I saw something today for the 1,000,010th time… it’s a particular phrase that I thought would be popular for 10 minutes, then disappear, but sadly it is apparently dying an excruciatingly slow death. That grenade… I mean phrase, is the always awesome response telling someone that their opinion, thought, stance or social media post is nothing more than a “first world problem” (FWP). Nothing like dropping a tired phrase then stepping back to watch the carnage from a distance.
If you don’t know what a first world problem is here’s a synopsis and example… it’s usually something trivial or a minor annoyance by people who have much, yet complain about something seemingly low in importance, especially low in importance to someone who has little, likely living in a poor part of the world. For example, my landscaping crew did a poor job on my yard this past week. Why a FWP? First of all, it appears that not only do I own a home, but it’s nice enough to require regular maintenance on the landscaping… and on top of that, I can afford to hire other people to maintain it for me – yet I complain that it doesn’t look as good as I think it should. I can almost guarantee that if I shared my disappointment about the lawn, the FWP police would read me my rights reminding me how privileged I am.
My high-speed Internet is too slow – FWP
My $1,000 phone that is also a camera, bank, assistant, alarm clock, menu, music service, etc. is too big to carry around in my pocket – FWP
One of my air conditioners needs maintenance… the house only cooled to 78 degrees – FWP
The batteries in my TV remote died and I have to use the app on my phone to control it instead – FWP
I couldn’t get an appointment to see my doctor for 3 days – FWP
Not being able to get to the gym because I had to work late – FWP
Maintenance on my motorcycle is such a pain – FWP
I made too much money this year and I have to pay a higher tax rate – FWP
The supermarket didn’t have any fresh pineapple so I had to get bananas and grapes instead – FWP
All my Fall & Winter clothes feel out of date – FWP
This very small sample gives you an idea of first world problems some of us Americans may encounter in our daily lives. I can say with great confidence, there is no shortage of first world problems. I thought this would be common sense, but the reason we see / hear so many is because we live in a first world country. Not only do I live in a first world country, I personally also live in a first world city and a first world neighborhood… with that as a back-drop of course most of my problems will be of the first world variety. Does that mean every time I am frustrated, I need to get out the FWP scale to measure against it? My Internet connection is slow, but I can’t complain because I am not living in a war zone. The store is missing an important ingredient for my recipe, but I can’t complain because I am not living in poverty. You get the idea.
As I say in my book, Sometimes You have to Eat A Crap Sandwich… I absolutely understand how fortunate I am to have been born in the United States, truly the land of opportunity. I had so many things going for me that I really have no room to complain about anything. So why complain at all, I mean I know how lucky I am, and my wife and I literally tell each other almost daily how blessed we are. Yet I complain. Here’s why… I am human. In the recipe example, maybe I’ve been planning a special dinner for my spouse to celebrate xx years of being healthy after a medical scare, or maybe it’s just a nice surprise dinner for no reason… and the entire occasion is derailed because there is no saffron at the store. Our lives won’t be over, and I get that some people won’t even have a meal that day. Knowing this isn’t life changing certainly provides perspective, but it can still be really frustrating and some of you better sit down for this, I think it’s probably ok to vent about it if you want to, because sometimes humans need to vent. Yes, we are super fortunate if this was our biggest problem of the day, but it’s still a problem (no need to tell me how terrible this example is, and for the record if I’m cooking dinner for my wife, I have either done something terribly wrong, or Hell has frozen over, but I digress).
Here’s where I’m at on this – just because something seems petty to one of us doesn’t mean it is to the person that shared it. Maybe give them the benefit of the doubt and try to understand why they feel the way they do before attacking them with the “that’s a first world problem” response. I’m guessing they already know that. If you disagree with someone and have an opposing view that may help clarify something, and you feel compelled to comment, it’s ok to engage in a way that doesn’t start with telling them they are wrong or silly for sharing their thought. And by the way, just because you can make a comment about something doesn’t mean you have to. Instead, you could practice the “if you don’t have anything nice to say…” philosophy and move on. Depending on the platform you are using, if you don’t like a post or comment, it’s usually easy enough to hide the person or block the person or just move past or delete the comment or post. Trolling the person doesn’t have to be your go to move.
I know, being annoyed by the first world problem police is a first world problem… and now that you know I already know that, you don’t need to tell me. Thx