Saturday, July 7, 2012

My "First World Problem"?

So, I know you're really interested in this...  It turns out that my "first world problem" (of the moment, at least) is the phrase "first world problem".

I doubt I could put together a strong argument for why I dislike it, but it just... irks me.

It reminds me of a teacher I had in elementary school who (at least once) chided a student (honestly can't remember if it was me or someone else) for saying s/he was "starving", before lunch.  She thought it was flippant and wrong to use the word "starving" to mean "hungry" when there were people out there really, truly starving.  Now, I understand what she meant-- and I guess her lesson worked on me, at least, because I don't think I ever say that I'm starving... But I don't know... I'm sure that the kid she "corrected" meant no harm, and I have some bad memories of adults coming down a little too hard on sensitive kids for saying/doing something harmless/without understanding that it could be taken the wrong way.  They don't realize how long those things stick with a person and the bad taste it leaves in your mouth, being made to feel guilty for something when you scarcely understand why.  (And yet I'll probably still do the same thing in my own interactions with children; it seems difficult to avoid, when you're trying to teach them how to behave and present themselves in society.  Oh well.)

Hm.  I got off on a tangent, there.  (g)

Back to my annoying elaboration on why I find "first world problems" irritating.

By the logic of "FWP" ("first world problems"), no-one should ever complain about anything, EVER, because, trust us, someone has had it worse.  While I agree that many of us ought to complain less about small problems-- make a joyful noise instead-- it's human nature to complain (for some, a larger part of our natures than for others).  It's one thing to be aware (and thankful) that you were fortunate enough to be born in a wealthy nation, to have had parents who took good care of you, to not have to worry about whether you'll have enough to eat tonight.  It's another to obsess about it to the point that you can't make an everyday comment on something that's frustrating you in your daily life without feeling that you have to put a disclaimer at the end of it.

Some people use FWP as some sort of excuse to make themselves feel better (I guess?) about themselves.  "Yeah, I'm complaining about relatively small problems in my average-to-luxurious life, but I'm gonna put this 'first world problem' tag right here at the beginning or end of my complaint so that you'll know that I know that it's not really a big deal, and I should totally be happy to have this sort of problem... to sort of assuage my guilt about posting about it to begin with... Mmkay?"  

Yes, we know that when the grocery store stops carrying our favorite kind of chicken burritos, it's nowhere near the same level of problem faced by someone with a serious medical problem.  (Hint: That's why we never said it was the same sort of thing.)  But what kind of life is it if you have to feel guilty about commenting on any problem that isn't life-threatening?  Personally, I hate walking on eggshells.  If your problem is so trivial, perhaps you should reconsider writing about it in the first place.  Or go ahead and do write about it, like I am now.  Just don't make me watch you take a self-inflicted FWP guilt-trip in addition to reading your complaints. 

I wonder if people who frequently use the FWP tag are judging others who don't do so.  "That Michael is such a spoiled first-worlder.  Writing a whole blog entry about how hard it was to choose a vacuum cleaner from the eleventy-billion models available on-line!   She doesn't know how lucky she is!"  Would the handy-dandy FWP stamp redeem me, in their eyes?  ;o)  (No.  At this point, I know I am completely, utterly lost, as far as they're concerned.  Well, I would be if they were even reading this, which I trust they are not, since hardly anyone does.)

Most of the time I see people using it in a joking way.  I may even have thought it was funny the first time I saw it, but now?  It's been done to death, so please, find a new meme. 

(Note:  I've almost never seen anyone use FWP against someone else, though apparently some do, or have in the past.  That would be infuriating and well-deserving of a virtual smack-down.  No, it's bad enough when people use it-- somewhat jokingly-- as a commentary on something they themselves have just written.)

...On the other hand, in the grand scheme of things, it's not much to complain about.  Especially not while there are still people out there using the disgusting "FML" tag for every little irritant under the sun.  Out of cereal?  FML!  Broke a nail?  FML!   It's just wrong.

Whew!  ...Ok.  I'm all whined out!

...And yes, I know that being annoyed by irritatingly over-used "catch phrases" is such a First World Problem.

I would be remiss if I didn't also mention that I cannot stand the modern, slangy (over)usage of the word "epic" (frequently presented in EPIC all-caps).  It seems like it is finally, mercifully fading in popularity, but for a while there, my eyes were at risk of a serious strain from all the violent rolling.