Free The Children founders Craig and Marc Kielburger turn the First World Problems meme on its head by offering real world fixes.
You Gotta First World Problem? Fix it.
First World Problems has become a meme of such epic proportions -- the kind with so many adaptations (including White Girl Problems like, "today I learned that it's totally possible to over-nap"), that the originals are hard to trace.
Your Laundromat doesn't have Wi-Fi!? The magazines in your dentist's waiting room are from last month?! Oh, the humanity. How will you while away the minutes while your clothes are mechanically cleaned for you? What will you read while you wait to have your teeth flossed by a college graduate?
How quickly luxuries become necessities, and necessities become annoyances.
How quickly memes can be turned on their heads. This week, when "First World Problems Anthem," a video devised by a U.S-based marketing agency for a charitable campaign, went viral, we could hardly keep up with the momentum of the backlash.
The video features Haitians atop earthquake-wrecked homes and in slums, supposedly reading aloud from the First World Problems Twitter feed. The result is a juxtaposition of disturbing developing world images with whiny, self-important problems from a privileged world away like "my house is so big I need two wireless routers."
Some pointed out the irony of attacking First World Problems, which is meant to be ironic, without offering real, grassroots solutions. Others attacked the integrity of the Anthem video -- noting that the Haitians were likely scripted by the ad agency.
Forbes pointed out the convenience of using First World solutions (like viral YouTube videos) to fix Third World problems. The whole debacle has reached some new level of "meta." And what is more First World than a meta-meme?
For our part, when we realized we'd had more than our fair share of First World Moments, they generated the idea for our latest book, My Grandma Follows me on Twitter...and Other First World Problems We're Lucky to Have. Like that time our dry cleaner lectured us on the finer points of mixing fast food with neck ties, and we're standing there going, "as if we have time for this..." Then we realized we should instead be marvelling at the fact that we have a dry cleaner. And fast food. And ties. Or it might be that our Grandma actually follows us on Twitter.
So the subtitle is intentional: we consider ourselves lucky.
The problem with an outright attack on the First World meme and its sources is that no one can help the world they're born into. It's not inherently wrong to find yourself in a hemisphere with electricity, running water and FedEx. First world guilt only manifests when we lose perspective of our so-called problems. The world doesn't owe us anything beyond our most basic human rights. We are not entitled to Wi-Fi, or heated toilet seats, or dry cleaning, or pizza in 30 minutes or less.
And forgive the cliché, but there's only one world; our actions, decisions, even our perspectives have consequences outside of our small part of it. As the comment pages in the Guardian pointed out this week, First World Problems arose from a discrepancy in quality of life. That discrepancy was always implied.
So, when we compiled our own collection of soft and shameful complaints, we added an addendum -- real world fixes. It's like First World Problems 2.0, now with an added dose of reality. Here's a sampling of some of our favourite real world fixes until My Grandma Follows me on Twitter is released at the end of November. Because, really, who can wait two months to read an actual book?
Problem: I couldn't stay awake to watch Mad Men. Now I can't talk to my friends until it's online.
Fix: Along with the death of appointment television came the suppression of casual conversation, lest we encounter a spoiler alert before downloading. But there are more than 1.3-billion people around the world without access to electricity, who've no idea that Don Draper is actually Dick Whitman. For their sake, why not hold weekly viewing parties and rotate hosting duties (chain-smoking and binge-drinking optional). This way, you can conserve electricity and avoid shunning those who are several episodes ahead of you.
Problem: The staff at our Mexican resort have never heard of cheesy fries. Seriously? This is the birthplace of Taco Bell.
Fix: Tourism is the main export in a third of all developing countries. When on vacation, maximize your contribution to the community by choosing locally-owned restaurants, tour operators and shops as much as possible. Side note: If you think Taco Bell is authentic Mexican cuisine, don't panic, but you are currently experiencing a cultural emergency.
Problem: The tab on my disposable coffee cup tore open too far and I spilled coffee on my shirt while I was driving.
Fix: Canadians toss 1.6-billion coffee cups a year -- resulting in 144 sq. km of lost natural habitat potential. Get yourself a reusable mug with a nice, easy-to-use lid (note: this is optional during Roll Up The Rim To Win season). And don't drink and drive.
Are you already bored with the meme that made boredom famous? Do you want to tell everyone to stop complaining, because, in the infamous words of Babe Walker, "you sound like you're wearing sweatpants"?
What do you think of the new meme #FirstWorldProblemsarenotRealProblems? Better yet, do you have a real world fix to a classic first world problem? Share it below.
Follow Craig and Marc Kielburger on Twitter: www.twitter.com/craigkielburger