a while his screen saver came on. I glanced over and noticed that his screen saver was the kind that cycles stored photos. And this man had lots and lots of photos of .. himself. When he went back to his desktop, I was somewhat relieved to see that he does not have a photo of himself as his wallpaper (it was a standard factory-issued default abstract background). I was kind of fascinated by the self-screen-saver, and I developed two hypotheses, neither of which I was able to test, alas: (1) the obvious one: he's a flaming narcissist, or (2) he was borrowing his wife's computer and she thinks he's beautiful and has filled the computer with photos of her beloved.
Despite some evidence to the contrary, I did give this meeting lots of attention, gave my talk, shared my insights such as they are, and met some interesting people. I became briefly (and I hope subtly) unhinged when, minutes before my talk, I was told that my talk was being recorded (audio AND video) for posting on the internet so that the world (or, at least, my mother) can download it. I don't even like still images of myself, and I would make a terrible screen-saver.
13 years ago
I'm interested in becoming a scientist. Right now I attend a junior college and am finishing up my AA in English. I'm seriously reconsidering my line of study. How do I know science is for me?
BY the way, interesting post. I'll be back.
I never thought of it before...
I have two desks. I can honestly say, that I have NO personal items at all on either one. They are both piled with papers and various items demanding my attention. What does that mean?
Nothing on my desktop - mainly i don't wanna lose one ounce of pc's computing power :P
My Personal Blog
4/27/2007 11:44:00 PM
U R right - men have more pictures of their family perhaps. Ever tried staying away from them for prolonged periods of time?? Then u'd know how much you miss them...
Seriously, i put garfields on my desktop. Can u analyse it?
i must admit, i have tried pictures of me to embelish my desktop, but now I just stick to the 3D text and movie themes. I think they do better justice for my desktop than my own pictures.
You've made me laugh and ponder, thank you! I have a desk top which my lap top sits on and a desk top on my lap top... both have lots of pictures of my family because I love them all up and miss them when I am at work. I am an antenatal and newborn screening specilaist midwife and am hoping to leave to go into teaching midwives, concentrating on the science of midwifery (and the process of antenatal and newborn screening of course). I am a couple of modules into my Ma in Science education. I will be back to read more of your blog.
Hello, at first i ask you to excuse me for my english, i know it isn't perfect, i'm italian and i've found your blog for case. I'm a graduate in Economy but my dream, when i was young, was to study physics...my girlfriend study it and i think she could be a good professor. I'm writing here to let you know how is the situation of the university here in Italy: the medium age of the professors is above 60 years old and the women are less of the 10%, the young assistants earn less then 600 euro for month and the government give to the reserch many little monies.
Have a great day :)
Interesting to see the comments. I'm also very much particular about desktop images. Further, to display the full beauty of the desktop, I've removed the usual desktop items in my Windows machine. Unfortunately that is impossible in Mac machines.
Most of my images are chosen from the NatGeo Archives. Also I use to display photos of myself and my wife together. If the occasion is something of professional importance, I'll display photos of my team (office) of the previous years (with trophies and all..). To me, my desktop does, and should reflect my mood and attitude.
Like you I also teach physical science particularly physics but in the high school level. What I can't understand is that most of high school students really do not like physical sciences. do you have any answer on this in your researches?
Oh right, and I have a free wallpaper picture from WWF... I think it's one of the Galapagos islands. It's beautiful and covered in bird crap. I don't know what that says about me.
I dont bother using tailored screensavers. Probably as a result from working in I.T support as a systems engineer for years..just leave whatever the o/s has as a default, which is fine by me.
It's a bit ironic in a sense, as the whole idea is that you're not really supposed to be WATCHING IT in the entertainment sense, so why go through so much trouble in creating and tailoring one?
Maybe it was his way of marking the lap-top his, his way of writing his name on it? Easy to find in a bunch of computers.
I usually have that months calendar as my desktop image, now I have one from the User Friendly web-comic. I believe I have screens from my favorite pc-game as screensaver, among them pics of me (well, my character). Is that narcissistic too?
hey there.. can i ask you what is the big deal about being a "female" scientist?? i mean... how are you different than a male scientist?
Manusmriti: you can remove the default desktop icons on a Mac in the Finder Preferences (General).
My wallpaper is one downloaded from the Internet (Webshots I think) and I think one of my kids put it up.
I do have family portraits on the desk top, literally, in picture frames, surrounding the computer, and up on the wall, the physical one, too.
I view myself as family oriented and believe the above is a reflection of that frame of mind.
