First world problems are not real problems

By Hayley Devitt

Many of you are probably familiar with a popular expression which summarizes the spoiled attitude of a comfortable lifestyle: first world problems.

I like the Internet meme because it takes common but harmless complaints and subtly puts them into perspective. Usually the complaints have to do with excesses in food and other basic necessities or not having immediate access to luxuries like mobile devices or the Internet.

To get a better idea of the little non-issues that plague our campus, I took a small survey asking students their worst “NIU problems.”

“Having to walk half-way across campus to get a cup of coffee,” said Matthew Abraham, junior time arts major.

Dennis Henkels, sophomore political science major, said “having 10 minutes to run from Douglas Hall to Montgomery.” Again, distance seems to be a predicament.

However, many students complain about finding a place to park on campus. For sophomore sociology major Jessica Guice the problem is “having to pay for parking.”

A couple of students’ answers really got to the point of my little survey. According to sophomore illustration major Patrick Price, “There’s a lot of shitty food in the dining halls. What I mean is there is a lot of food, but it’s shitty food.”

Christine Pfau, junior physical therapy major, said NIU problems include falling asleep in class, the cost of printing out PowerPoint presentations and the machines at the Rec Center not working.

If there is nothing worse than the above survey results, I would say that NIU is pretty safe and sound compared to places in the world that are fraught with war, disease and famine.

In all seriousness, a few students confessed one of our biggest problems is the fear of another shooting. To have to worry about violence on a college campus is not unusual, but I would call it a real problem. It is not the same as worrying about your cellphone’s battery dying.

I did not ask anyone about their absolute worst problems in life. I did not want to bring up personal pain, and it is not my business to judge how easy or hard someone’s life is.

However, we need to understand that “first world problems” are not problems at all. Again, I am excluding the threat of actually dangerous situations. I might stress over the work I have to do for classes, but I feel lucky just to be in college.

According to “School Education in ‘Third World Countries’: Dream or Trauma?” by Renate Nestvogel, 100 million kids in the world do not go to school or do not go for very long because they have to work to help their families, among other reasons. They don’t have the child labor and education laws we have.

It is fun to make jokes about the things that annoy us in our everyday lives, but we should never forget how good we have it. Our economy is very weak right now and has been for the past five years, but I still think we Americans have a lot to be thankful for.