How the #FirstWorldProblems Anthem Video (Sort of) Missed the Point

The #FirstWorldProblems Anthem video (embedded below) may not have gone viral (yet), but it is making the rounds. Reactions to the video have been mixed, as Emel O’Toole explains in the Guardian.

Writing for Co.Create, Joe Berkowitz has aptly captured both a central problem behind the now-famous #FirstWorldProblems Tweets and the rationale driving the ad group to release this video:

While taken individually #FirstWorldProblems jokes may seem innocuous, but according to DDB New York, there are approximately five of the tweets per second. The cumulative effect of seeing so many of them so frequently creates an online atmosphere with neither the sensitivity nor awareness to deal with the serious social problems that lay on the other side of the gags.

The risk of becoming desensitized to these Tweets surely is present. I’m not sure, however, that the issue is as serious as the campaign makes it seem. As O’Toole noted in her piece, while watching the Anthem video you wonder if its producers miss the mocking, self-deprecating point of #FirstWorldProblem Tweets.

I also question whether the video criticizes the right people. The #FirstWorldProblems hashtag can easily be shown as distasteful, but it seems to me the real problem lies not with those using the hashtag so much as those who laugh at and choose to retweet what they just read. To be clear, the problem starts with those who use the hashtag itself, but it would be a flash in the pan and no more if friends and followers of the tweeter simply ignored it rather than responding positively to the tweet.

The Anthem video no doubt serves its purpose, but if we really want to see these hashtagged Tweets vanish, we’d be far more effective censuring our friends with silence. When the audience goes away, the distasteful Tweets will too.

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Seth T. Hahne

    Finding #FirstWorldProblems distasteful is kind of itself a first world problem. And one perhaps overlooks the obvious, self-aware nature of the meme. As you mention these are meant to be self-deprecating. It’s the poster acknowledging:

    “Look, this thing bothers me but I know in my heart that this thing that bothers me is small potatoes in the grand scheme of things and I could be far worse off and this barely merits complaint. But it still bothers me and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with those feelings.”

    With that in mind, it seems distasteful to find this stuff distasteful. It’s like actively discouraging people from wrestling with the internal crises that wealth disparity generates in those who benefit from the disparity (especially those who benefit arbitrarily). It doesn’t seem either good or healthy to encourage silence from those who are beginning to be made aware of the tension between their struggles and others’.