I change my desktop frequently. I bounce between my two sons. However, on my laptop and desktop computers I have a family picture taken at the zoo. My husband has me as his desktop picture. I was horrified.
I put images of hobby interests as my wallpaper, rarley will I change to something other than. I don't get into the whol fake American culture thing pretending to be what I am not so I am accepted, liked and people will pay me better and pay attention to me more.
I agree with you that men tend to have more personal pictures on their desktop. I recently went to a technology conference and almost all the male presenters had pictures of their kids on their desktop or screensavers and made references to them before starting their presentation. I think men do it as an effot to look more family-oriented. Men who are family-oriented are more attractive in business and with the women population. Women tend to stear in the opposite direction because they are already thought of as family oriented. They need to appear more professional. I don't agree with it, but that's what I see. BTW, I'm also a woman in science. I teach high school science at a small reservation school.
Being a person of science, have you studied anthroplogy and the effects of culture? Culture on a National and Local scale which prgrams people to act and be a certain way? Who are most accepted and who are most rejected? Social behaviors, brain effects, automated responses etc? Why health, wealth, beauty and relationships are a never ending gold mine money maker and magazines, tv, and all media can write about them redundantly forever making money off the same problems? Will check back and look over the blog more.
the man may be a narcissist, or maybe he has picture of himself traveling to different places, and screensaver automatically cycles through all pictures stores in "My Pictures" folder. I know plenty of people who have picture galleries of themselves on their webpages, and they are not narcissistic at all, just adventurous. It would be more weird if they had a lot of pictures of random other people on their website.
Another note - it seems from your and other female scientist blogs that men are predominantly narcissistic, chauvinistic, insensitive assholes. But women are of course smart, sensitive and never assholes. Don't you think that this worldview is at least a little biased?
The laziest, most political and backstabbing person I ever worked with was a female grad student. She was also using being female scientist as an excuse for why the work wasn't done, and quite successfully I must say.
Of course I cannot imagine any male ever saying anything bad about this type of situation without being accused of being sexist.
My wife is a scientist too, and she never had any problems with male employees, but would always get in trouble with other female coworkers - about who gets to use what equipment, and so on. Her lab is predominantly female, due to her specialty, and she always tells me that she would rather share equipment, offices, labspace with males, not females.
I am not doubting that all the terrible things you report actually do happen, even though I personally didn't see even a small fraction of these type of statements or actions, and if I did - I would speak up about it to offenders, as I am sure would others.
I guess what I am saying is that while knee-jerk reaction is to paint the world black-and-white, with female scientists being oppressed by sexist arrogant asshole male scientists, in reality there is plenty of offenders on both sides. The way women treat other women, especially more successful, more beautiful, whatever, women is something you never see males do to each other. I am talking about childish things like passive-agressive "silent" treatment, not inviting someone to lunches, whispering and gossiping behind the back, using foreign language to make offensive jokes right in front of someone, spreading false rumors etc. All of these things did happen to my wife - and a lot of other women, and it was other WOMEN, not males who did it to them. It's like "Mean Girls" movie, except it's not high school anymore, yet the tricks are all the same. Of course it doesn't fit nicely into the theory of "male chauvinist pigs running the world", so why blog about it?...
I should of added a quote by one of the greatest scientists and humanitarians of all time, Ben Franklin: "If only there was a way to tinker with man, so that way we wouldn't treat each other like wolves".
hehe, i liked that example of yours,,, at work i have a picture of this character i like from an old game,,,
and at home i have a pic of me and me 2 partners/friends at a house club we made a tour to.
As far as background images and the occasions when screen-savers are truly necessary, there may be another possible explanation: Some folks use their laptops in places where there are lots of other similar looking laptops. Having one's name in large letters or one's face as a background photo can be a quick way to identify one's own laptop when coming back to the room.
I've encountered that situation once or twice, so I mention it for the sake of completeness. Unfortunately it's been my experience that narcissism is much more common.
Also for the sake of completeness and for the sake of energy prices and the health of our little blue planet, I hope folks will consider OFF and/or power-saving blank screens instead of photo screen savers.
I'm getting the feeling that this blog was linked to by some site that a lot of people visit and is probably getting a lot more traffic. Unfortunately, this brings to the fore some shortcomings of Blogger. Is it possible to organize posts by subject and/or have an archive? It's also really useful to have a feature where the last five to ten comments are accessible. Then a lot of commenters can find previous, relevant entries.
This is one I read and it has a good format, but is completely irrelevant to anything here:
Of course, I understand there is the small matter of finals week coming up and running a lab...
