There are feelings that even words can’t describe. Which is why sometimes, despite being a generally civilized society full of good-willed people, we flip the bird.
We get upset at some douchebag in a crossover who risks our family’s life to beat us into the drive-thru of a Dunkin’ Donuts, and this one, barely flexing finger joint is the only part of our body brave enough to stand in wobbly protest. No one over the age of 13 has ever felt more powerful for flipping a bird. But we do it anyway, because it’s a pitifully earnest expression of our own indignation.
Now, Microsoft has announced that it will bring an official middle finger emoji to their upcoming OS, Windows 10. Like Apple’s latest emojis, it will come in every Crayola-fied version of race available, from a peachy white to a burnt sienna brown to, oddly enough, robotic silver. But unlike Apple, well, it’s a middle finger. It’s obscenity. And Apple has worked very hard to distance its platform from the obscene (even if it’s lurking under the surface). But here, Microsoft is drawing a line in the sand. The company is saying that it’s willing to be the platform for expressing yourself, no matter what form that may take: Is it so hard to imagine a “sexty time?” emoji or a “period bloat” emoji or an “I just farted in a tight public space” emoji coming next?
Of course, no one will buy a Windows 10 phone or computer for a single great emoji, or even a small handful of them. But I don’t see this emoji as a mere selling point to Microsoft’s potential audience. I see it as the company’s pitifully earnest expression of their own indignation. Microsoft ruled the digital world as the Internet came alive. And then, it lost control to companies like Apple and Google, and even Facebook and Twitter. Case in point, at Microsoft’s latest Build event–their big yearly conference where it debuts all of its big plans–one of their main announcements was a tool that would allow developers to suck in their iOS and Android apps to work on Windows devices, the digital equivalent of asking an ex over to watch Sunday night Game of Thrones after she spent the whole weekend with some new guy in the Bahamas.
Microsoft may be poised for a comeback. It may be going down an inevitable path to irrelevance. But as for this middle finger, it’s an important display of who Microsoft is today–a company that’s gotten cut off a lot in the drive-thru of that Dunkin’ Donuts, and isn’t going to stand for it anymore. And so, as CEO Satya Nadella seeks out his $1 iced coffee between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., and he hits the brakes behind that damned Google Street View car, again, he’s going to reach deep into his Microsoft phone’s emoji library and say how he really feels.
Which is why the middle finger shouldn’t be Microsoft’s new emoji. It should be Microsoft’s new logo.