What does your desktop image say about you?


A recent study conducted by nobody has suggested that the images selected by computer users as their desktop background can reveal intimate psychological details about the individual. By analyzing your desktop image it may be possible to reveal your emotional state, prowess in the bedroom and the likelihood that you will one day become rich and famous. Beirut Beat has decided to put this to the test by scrutinizing four recent desktop background images.

1) The Shark

This is my current desktop image, the smiling face that greets me every afternoon when I get up. The photo itself I find absolutely beautiful; the rays of light breaking the water, the geometric perfection of the great fish, the shadow it casts on the sand. But my feelings about this photograph run much deeper than its aesthetics.

As a self-employed writer, this image presents a direct threat to me when I open my laptop. It is a warning not to simply paddle around on the internet or write silly blog posts about what image I have on my desktop screen. If I allow myself to just drift along I will be eaten alive.

Despite this, the shark does not actually scare me as it might if I were to encounter it in real life. To me, he is a grunting drag racer, ready to accelerate towards me. The cold dead look in his eyes – that of a brutish, moronic bully – makes me want to stand up for myself and rise to the confrontation. He, like all of life’s challenges, is much bigger and stronger than I am. Yet since they plan to come at me with their sharp teeth anyway, I have nothing to lose by taking them on at full speed.

beirut kitten

2) The Kitten

I took this photo. Everything that makes it aesthetically pleasing – the paw in dead center, the mimicking shadow, the hints of brown on the concrete that remind of his fur – all total accidents. This was the image on my office computer when I was writing copy for an agency in Beirut. Previously, I had decorated my computer screen with tasteful black and white photographs of beautiful women. You know the sort; a moody looking chick in her twenties, smoking a cigarette as she stares from her balcony at trendy Parisian neighborhood.

These photos were not simply a hipster version of hanging a nudey calendar on the wall. There was a distinct attitude of aspiration. It was an allusion to the old days, when US soldiers in Vietnam would be treated to some light entertainment followed by the parading of an attractive female model. The compere would tell them ‘This is what you are fighting for boys!’ I suppose I was trying to remind myself ‘This is what I am writing for.’

The problem with this is that it left me with a vague sense of longing for something that didn’t really exist. Then the kitten came along.

I found him under a bin by Spinney’s supermarket when I was wandering round one Sunday, more hungover than your granddad on Boxing Day. It was underweight and in desperate need of care. Rather than being frightened of me, the kitten literally jumped into my arms. I took him back to the flat and within about 10 minutes he owned the place. The picture above captures perfectly the way he would prowl around and guard his territory.

I became a parent to that little beast; he would follow me around the flat crying for attention whenever I wasn’t holding him like a baby. I couldn’t even make him sleep in his basket, only hiding under the covers of my bed would do. When I put his picture on my desktop background something changed in me. I didn’t have time to chase fictional women anymore; I had someone to look after. This, I thought, is what I am writing for.

NB: The kitten was called Jean Paul Catre. When I left Beirut I gave him to my neighbors. I hope he is doing OK.

lake balaton

3) The Lake

That’s me in the center of the picture. Look at those big strong arms, those broad shoulders. What a hunk.

This photo was taken by a dear friend of mine, using an old-fashioned film camera. The depth and perspective, the colors, the grainy texture – they aren’t from some filter you can just wack on with your iphone. That is proper photographic technique.

I had spent most of the afternoon sitting on that shaded patch of grass in the foreground, drinking cold beers and reading. After taking a swim in that lake we went and made some simple home-cooked food. That evening we broke into a music festival by sneaking under the fence. The security guards chased us but we got away into the crowd. I looked up on the stage and Pet Shop Boys were playing. But I wasn’t on holiday. I was actually homeless and nearly broke.

When I first used this as my desktop image I thought it was just a classic case of remembering the good times. But I later realized it meant much more to me. Hippies and Buddhists tell us that we should live in the moment and always appreciate what is going on around us. Unfortunately, if real people actually lived like this then nothing would ever get done. I am constantly planning ahead, worrying about money, trying to predict the future. It’s what you have to do to prevent yourself getting eaten by the sharks of this world.

In retrospect, looking at this photo reminds me that this was a rare occasion where I wasn’t thinking about what tomorrow would bring. I wasn’t thinking about anything at all. I was just doing. And if I never get to live another day of my life in that mindset, I will be eternally thankful for that memory.


4) The Goldfish

Another fish, albeit a slightly less threatening one. I love the colors in this picture, the deep snooty blues. To those of you who have never had the pleasure of visiting God’s chosen Isle, this is what a British summer day look like. Cloudy and dark. I like the swell on the sea too. It reminds of surfing in the rain in Cornwall, an experience I would wholeheartedly recommend.

This was my laptop background in the latter stages of my time in Beirut. Those British hues connected with my homesickness (which didn’t last for long when I got back!) and gave me something to aim at. But, as you may have guessed, there was something greater going on with this picture too.

This fish appears to be utterly mortified, and my instinctual feeling is that he has just taken a look at what is behind him. The great sea is very much like his own little environment, only much vaster, terrifyingly so for such a tiny guy. Wherever I am in the world and whatever I am doing, I manage to get stuck in my own little habitat. Perhaps you do too. Occasionally this little bubble will pop, and you are forced to confront the enormous reality of life. This can be shocking for an individual, as expressed on the lips of my little orange friend.

Jean Paul Satre wrote of the nauseating effect of contemplating the infinite possibilities of existence and I agree with him. However I regard this kind of reality check in the same manner as taking physical exercise; it maybe be painful at the time, but it is something you should do occasionally to keep yourself healthy.


-Three of the four pictures have animals. One representing my fear of life (shark), one representing my parental instinct (kitten) one representing me and my relative ignorance of the world (goldfish).

-Two of the animals are fish and three of the pictures feature water. I am a Pisces and I certainly drink like a fish.

-Jean Paul Satre is name-dropped twice, indicating that I am a bit pretentious.

-Major themes include: fear of failure, confrontation, responsibility, challenge of life, living with consequence, acting without thinking.

-The whole article represents how my desire to be creative is at odds with my indulgence in procrastination, as I promised myself I would spend the day working on the book I am writing yet have managed to get no further than my desktop photo.

So, what does your desktop photo say about you?


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