I am a science educator - sometimes considered to be less than a scientist although my PhD is in biological education obtained in a biology department with a pedagogical cognate. I guess I need to do some "real" science publications to get there. However, it doesn't bother me that much since I really love what I do. As for my desktop and screen saver, right now I have a picture of a smirking 9 month old with strained green beans all over her face on the desktop (my granddaughter) and my screen saver currently is a fractal generator. The only pictures of myself I have ever had were pictures of me and the family. Part of my choice of desktop is my desire to share that females in science can also be family people with a life. Part of it, I have to admit, is that it makes me smile every time I see that smirk.
you must be a prof.
but you wont understand what i write in my blog...
but, i can read your blog... haha. it funny...
i wish there would be prof. like you at my university...!
I use seasonal or strikingly beautiful photos of landscapes that ooze calm, peace and serenity.
I have a beautiful NASA photo of the "Earth at night" (a composite, obviously).
I'm away from my husband around 1/2-2/3 of the time (we post doc in diferent cities - no solution to the two body problem here yet). I have a photo of him as my cell-phone wallpaper but wouldn't put him as my wallpaper for fear of seeming unprofessional (my PI can't understand why I consider my marriage in the same order of magnitude as important as my career, so I don't want to give him more ammo...)
My husband on the other hand claims he would have put me on his desktop, but he'd find me too distracting! (Suckup :P )
I tend to have plain screen savers and black or blue backgrounds. I am a photographer and display my images and I try not to have anything else on the screen to distract people. I have had my kids as a screen saver in the past on a desktop in the office. For the record I am male and live in the UK (I wonder if geographic situation has any bearing on choice of screen saver ?) Interesting discussion thread!
You raise a very interesting point, because it showed a basic difference between men and women. If you just zap through Flickr, you can see that about 2/3 are men which merely show beautiful photo's of general items from all over the world and of course of their young girlfriend and of course also a lot of rubbish as usual on the internet.
So about 1/3 are women. They merely take low quality family-related snapshots, which should not be published at all (at least not for a general public). But a few produce very poetic images of outstanding quality, merely made at home or nearby.
And indeed: sometimes you see a strange guy (or girl) who only takes webcam quality self-portraits several times a day - even when sitting on the loo. As if they constantly need to prove that they are still alive.
My conclusion is: only a few women look to the outside world in the objective way, which is needed to produce outstanding pictures because they are mostly too much involved subjectively.
So Flickr can be a marvelous field for research on modern vision in the internet-age.
But back to your point: married men with children will indeed tend to use a beloved family-picture as a wall-paper on their desktop, simply to remember them several times a day that they have a family. Because they can do only one thing at a time during work: that is not thinking on their family. Women don't need that 'aid of memory': they arrange something for the children between two busy conferences and so on. Or they just ring to home for a chat.
Men would also tend to compose a nice follow-up for a screensaver - mostly of the latest family-holiday, while women just leave some old-modish Windows twirl on the screen. Even if it are pictures, they are just accidentally there. And even if they known how to organize a good slideshow, they will not spend a minute to it, because they don't need it for remembrance or just to impress her college's or just for fun.
Women need the men to do the things in which they are not interested. They should accept that men could get totally involved in a abstract technical world and have problems to stay in touch with reality. They are dreamers. If women do not understand this basic difference in 'the way of looking to the outside world', they will become disappointed.
Rinus Alewijnse, The Netherlands (http://rinilog.blogspot.com)
My background is a picture of me, my brother, and my sister striking a pose in front of the Sydney Opera House two years ago- my mom was taking the nth picture of us, so we jazzed things up. I never see my desktop though, which is one of the reasons I haven't changed it in two years.
In the lab, though, my background consisted of alternating New Zealand landscapes- I was saving all my money last summer and fall for the study abroad I'm doing now, and it seemed a good way to remind myself of why I was working instead of goofing off with friends. :)
Except now when I go back to work on my senior project, I would probably be heartbroken to continue that trend (I'm already sad to leave and have two months!). So perhaps I should alternate pictures of grad schools I'm interested in?
I have a dog on my desktop. I really think having a picture of museldf would be strange.....I guess he thinks he's pretty!
Loved the way you shared your observations in such a conversational tone. :-) I'm a seriel desktop updater and it's a constant reflection of what inspires me and what I'm busy with. Widgets tracking my goings on take a fair amount of space but the scenery beneath is always changing. It's like an illicit, but still vaguely legitimate, use of time and resources. I get a charge out of the freshness and the breather I took to do it. Lots of flowers, NASA archives, TV addiction of the moment, and my family too, are the norm.
