Alvia Frey

Alvia Frey

I learned about “first world problems” a few years ago.

Also known as “white whine,” first world problems are frustrations and complaints that are only experienced by privileged people living in wealthy countries.

We live in one of those countries.

Some of the most common first world problems privileged people complain about are poor mobile phone coverage, getting a bad haircut, slow internet access, and waiting too long in line while at the grocery.

Somewhere along the way, our society as a whole has cultivated a penchant for complaining about trivial inconveniences.

I cannot pinpoint when all of the incessant complaining began, but I certainly read the complaints aired on Facebook every single day.

I was reintroduced to first world problems in an advent devotional study I read two years ago, and which I read again this past year, called “A Different Kind of Christmas” by Mike Slaughter.

In the study, Slaughter shares that multiple websites exist “simply for people to list their first-world problems.”

Some of the problems found on those sites are as follows: “I put a bandage on my thumb and now I can only text with one hand” and “It stinks having a check so large that I can’t deposit it using my iPhone app.”

Slaughter then asked his readers to go to YouTube and type “first-world problems” in the search bar.

This time I paid attention to the author’s instructions and did just that.

Along with videos showing well-groomed people complaining about trivial inconveniences was a video produced by Water is Life, titled “First World Problems Read by Third World People.”

Third world countries are marked by extreme poverty, crime, sickness and death.

One young man standing in front of a shabby building shared this problem: “I hate it when I tell them no pickles, but they still give me pickles.”

A young boy sitting in front of a dilapidated cinder block building shared this problem: “I hate it when my leather seats aren’t heated.”

The video is disturbing, as it should be.

I have never lived in poverty. I have never been without water. I have always had enough food in the pantry. I have always had enough clothing to wear. I have always lived in a well-constructed and safe house. I have always had access to a washing machine and clothes dryer.

But I have complained. And most of the time, my complaints, when verbalized, are minor protests and inconsequential grumblings.

On behalf of the people living in third world countries, that needs to stop.

Alvia Lewis Frey is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. Contact her at

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