#firstworldproblems or An Internet Meme Changed My Life

You’ve just flown across America. You walk up to a rental car counter to pick up a convertible you reserved. It’s not ready. You’ll have to drive a loaner Civic for a few hours. When the car you reserved is ready, it will be delivered to you.

This happened to me two days ago and I thought, what a #firstworldproblem. And in stead of being irritated at the digital infrastructure fail, I laughed.

A good meme is like sunshine on a cloudy day or a delicious new flavor of ice cream. It dashes your day with a split second of surprise awesomeness.

Recently I have taken the meme “first world problems” to the next level. I use it to catalyze optimism. When I think about it, 99.999% of would-be daily frustrations are not a big deal. They’re basically irrelevant. Like the convertible situation. Or a few hrs delayed flight. Traffic. My latte tastes burnt..and the barista didn’t even put a fern leaf in the foam. Fail. I’ve established a habit that even BJ Fogg would be proud of. I’ve figured out how to turn frustration into laughter. The answer (to all life’s problems) is a meme. Try it.

Next time you’re frustrated ask yourself if you are experiencing a first world problem.

Potential #firstworldproblem indicators:

– anything related to paid vacation
– inconveniences. Expensive healthcare is a firstworldproblem. No healthcare is not.
– Involves Internet (AT&T..terrible..yet 100000x better than Nigerian Internet), electricity (low battery already?!), technology (damn it, forgot to turn on the dryer again), spare money and time (my Mercedes only takes premium fuel)

It goes on. And on. Really this post is to say that the next time you feel frustration welling think of #firstworldproblems. I do. It changes my perspective. I think and interact differently. It also influences others. Laugh at problems. If they won’t matter in 100 years, shift focus and see frustrations for what they really are: future funny stories.

Also explore..


  1. This is indeed one of those perspective shifts which has a profound effect on life. Personally, I had made the shift prior to the “First world problems” meme, after reading an essay by Abraham Maslow (of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs), called, “On Low Grumbles, High Grumbles, and Metagrumbles”. In it, he shared a theory on people.

    First, we are almost always complaining.
    Second, our complaining tends to fill *all* of the space we have available in our life for complaining. Some people have a lot of room for complaining . . . others less . . . but our problems will fill all of that space available . . . REGARDLESS, of the nature of the complaint.
    Third, unchecked, “First world problems” often *feel* just as emotionally traumatic as “Third world problems”. They will fill all the space we’ve allowed for complaining.

    BUT you can tell a lot about the quality of a persons life by *what* they are complaining about. He felt you could determine which of their “hierarchy of needs” were, or were not being met. If you are complaining about no food, shelter, clothes or stitches . . . that would be a Low Grumble . . . If you were complaining about your rental car on your paid vacation, High Grumble. The neatest thing . . . if your biggest problem is a vacation rental car . . . most assuredly, that means you are being fed, and clothed.

    He came upon this theory by attending some local meeting where some women were very concerned that no one was maintaining the flowers in the neighborhood park. He realized that if their “biggest problem” in life (the sort of problem that would mobilize them to go to a community meeting to fix it) was the state of the flowers . . . most of their base needs were obviously being met . . . AND despite the grumbling, this could be taken as a relatively good sign of the quality of their lives.

    After processing it myself for a while, I packaged my personal meme, as “High quality problems”. I really is shocking how many of the things that we complain about really are only the fringe annoyances of a high quality life. Often people complain to me about how pissed they were about the blessings they were receiving . . . I’d point out it was a high quality problem, which almost always pisses them off at first . . . but also creates the tool to help let it go, by realizing the nature of the grumble.

    Anyway, love the topic, just wanted to add a little to your cogitations.

    Amy, if you haven’t spent anytime wallowing in Maslow . . . it really is up your alley. He was the brilliant and crazy psychologist, who came to the conclusion he didn’t want to study “sick” people, he wanted to understand the high-functioning, self-actualizing types . . . which strikes me as pretty close to what you are trying to do. I’d recommend his book “The Farther Reaches of Human Nature”, which is a nice collection of essays, including the meta-grumbles article. (Link to article below) You can sorta skip around and read as you like in bite sized pieces.


    Also, Good luck on all your adventures . . . I am super excited you are moving to Cambridge . . . little sad not to have you churning about here . . . you will be missed. Knock ’em out up there!

    Best wishes,

    Brilliant Louis CK piece on sorta on the topic . . . some salty language:

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