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Opinion | Pop Culture

The Problem with the #First-World-Problem Trend

Instead of inciting real change, the Internet meme just breeds guilt about legitimate complaints.

Two weeks ago, while getting one of my sons ready for some bedtime reading, the house went dark. I stifled a curse. As I navigated down steps in the pitch black, I didn't stifle my frustration: "Are you kidding me?!" While we were accustomed to losing power during our Midwestern summer storms, losing power during October drizzles was new.

Amid my stomps and utterances of protest, I got the other kids settled with flashlights while I called the electric company. It could be hours, they said. Hours, at least, was better than days, the usual amount of time our power liked to take off for vacation. But still, I took to the Twitterverse to voice my displeasure, to air my complaint, to share my pain.

But this time, I did so with some reservation. Because the last time I did—this past summer, when our power took its usually days-long hiatus, when all I needed was some tea and sympathy—I got slapped with a pesky meme instead.

Once upon a time, seeing #firstworldproblem—a snarky Twitter hashtag that's since spawned websites and YouTube clips—at the end of a shallow Twitter-plaint made me laugh and stop to think. I came to appreciate that when my favorite coffee shop ran out of chai, the sarcastic hash-tag phrase floated through my brain and kept my annoyance in check.

I also came to value #firstworldproblem as a "teachable moment" tool for my kids. When they had thrown back their heads in disgust as they stood in front of the pantry lamenting "nothing to eat" because ...

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