Social Media Column: Putting #firstworldproblems in perspective

Published in the October 23, 2012 issue of The Edmonton Sun.

Linda’s social media column can be found every Tuesday in the Edmonton Sun.

Putting #firstworldproblems in perspective

There’s a hashtag called “#firstworldproblems” that’s widely being used on Twitter.

People will post about how their phone isn’t loading fast enough, how there’s nothing good on TV or how their nail polish is cracking, to name just a few silly examples.

Basically it’s very trivial non-issues, posted as a joke.

A video called ‘First World Problems Anthem’ posted earlier this month highlights some of those tweets and is meant to raise awareness of the need for clean drinking water in developing countries.

The video features Haitians reading first world problem tweets outloud and has now reached nearly 1.7 million views.

“I hate when my leather seats aren’t heated,” a young boy says.

“When I go to the bathroom and I forget my phone,” says an elderly man.

The video ends with “#firstworldproblems are not problems” and it really struck a chord with me — especially after having recently returned from a 10-day trip to Cuba.

My “first world problem” heading to that country was the fact that I’d have little to no Internet access. As someone who loves and is undeniably addicted to social media and the Internet — you can imagine how difficult it was for me to “sign off” because Cuba has one of the lowest Internet connectivity rates in the world.

It wasn’t a complete blackout though. For 5 CUC (Cuban convertible pesos) or about $5 CDN, I was able to buy 30 minutes of Internet access at my hotel. That’s 30 minutes logged on to a painfully slow computer connection.

Where here it takes us seconds to load most webpages, in Cuba it took minutes. More than a minute to actually load a page, nearly five minutes to actually log in to Facebook or Twitter — forget about actually posting anything, I literally sat waiting and watching the progress bar load.

It’s brutal by our Internet connection standards but I’m not complaining anymore.

The ‘problem’ reminded me of the ‘First World Problems Anthem’ video that’s now gone viral.

You know what’s an actual problem? Making next to no income, getting by on food rations, and living in small, deteriorating buildings – all of which are realities for Cubans – and others living in poverty all around the world.

One of the Cuban hotel staff members told us he only makes $18 a month. Another asked me if I had any extra clothes I could give her daughter as even clothing is rationed in the country. And a street vendor told us beef is so scarce that you’re jailed for years if you slaughter a cow for meat – only the government can do that.

Perspective. We are so lucky here in Canada. No more #firstworldproblems for me.

Ten days without my usual access to Internet is nothing compared to real problems the Cubans — and others living in non-First World countries face each and every day.

Click here to read the column on the Edmonton Sun website!

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