I was recently interviewed via email by an 8th grader for a school project. She asked me about first world problems, so I wrote up my thoughts which you can find an expanded version of below. I haven’t heard back from her, so maybe these answers are terrible.
1. What prompted you to write your book?
I wanted an outlet for my observational humor and the theme of First World Problems seemed like the perfect vehicle for my observations.
Also, I don’t like when people complain (note: ranting is different than complaining) so a satirical book where I complain about petty “problems” to make the point that most people have nothing to complain about was appealing to me.
2. Do you think that “whining” about first world problems is a cultural problem?
Complaining about first world problems could be seen as a reflection of how good things are in society. The more petty the complaints people have, the better things are.
That said, it could be a cultural problem that people get outraged over insignificant/non-existent problems instead of focusing on the very real problems that exist.
2B. Do you think there is a solution to this theoretical problem?
Yes and no. Gaining awareness of history and the struggles people have gone through helps to put things in perspective. By reading about history, it makes my everyday “problems” seem petty and insignificant.
There is no solution for having problems in one’s life (explained below), but there is a solution for first world problems—gratitude. For example, I should be grateful that mating Canadian geese didn’t wake me up at 3AM last night with their car horn-loud honking (instead of just ranting when the geese are loud).
3. Do you think that these first world problems are necessary to maintain a healthy psychological state?
What people want more than anything else in their life—more than money, power, or fame—is meaning and purpose (for more on this topic read Man’s Search For Meaning). Purpose and meaning in life comes from overcoming obstacles and challenges. People need problems to maintain a healthy psychological state. So when people don’t have “real” problems in their life, they have a tendency to invent them, which why first world problems exist.
I don’t think first world problems are necessary to maintain a healthy psychological state. Having gratitude for how good things are is much more important than focusing on trivial issues.