#muslimrage vs. #1stworldproblems

In short, #muslimrage wins hands down.

The hilarious response to Newsweek’s unfortunate cover proved once again one of the great things about the internet – ordinary people can use humor to completely reverse the harm that Newsweek’s cover blaring “Muslim Rage” does to promote stereotypes of Islam. Two of my favorite tweets:

@LibyaLiberty: I’m having such a good hair day. No one ever knows. #muslimrage 

@Seedati007: I make popcorn, the neighbors call the police. #muslimrage @

But i wanted to compare it quickly with #1stworldproblems, because in some ways the two are similar. They use snarky, sarcastic social commentary to poke fun of their own community and some of the “typical” problems that they have.

There’s a difference, though, which underscores why I love #muslimrage and hate #1stworldproblems. The former was done in response to a negative stereotype, and the humor is really pointing out the silly side of Islam in America and Americans’ reactions to it. These tweets promote inclusive community by painting the differences between Muslims and non-Muslims as simple and ordinary, no different than those of a banker and a airline pilot.

The latter I don’t like, because of what’s behind the whole idea. “First world problems” divides the world back into first and third worlds in an age when so many of those assumptions and barriers are breaking down. Complaining about how you can’t pronounce the latest creation at Starbucks is a semi-hidden and somewhat smug (even if unintentional) reference to how trendy and well-off you are to be able to always be buying expensive and over-complicated coffee. I’ve complained plenty of times about Starbucks and smart phones, but those small luxuries I do use every day, I find it best to accept the hassle as inherent to the privilege.

Worse, “first world problems” displays an ignorance of the different lives that people have within our own country, and creates an exclusive community of people who get Starbucks frequently enough to pick up on the same frustrations. (As if you have a right not to be frustrated.) This might be a realization that some don’t want to have, but poor or rich, sickness or health, if we don’t all stick together, we’re sunk.

I know I’m probably taking this too seriously. But to the extent that #hashtags reflect our cultural reality, I think this one should go.

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About developingnathan
I am a reflective person. I am an introvert, a friend, a brother and a son. I appreciate a well-crafted glass of beer, piece of music and turn of phrase. I am a professional of international development, a good pianist and a Green Bay Packers fan.

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