Check out this short but to-the-point look from The Atlantic at #firstworldproblems, which you’re undoubtedly familiar with if you’re on the internet. (If you are not familiar, click on the hashtag and read a few.)
I don’t like this expression “First World problems.” It is false and it is condescending. Yes, Nigerians struggle with floods or infant mortality. But these same Nigerians also deal with mundane and seemingly luxurious hassles. Connectivity issues on your BlackBerry, cost of car repair, how to sync your iPad, what brand of noodles to buy: Third World problems. All the silly stuff of life doesn’t disappear just because you’re black and live in a poorer country. People in the richer nations need a more robust sense of the lives being lived in the darker nations. Here’s a First World problem: the inability to see that others are as fully complex and as keen on technology and pleasure as you are.
I have always felt mixed about this hashtag, because it’s kind of self aware and kind of perpetuates (often gross) dichotomy and/or ignorance. It also sounds flippant, and maybe shouldn’t be taken so lightly, although that irony and flippancy is also part of what twitter is great for.
Not only did this phrase of (in)sincere commentary grow online, but I have observed many (including myself) saying it offline, or IRL. If one of the goals of social connectivity online is to spark conversations offline, maybe there’s something here. BUT, perhaps unfortunately, the phrase is said more as a giggling joke than as a conversation about poverty or abuse or injustice; it’s just a way to characterize the (lack of) true importance of a problem.
Use it, don’t use it….whatever. I get it, and am still uncomfortable a bit by it. And maybe keep the conversation going?