The micro-meme has become an automatic appendage – or “punchline” – that aims to forgive any whiny statement.
While some of us may find its overuse annoying, Water Is Life, a charity that supplies clean water to developing countries, finds it troublesome. In an effort to eliminate the “no offence” disclaimer as well as raise money, it enlisted New York ad agency DDB to start a YouTube campaign.
Prior to the campaign, DDB’s research found the hashtag was tweeted five times every second. (In other news, UNICEF says every 3.6 seconds someone dies of starvation. Usually a child under five.)
Their viral video highlighted how inconsequential #firstworldproblems are. Haitians read #firstworldproblems against a backdrop of the western world’s poorest country, full of shanties and hopelessness.
“I hate it when my house is so big, I need two wireless routers,” says a man in front of a shack. A little boy on a dirty cot says, “When my mint gum makes my ice water taste too cold.”
The video ends: “#FirstWorldProblems Are Not Problems.”
Business Insider says this may be “the best ad of the year.” But that may be a first-rate problem.
What happens after people watch that ad on their electronic device? Do they share it and watch how many more “Likes” they receive on Facebook, or how many retweets they get? Do they change their behaviour, or feel momentary pity?
Matt Ufford is a blogger and U.S. Marine veteran who has endured third-world conditions.
In his recent post “I don’t need to be reminded that my problems are occurring in the first world,” he writes: “There is a gigantic, unfathomable collection of pain and misery throughout the world, and none of it lessens the cramping in my wrist from working on my laptop’s touch pad.”
Ufford notes he’s not complaining about how hard it is to find a milliner who makes top hats with sufficient velvet. “I’m trying to joke about small annoyances that might resonate with other people. It’s already understood that it’s a first-world problem. That’s why I’m sending it out on Twitter, and not calling UNICEF.”
This new expression is almost an updated version of the classic, “There are starving children in Africa, so eat your supper.” And how desensitized did you get to that as a kid? Perhaps now we’ve become too e-sensitized.
Imagine millions of messages going out every day, asking you to support something else or feel bad for something else.
No matter how poignant, important or inspirational a cause, the medium is the message, and today the message changes every second. And that is a #firstworldproblem.