The surreal epidemic of first world problems

I feel like we are in the middle of a secret societal crisis. A crisis so secret that it has disguised itself as cultural slang, a catchy hashtag and the operating behaviour for the digital world’s agony aunt column.

Yes my friends, I am referring to the world famous first world problem.

For those who aren’t familiar with what I mean by first world problems. Let me break it down for you.

Oxford dictionary describes a first world problem as:

A relatively trivial or minor problem or frustration (implying a contrast with serious problems such as those that may be experienced in the developing world)

‘it’s a First World problem, but still if you’re staying at a 5-star resort you expect some decent service’

Not a bad definition but I prefer this one from urban dictionary:

Problems from living in a wealthy, industrialised nation that third worlders would probably roll their eyes at.

‘Aw, crap, I don’t know which 1 carat diamond encrusted platinum ring to buy!’


First world problems are everywhere, on the rise and no one is safe. Not me, not you and especially social media, which seems to be the preferred channel of outcry to tell the world about these.

I see this stuff all the time. At first it’s funny for a while and then I’m just like, what the fuck is happening here? How did we get to a world where we operate in this space of behaviour?

I’ve seen a guy literally assault his innocent bag on the train platform because he missed his train by 2 minutes, even though another would be here in 5 minutes time. Then there’s the person who cries out like they’ve lost a limb because their hair was cut an inch too short on Instagram. Some of the best ones are reserved for the holiday season, when a gift is not quite right and the reaction is like they have been told someone died.

When I write it like that, it all sounds mad but I assume to those people it might be the end of their world at that moment.

Let’s not get confused here, I’m no saint either. I have to check myself from doing this almost weekly. 

Just recently, I was getting myself in a state because my amazon app told me my parcel should have been delivered at 1pm and there I was at 3.15pm with no delivery. Of course, the natural thing to do was complain to my partner and a variety of friends.

I mean can you believe the disrespect? My parcel (which was probably some useless bit of junk) has not arrived and my app says it should be here. You would have thought someone had actually wronged me in the way I was acting. But no, that was not the case. I had just been hit with my own dose of a first world problem meltdown.

My point with this short thought or perhaps, mild rambling, is that we have to challenge our behaviour sometimes. I don’t want to sound all preachy and be like we are all so lucky to be alive and have this and that. 

But, if you’re reading this right now. You have access to  the internet, you probably have a device or devices to read this on and you have some form of currency to pay for these things. You’re probably (and note how I say probably before any hate mail comes) doing ok in the game of life.

The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius put it like this “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it and this you have the power to revoke at any moment”.

Basically, we have the choice to feel sorry for ourselves over these first world problems or challenge our narrative.

It’s funny because in wanting to write something about checking ourselves on first world problems. I feel like this is me with my own first world problem, moaning about first world problems. There is some proper inception level thinking in that passage (you Christopher Nolan fans will get me).

I joke about first world problems. They are funny for but some of us just need to reflect and appreciate what we have.

A reminder of this came to me recently.

It came after watching the Netflix film Marriage Story. I feel this film is probably one of the most authentic but difficult pieces of media I’ve watched on a marriage and people’s lives falling apart and the effect it has on those around them.

It made me think, compared to my everyday stuff that is what a real set of problems looks like.

It reminds me that although life can suck at times, it could be far worse. That might sound like some self-help BS but it keeps me in check.

So, regardless of what we all might go through in our day to day. Take time to check yourself now and again. 

Yes, you might have been given the wrong order at your local coffee place or your train was cancelled at short notice. These things do suck but they aren’t devastating. They are the first world problems which we are fortunate to have and not the real world problems that so many others do.

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