Luck on your teaching and pursuits!
Mine varies between a satellite image of the earth showing where the sun is currently shining - or a photo of a lanscape i took. Photos of the kids i keep at home
wow, u r amazing~~
Most women don't like photos of themselves. I have the impression that men don't have the same problem/issue. My desktop at work is usually comes from caedes. Lovely photography (landscape) or abstract images in colors and designs that don't bother my eyes. I prefer landscapes without people in them. My sister's desktop is a quilt calendar (monthly) that she downloads from the 'net.
My desktop is black ... I wonder what that says about me?
my office machine has plain background, no screensaver. personal machine has some scenics, no family photo as backgrounds ... well i never felt compfortable sharing family photos woth others
my office machine has plain background, no screensaver. personal machine has some scenics, no family photo as backgrounds ... well i never felt comfortable sharing family photos with others
Today my desktop has a topo map of Snowyside Peak, Idaho. Years ago in glorious youth and optimism for the future, I climbed that peak. At the moment, I need to be reminded of those good days.
My screensaver is the Windows slideshow of "My Pictures" that rotates through locations I intend to visit; it serves as continual inspiration that there's still a lot of life to be lived.
I would also immediately identify a "flaming narcissist" based on a self-centerd screensaver.
51-year-old engineer, constantly re-educating young engineering school gradutes
Interesting difference in males vs females having pictures of their children, I do see how the difference could be caused by concerns about professionalism, unfortunately.
I always have some kind of landscape/nature picture as my wallpaper, for the past two years or so it has been that famous picture of the world at night, I'm not sure why that photo resonates with me so much, but it does.
Personally, I work in a university library. The split on changing one's desktop background seems to be both age and tech savvy-ness related. The younger and more technical a co-worker is, indeed the more likely they are to have a MySpace page or a Facebook account, the more likely they are to have customized their computer's wallpaper.
These peeps like to show each other what they have selected. Animals, sunsets, and other vistas predominate, with occasional funnies and oddities.
The older, less techie-type folks rarely bother. At some level in between are the people who have pictures of their family or their vacations.
Haven't noticed a big difference by gender in a nerd heavy environment.
Anyone who has pictures of the self is outside societal norms, tread carefully. Are they a model, a CEO or a lawyer? Perhaps, this behavior may be considered well within the bounds of some milieus. As for professors, surely you can say better than I can. I have known a few brainiac narcissists in the day...geniuses who thought they were, but most of them disliked the thought of their physical image.
My background wallpapers right now: at home a 1970's teal cadillac, at work an ocean-side cave. Screen saver, outer space pics.
Keep up the good work!
To check out my blog see...
I found this through Blogger's "cool blogs" deal. He's a man in the sciences. I fail to see why you are surprised that most of his pictures are of himself, alone. :-p
That dig aside, I too have myself on my desktop. I started with pictures of my parents, but that made me homesick. I moved to sports pictures, but that made me look immature to colleagues. I moved to pictures of nature, but that made me want to go outside. I had nothing for a while, but that was too sterile. So I settled on a light-hearted picture of myself.
I just felt a need to defend this fellow, and explain how he may have gotten there.
There are too many viruses from screensavers so I don't have any. Also, they just take up space so they are essentially worthless.
I have standard field/sky MS-issue desktop (I had to look). I have so many folders there I don't care about the background. The cathode tube powers down rather than sets a screensaver.
I propose an alternative thought about the boys with personal pics. I suggest that it's more about the boys having a more personal relationship with their toys from the outset. To girls, computers are tools and to boys they are toys - part of their personality and ego.
No theory about the gender dichotomy will stand up in all cases of course.
Dude with self pics? I can't pass judgment without knowing more. There are myriad explanations that might not involve narcissistic tendencies or wifely ownership.
And: yay to girls in science (from a boy ex-scientist).
Very funny. I would never think to create a screen-saver of myself. I'm going to have to go with the idea that the dude was a "flaming Narcissist". Keep up the good work. Science rules!
I like to have some relaxing image on my desktop.
I think I would not find photos of my kids relaxing.
Not sure if anyone said this in the comments or not.
The reason you see people who have a screen saver with their image are people who use s/w to run what ever is available in their my photos folder. The % of people having personal photograph in their my photos folder is definitely statistically significant. So as a thumb rule you will find many desktop/laptop screen saver with their own photos.
