There is a phrase that was coined a few years ago: “First World Problems.”
The phrase is used to minimize complaints about trivial issues by shaming the complainer, or as good-humored self-deprecation. You know a concept is a real “thing” when it becomes a song by Weird Al Yankovic. That’s right; he actually has a song called, “First World Problems.”
A “First World Country” is a wealthy, industrialized nation such as the United States. “First World Problems” are problems from living in a wealthy, industrialized nation that third worlders would probably roll their eyes at.
Let me preface the forthcoming remarks by saying that I love the USA. I could not imagine living in any other country.
That said, I have to acknowledge that we are a nation of whiners. Whining is national pastime, right up there with baseball and apple pie. Compared with the concerns of Third World countries, most of our problems simply aren’t that serious.
But, that doesn’t stop us from whining about, well, everything.
Our complaining is often in the form of venting or commiserating with our fellow citizens. Nothing will bond a group of Americans more than a shared whine-worthy experience like long lines, canceled flights or bad weather. It doesn’t matter if we have zero control over our circumstances, whining is how we cope. Just strike up a conversation with a stranger who is sharing a bad experience and let the whine-fest begin! You will have an instant new best friend.
Technological advances are a wonder to behold. And yet, the better and easier it makes our lives, the more we find to complain about.
I can remember when my family got our first television set. We all sat spellbound at what was appearing before our very eyes. But, it didn’t take long for the whining to start. I can remember conversations like this:
“Why are there 13 numbers on the dial and we can only get 3 channels?”
“Someday, they’ll have 13 channels.”
“They can’t fill the 3 they’ve got!”
In 1992, Bruce Springsteen released a song called, “57 Channels (And Nothin’s On).” Fast forward to today, with streaming video, hundreds of cable channels and big, red boxes full of cheap movies and we still lament that there’s “nothing to watch.”
I’m so old that I can remember when we had ONE telephone that was shared by the entire family. Not only that, we shared ONE phone line with the entire neighborhood! This was (incorrectly) called a “party line.” It was anything but a “party.” You always had that one nosy neighbor. You could hear her click on:
“Edna, I can hear you breathing.”
“No, I’m not.”
Now everyone has their own personal phones and are we happy? No. We complain constantly about “no service” and slow downloads. And, phones change so quickly, it’s hard to stay current. I was so proud of my iPhone, but now that phones are the size of drive-in movie screens, I feel completely out-of-date. I might as well be walking around with a rotary dial phone in my pocket.
The advent of the automobile was met with delight and today we can’t imagine being without a car — and yet they are a huge source of annoyance. They require all of this attention, like a needy child. Tires, oil, gasoline. And, it doesn’t matter if gas prices go lower than a gallon of iced tea, we WILL complain. Why? We’re Americans. It’s what we do.
Talk about a First World Problem; I overheard a woman in a restaurant complain to the server that her fish tasted “fishy.”
It’s a fish!
But, as is often the case, people get rewarded for their whining. The server actually took a few dollars off of her bill! I thought, “Well, I’m going to try that.” I said, “Excuse me, but this pork chop tastes ‘piggy.’ And, my friend’s hamburger is a little on the ‘beefy’ side.” Whining is contagious.
Modern medicine is a marvel. So many diseases and illnesses have been eradicated through medical advances. But, you let a doctor’s appointment go past its scheduled time and I guarantee the whining will commence! Of course, now we have our cell phones to entertain us while we wait. So, it should come as no surprise to the staff at the doctor’s office when we complain about the “no cell phones” policies. I mean, are they trying to kill us?
Yes, our lives are full of First World Problems. Where this enters the Danger Zone is when they begin to build up and create legitimate problems like stress-related illnesses.
We live in the greatest country in the world and should take a little time to be grateful for this. With great privilege comes great responsibility. We really do have legitimate concerns and living in a modern world is rife with the potential for angst. So, we should stick to complaining about things that really matter and minimize our concern over the things that simply don’t.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, my lunch just arrived and is not quite hot enough. I plan to write a sternly worded letter to the proprietor.
#FirstWorldProblems from @firstworldme on Twitter
• I have family visiting for the week and they keep changing the orientation of my toilet paper in both bathrooms.
• My dog is curled up on my lap and the remote is just out of my reach.
• My free floss from the dentist isn’t minty.
• The television near my table is five seconds behind the one at the bar.
• I found a solution to my tech problem, but the forum post is 11 years old.
• My dad keeps endorsing me on LinkedIn.
• I can’t tell if my lights just flickered, or if I blinked.
• I’m still not used to the color change of the Netflix app.
• My hour long massage only lasted 54 minutes.
• I can’t decide on what Instagram filter to use for a picture of my lunch.
• The tide was high during my 70-degree beach run today, so I had to jog through the dry, less-compacted sand.
• I am too hungry to spend time preheating an oven like some kind of mid-century slave.
• I went to the grocery store early this morning and the Valentine’s Day candy wasn’t marked down yet.
• My mom won’t make me an easter basket because “I’m too old.”
• My slippers are too warm. They make my feet sweat. But my feet are cold with just socks.
• I’m in bed and my phone’s charge is at 5%, but in order to charge it I will have to roll over onto my other side.
• My salesman took off the protective wrapping from my new phone. That’s my favorite part of getting new electronics.
Kay is a motivational humorist who encourages people to “laugh more, stress less and take care of yourself!” She gives humorous keynote presentations and stress management workshops all over the United States. She is the author of “The Funny Thing about Stress; A Seriously Humorous Guide to a Happier Life.” To order the book or find out more about Kay, visit her website at: www.KayFrances.com.