First World Problems

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The term First World Problems (often abbreviated to "FWP") refers to issues perceived as difficult to those residing in the more developed nations in the global arena (i.e., the First World), but which are banal at worst when compared to the difficulties encountered by those in the less developed Third World.

First World Problems is often used in a derisive manner towards those who complain about the problems they experience in the "First World" on a regular basis. However, it is also routinely used by scholars and economists in studying the relationship between the Third World and the First World.[1]

The exact provenance of this term is uncertain, although some believe that it originated with comedic author David Rakoff, whose book Don't Get Too Comfortable (2005, ISBN 0-385-51036-5) is subtitled "The Indignities of Coach Class, the Torments of Low Thread Count, the Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems."[2] Since his humorous usage of the term, however, it has taken on a more serious cast, being used in both political circles[3] and computing discussions.[4] Many computer games, notably, provide a fascinating degree of First World escapism via a simulation of Third World Problems. For example, the infamous 1980s ASCII-based dungeon crawler Rogue provided those First World denizens who had overcome the First World Problem of not owning a computer to experience such Third World Problems as starvation, existential ennui, and life-or-death hand-to-hand combat.

A recent Wall Street Journal article described terrorism, viruses, and natural disasters as "increasingly tough First World Problems."[5] Similarly, economists working in South Africa have described that country's "science and technology infrastructure as 'a first world system being used to tackle first world problems'" and which are therefore unable to cope with the more serious problems of that nation's population.[6] It is also argued that in nations like China, where there is a great divergence between first and third world areas, that the "First World Problems overshadowed the Third World ones."[7] In something of an about-face from the standard attack on First World Problems, development communication scholar Srinivas Melkote insists that "development communication activities" developed to address Third World Problems can in fact be utilized to combat "First World [P]roblems that have arisen after development"[8] (such as AIDS and teenage pregnancies).

Comparison of First World Problems and Third World Problems

  Technology Social Interactions Consumable Goods
First World Problem "My Zune's wireless transfer playback is unfairly limited to 3 plays. " "I was rejected by an internet message board for lacking a salon of bright friends." "My McGriddle's folds were not injected with enough syrup this morning."
Third World Problem "Because of the deprivations of my local warlord, I lack the basic tools necessary for survival." "Local brigands have stolen my livestock, leaving me unable to feed my family, let alone my friends." "I'm so hungry."

References in music, film and TV

"First World Problems" is a song by Chicago punk band Scalpers.

External links


  1. Tony Millionare has never ever been funny.