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fwp or First World Problems or #firstworldproblems

What does fwp mean?

First World Problems or fwps are issues that are only seen as such by people in wealthy parts of the world. The term is generally used in a tongue-in-cheek way online by people in wealthy nations to poke fun at themselves.

Where does fwp come from?

The Oxford English Dictionary online places the first usage of First World Problem in 1979, in G.K. Payne’s book Built Environment. In Payne’s use, the term lacked the ironic tone it later came to be known for. Other entries for First World Problems from the OED online show the sarcastic tone had begun to dominate usage by the late 1990s.

Google trends indicates that lookups for First World Problems reached their height in December 2011, though the term is still in use in popular culture, with plays on the phrase making their way into Twitter handles and book titles.

As a track on his 2014 album Mandatory Fun, “Weird Al” Yankovic released a song and video called “First World Problems” in the style of the Pixies. The lyrics are a list of First World Problems, beginning with: “My maid is cleaning my bathroom, so I can't take a shower. / When I do, the water starts getting cold after an hour.”

The term has inspired many memes, such as 1990s First World Problems (e.g., “I rented a movie. The previous customer didn’t rewind it.”) and 1890s Problems (e.g., “Kissed boyfriend. Scurvy.”).

A few things to note…

The term First World Problems is generally used by people in first-world countries as a way to poke fun at themselves, often taking on a self-deprecating and ironic tone. The hashtag #FirstWorldProblems is popular on social media.

In 2012, WATERisLife used the First World Problems hashtag in an ad campaign in which Haitian residents read tweets that used the hashtag in a video. The campaign was both criticized as fake and manipulative to the Haitians and praised as an effective way to start an important conversation.

The phrase itself is not without controversy. Critics such as Alexis C. Madrigal for The Atlantic and Steven Poole for The Guardian have argued that the First World Problems is problematic, racist, and condescending. Poole writes that the phrase implies that “third world” nations (now commonly referred to as “developing nations”) are homogenous in their worries, and that “hunger, disease, and war are not only prevalent among the global poor but in some way the sole conditions of their lives.”

For example…

“Waiting in a line to get gas, not getting comments or likes on Facebook, worrying about buying the next iPhone as soon as possible, and disliking having your parents tell you what to do are some of the silliest first world problems, ‘FWP,’ I get exposed to. These are a drop of water in a wide sea because those complainers have no idea about the non-FWP that millions of Iraqis and other people in other parts of the world are facing each and every day.”

Andrew Slater, “My Non-First World Problems: Letters from Iraq,” The Daily Beast (August 10, 2014)

““Now, this is an important issue. One of the things people dread the most–one of the hardest parts about the holidays across the country–is how difficult it can be to roll out pie crust.”
Verbal hashtag: First world problems.”

“First World Problems: The Reflexive “Myself”,” Grammarsaurus Rex (December 27, 2011)

“Got a massage yesterday and my desk chair has already ruined it. #FirstWorldProblems”

Digital Playground @DPxxx Twitter (April 3, 2017)

This is not a formal definition of fwp like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of fwp that will help you expand your word mastery.