Lately I’ve noticed a questionable trend in articles and blog posts: authors describing our daily challenges as First World problems. The intention behind this description is to acknowledge that so-called Second- and Third World countries are dealing with different problems than those found in highly industrialized nations.
Many countries certainly do face struggles that most of us in North America and Europe can only begin to imagine. However, casually labeling our problems as First World is troublesome for several reasons. Most notably, the terms First-, Second-, and Third World have become outdated since their adoption during the Cold War. In addition, we don’t actually have any official definitions for what constitutes a First-, Second-, or Third World country. Some definitions rely solely on industrialization, while others involve governing structure, such as democracy versus communism, rather than economics.
But beyond this academic perspective, hearing someone (who’s not a professional demographer) refer to First World problems is like listening to a celebrity complain about being rich and famous. Sure, on an intellectual level we non-celebrities understand that having gobs of money and status has its own set of troubles—but when millionaire athletes and reality show stars grumble about these issues, I’m just annoyed, aren’t you?
In our increasingly globalized world where business content can literally span the globe, trendy language is often an accidental affront just waiting to happen.