Saturday, December 31, 2011

Problems with #FirstWorldProblems

Your "First World Problems" are actually just "World Problems".

A bit of an older link, I know, but this hashtag has been bothering me for a damn long time, and I finally found something to say about it.

The term "Third World" has dropped out of use by real geographers and economists who study the differences in economies and social power between the modernized developed world and the still-developing world. Sadly, the views of the average North American are skewed by commercials like these:

Don't actually call that number.

Look, it's easy to think of Africa, Latin America, and South-east Asia as massive swaths of filthy, unloved children running around in their own feces trying desperately to eat and find clean water. And that we, the educated, intelligent, rich people of the developed world should somehow feel bad for having cool gadgets like cell phones and XBox 360s and the like. But the fact of the matter is this:
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.
But I particularly like this:
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.
Just because Sri Lanka isn't the richest place in the world doesn't mean that the majority of the populace isn't connected to the growing information net. These places, rich or poor, have cars and computers. Don't believe me? Watch the Top Gear Bolivia Special. They drive through a country with a GDP per capita of $4,800. The roads aren't always the nicest. But people have cars and cell phones. They're vibrant. They live lives filled with more than just misery.

The lesson here is that poor people are people too, and when we assume that we're the only ones with complex technical problems, we're normalizing a stereotype. So, let's not do that anymore. Next time you have the urge to say "OMG my iPhone isn't turning on! #FirstWorldProblems", just use the hashtag #problems. Because you never know - it might be someone with a lot of tech experience from Vietnam who gives you the advice on Twitter you need to get it fixed.

Thanks to @LadyAtheist for the link!

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