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First World Problems, also known as “White Whine,” are frustrations and complaints that are only experienced by privileged individuals in wealthy countries. It is typically used as a tongue-in-cheek comedic device to make light of trivial inconveniences.
The earliest known reference to “first world problems” can be found in the lyrics of Canadian alt rock band Matthew Good Band’s 1995 song titled “Omissions of the Omen,” which was included as a bonus track on their full-length debut album Last of the Ghetto Astronauts: “And somewhere around the world / Someone would love to have my first world problems / Kill the moon and turn out the sun / Lock your door and load your gun / Free at last now the time has come to choose.”
The first Urban Dictionary entry for the term was submitted on August 10th, 2005:
First World Problems: Problems from living in a wealthy, industrialized nation that third worlders would probably roll their eyes at.
The First World is a term associated with already developed countries and their citizens. In contrast, the Third World is a term coined in 1952 by French anthropologist Alfred Sauvy to define countries that did not take part in either capitalism (the First World) or communism (the Second World). Over the years, it gradually gained a negative connotation, being associated with poverty and a country being underdeveloped.
On November 26th, 2008, a Tumblr blog called “The Real First World Problems” was created. On June 9th, 2009, a Something Awful Comedy Goldmine post titled “#firstworldproblems” complaining about Twitter received several pages worth of comments with various first world problems jokes followed by the hashtag. According to Trendistic, the hashtag #firstworldproblems saw its largest spike aroud noon (EST) on July 1st, 2011.
In January 2011, American stand-up comic Louis C.K. released his third comedy album titled “Hilarious,” which featured a skit about the extreme gap between the grievances of first world citizens living in over-developed societies--which he dubbed “white people problems,” and the day-to-day struggles experienced by people living in countries that are considered to be of the Third World.
A collection of first world problems image macros were posted to the viral content site BuzzFeed on March 23rd, 2011. A Meme Generator page features a photo of a teenage boy slumped against a wall has 235 submissions and a Quickmeme page using a stock photo of a crying woman with her hand against her face has 1435 submissions as of November 7th, 2011. Other image macro derivatives can be found on the meme builder site Troll.me, the image blog Don’t Cry Emo Kid blog, and the advice animals subreddit.
Third World Success
Third World Success features a photograph of a dancing tribal child with captions about overcoming hardships that are associated with life in underdeveloped countries. The series can be seen as a derivative of Success Kid and the anti-thesis of First World Problems.
White Girl Problems
“White Girl Problems” refer to the frustrations that are typically only experienced by privileged white adolescent females. Image macros typically feature captions superimposed over a picture of a young white girl crying.
First World Problems Cat
The First World Problems Cat series features a photo of a young kitten resting its head accompanied by various complaints experienced by house cats.
Over-Educated Problems features a photograph of a man glumly looking out a window on to a rainy street. The captions typically include frustrations associated with being “too well educated” compared to one’s peers.
First World Metal Problems
First World Metal Problems features a photograph of a man with a ponytail sitting on a bench wearing a black Stormtroopers of Death (S.O.D.) t-shirt and a solemn expression. The captions typically include trivial frustrations experienced by those who listen to the metal genre of rock music.
1990s First World Problems
On July 4th, 2012, the Internet humor blog Pleated Jeans published a post titled “Best of the 1990s Problems Meme”, which featured a compilation of image macros using a screen capture of a crying Dawson Leary (played by James Van Der Beek) from the 1990s television series Dawson’s Creek. The captions included complaints about hardships associated with living in the United States during the 1990s, prior to the widespread use of broadband Internet, cell phones and DVD movies.
On July 6th, the series was reblogged on the viral content site BuzzFeed in a post titled “14 First World Problems From the 90s”, which received over 6,000 Facebook shares within three days. On July 9th, The Huffington Post published a slideshow of notable examples from the series, mentioning Van Der Beek’s animated GIF series “James Van Der Memes” produced for the Internet humor site Funny or Die. As of July 9th, 2012, the Quickmeme page for “1990s Problems” has accumulated over 2,200 submissions.
First World Stoner Problems
First World Stoner Problems is a spin-off series featuring screen captures of the character Saul Silver (played by James Franco) from the 2008 comedy film Pineapple Express, paired with trivial complaints associated with those who consume the drug marijuana. As of March 2013, the “First World Stoner Problems” Quickmeme page has received over 4,000 submissions.
1890s Problems features a black-and-white photograph of a forlorn-looking woman accompanied by captions describing grievances related to living in the late 19th century. On July 4th, 2012, Redditor QuelleDommage submitted an 1890s Problems image macro with the caption “Comes up with idea that can change modern science / is a woman” to the /r/AdviceAnimals subreddit (shown below, left), which only received 16 up votes prior to being archived. On July 12th, Redditor Narcosist submitted an image macro with the caption “Telegraphed boyfriend / took him two weeks to reply” to the /r/AdviceAnimals subreddit (shown below, right), receiving more than 5,100 up votes and 70 comments before it was archived.
In the coming weeks, compilations of notable examples from the series were posted on various websites, including The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, UpRoxx and Neatorama. As of March 2013, the “1890s Problems” Quickmeme page has received over 450 submissions.