#firstworldproblems: why this hashtag restores my faith in humanity

In my last post about social metadata, I mentioned how great it is that we’re considering the tone and context of our day-to-day messages. My absolute favourite hashtag, #firstworldproblems, is a fantastic example. It demonstrates an unprecedented level of awareness, gratitude, and unity in our day-to-day thinking.

Gratitude: a product of information, not age

For decades, mothers have told their children to be grateful for their brussel sprouts because other children were starving, but it’s always been a bit of an eye-roller. Finding happiness by considering the misfortune of others is kind of a Zen thing; a quite subtle, spiritual exercise that becomes more accessible as you get older.

At least, so we thought. Recent evidence suggests it’s not about age at all: gratitude happens when we feel enough empathy, which happens automatically when we get enough information. In the past, many of us didn’t acquire that kind of perspective until we got older, but today, we’re processing a lot more information a lot younger.

Remember how I said Twitter made us smarter?

We know an idea has really ‘sunk in’ when it becomes not only a part of language, but a form of humour among young people. Teenagers using #firstworldproblems is proof, to me, that global empathy is taking hold. We’ve realized our lot is better than others’, and that we ought to feel grateful for that; and we’ve accepted it so completely, we’re actually able to laugh at our own ridiculous complaints. As a result we’re more likely to help others, and we’re also happier with our own lives. Twenty or thirty years ago, who would have dreamed it would be cool to be honest and self-aware?

We’re doing so much critical thinking, now, that we aren’t just getting logically smarter; we’re also getting emotionally smarter. We’re learning, younger, the value of concepts like self-honesty and conscious gratitude; concepts previous generations struggled with through decades of therapy. #firstworldproblems makes me very, very happy. It’s the only way I know to mock my friends, and make them feel better, at the same time. For the west especially, bringing that kind of zen into casual conversation is a huge accomplishment!

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9 thoughts on “#firstworldproblems: why this hashtag restores my faith in humanity

  1. Loreen Jacobs says:

    HELP….I don’t know enough about hashtags nor what one does with #firstworld problems.

    On Thu, Aug 29, 2013 at 5:26 PM, The End is… Postponed wrote:

    > ** > 604steph2013 posted: “In my last post about social metadata, I > mentioned how great it is that were considering the tone and context of > our day-to-day messages. My absolute favourite hashtag, > #firstworldproblems, is a fantastic example. It demonstrates an > unprecedented level o”

  2. ransae says:

    Reblogged this on Ransae's Blog.

  3. Thanks for directing my attention to this post, Stephanie. I love how you have identified meaning behind what could be perceived as a superficial hashtag. A few weeks ago I shared a quote on my Google Plus page that reminds me of your post. The quote says, “The Things You Take For Granted, Someone Else Is Praying For.”

    I know — you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition, but as long as we can be mindful of the spectrum of humanity and our fortunate place in it, I think it’s a good thing.

    • 604steph2013 says:

      Thanks Terri! LOL, I’m a linguist at heart so my approach to spelling and grammar is descriptive, not prescriptive; as far as I’m concerned, ending sentences with certain prepositions has been acceptable usage for at least a decade now. 🙂

      Aaaaanyway – yes, that quote is very much in the spirit of gratitude and global awareness!

  4. I’m not sure if the hash tag #firstworldproblems is only used to express genuine understanding about first world entitlement and compassion for those who don’t live in the first world.

    My interpretation of the hash tag #firstworldproblems is that it’s used in the same ironic context of hipster racism. The practice of using irony or satire to mask actual racism (or entitlement in the context of #firstworldproblems).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hipster_racism

  5. michaelqtodd says:

    Perfect thoughts! Yes change is happening in a rush

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