My screen saver is Charlize Theron and background is kate beckinsale.
i have a related anecdote. the NIH study section on which i serve shows the screen saver effect. seems like about a third of the computers around the room are set to screen saver to pictures of the kids. you guessed it, always the men, never the women.
all the usual reasons are apt. like it or not there is a palpable cost to a woman in science wearing her family as a badge. not so much for men. in fact it may attenuate semi-strangers' perception of one as a jerk (say in grant review) to have them know "gee he's really a soft family guy at home"... it is entirely possible this is my subconscious strategy for showing my kids off...
oh my gah. this blog was the highlight of my day. you seriously made me think.you remind me so much of my science teacher. you would love her. her name is gena hugon. wow. ill keep reading.
My experience of the adornment of both PC desktops (Macs are rare in the UK) and real desktops is similar to yours (laptops not so much), but only in the 'real' rather than academic world!
I only became an Academic in the last 7 years or so after a successful career in Commerce; 35 + years in Marketing with 25 years in Management. There is a general rule in many British Universities, particularly the more recent ones that used to be Polytechnics until 1992, that you can't really teach the harder aspects of Business Studies, such as Strategy, Marketing, and Finance, unless you have "been there and done it".
I know from discussion quite early on in my career that in Sales in particular, males keep "the wife and kids" in view to remind them of their responsibilities and of their duty to do the best they can for their family. It is this reminding of their role as the major "breadwinner" which motivates them and keeps them on track, - often in jobs that are well paid but that they don't particularly enjoy. Over the years, as more women entered the workplace in managerial positions (some employed by me), I can recall having conversations where family and children were discussed and many would explain when asked, that they did not have photos of their husbands and children because they liked to keep work separate from home-life, - some would add that they wanted to be thought of as managers and executives first and foremost whilst at work and they would leave the image of "mother" to the clerks and secretaries!
All of this shows an interesting difference that has not really changed despite the gender equality advances of the last 40 to 50 years. A man can be a successful 'cut and thrust' executive in the 'fast lane' and still be proudly a "Father". This is because he is doing what men have always done and perhaps were 'designed' to do; we may have replaced the hunt with the office, shop or factory and the beast's carcass with dollars, but the effect is of that same single minded purpose. Women on the other hand are 'designed' to be mothers and have all the inherent multi-tasking qualities that go along with this complex and varied nurturing role; precisely the sort of workplace skills that are much in demand in our new people oriented service economies. However, the deep seated cultural concept of "Mother", - particularly with young, is of the vulnerable who must be protected at all costs. This simply does not connote with the image of the independent "must be respected" get ahead commercial executive. Little wonder then that females who want to get ahead do not have their family photos on view!
There is perhaps also the point that women, or at least those women who have their own desk, tend to do the jobs that they want to do rather than the ones that they ought to do; they do not have to ask themselves if their jobs will pay well enough to keep a husband and children, - women are not generally sole breadwinners. That is of course unless they are single mothers, - in which case they have the same need to be a breadwinner as a father; "single mother" is a very difficult 'economic unit' to pull off with only those in professional occupations who can afford to pay for round the clock childcare achieving truly independent viability.
As far as my academic colleagues go, or at least those who have always been academics, - the males don't need the same motivators as those in the commercial world because their positions, though less well paid for the same qualifications and ability, are much safer and their interest in their 'job' (together with their egos!) is motivation enough. The female academics fall into three types or will one day become one of these three types:- "blue stocking" feminists who never discuss their lives outside University and appear to be entirely single, - even though some of them may have partners (of either sex) or even children; those who dress in a 'middle of the road' female but entirely disinterested way who happily discuss their families, - a few of these have pictures of their children (if very young) on view; and those destined for the top academic positions who dress in the same corporate suited spike-heeled manner as in the commercial world and who will only show you pictures of their children if they know and trust you.
I must add that most of the times I've noticed its the men who have themselves on their desktops! Admire their mush in their rearview mirrors! Stop to look and admire their reflection!
Yeah. They are a lot more besotted by their own selves than the women!
My favorite desktop is a guy whose desktop is a screenshot of a (very cluttered) desktop. Most of the items are not clickable because they are from the screenshot! Only he knows which ones are real....
I AM RETIRED FROM LOTS OF CAREERS.
MY FIRST JOB AS A COLLEGE STUDENT WAS IN THE BIOPHYSICS DEPT AT PENN STATE.
MY FEMALE HEAD OF DEPT WAS A ROLE MODEL FOR MY LIFE. SHE WAS MARRIED TO ANOTHER BIOPHYSICS PROFESSOR & THEY HAD A SON.
I WAS TOLD LATER THAT SHE BECAME UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT BEFORE SHE PASSED AWAY.
I WISH YOU THE SAME KIND OF SUCCESS.
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