Haitians read #FirstWorldProblem tweets to raise awareness of real issues

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The nature of social media has allowed us to broadcast our lives to the world with little to no care about what we actually say… at least, sometimes it feels that way. The use of hashtags on Twitter has helped spear revolutions and highlight important issues around the world — these hashtags are important.

So you know when you complain about frivolous things on Twitter, like the fact that your skinny cappuccino just isn’t quite skinny enough and it’s cause to boycott your local coffee shop? Yes, those tweets that you so proudly hashtag “first world problems” or “middle class problems”? It seems that needs to stop.

A charity organisation has decided to take ownership of the #FirstWorldProblems tag and use it for good while making fun at the hardships of the privileged, reports Business Insider.

The campaign was created by marketing firm DDB New York for the non-profit organisation “Water is Life“, a charity that provides clean water for those in need.

According to DDB’s blog:

This #FirstWorldProblems initiative was created in partnership with WATERisLIFE, a non-profit organization addressing the global crisis arising from the dearth of drinkable water around the world – an issue that leads to malnutrition, infection, and even untimely death. Featuring the tagline “Help solve real problems,” the effort is designed to raise awareness of the plight of those less fortunate and put our privileged lives into perspective, with the ultimate dual goal of ending #FirstWorldProblems altogether and raising money to fight world thirst.

The campaign’s hope is to “eliminate the #FirstWorldProblems hashtag on Twitter — the first mission to wipe out, instead of promote, a trending hashtag”.

The video (below) shows everyday Haitians reading tweets about “problems” that aren’t quite in their everyday. A little boy talks about how he hates that his leather seats aren’t heated and then the camera pans zooms out and he sitting on a mound of rubble. In the same way we see a little girl complain about leaving her clothes too long in the washing machine, while behind her we see children washing their clothes in a nearby river.

“We’re not setting out to humiliate people who have used the #FirstWorldProblems hashtag,” said Matt Eastwood, Chief Creative Officer at DDB New York. “Rather, the project encourages people to think before they tweet. There are much more important problems in the world than not getting a hot-enough latte in the morning. By highlighting real world problems we hope to encourage people to give to those in real need.”

As well-meaning as the campaign is there is some criticism around it. Nigerian-American author Teju Cole argues that the campaign is of a “condescending nature” reports the Guardian. According to the report, Cole points out that people in third world countries deal with mundane problems such as BlackBerry connectivity issues or car repairs as well.

“All the silly stuff of life doesn’t disappear just because you’re black and live in a poorer country,” he says.

On the other side of the coin, this blogger argues that while the campaign is both “ingenious” and “extremely smart”, the fact that the tweets aren’t real and were carefully scripted loses some of the potential the campaign could have had.

It’s legitimate to produce a campaign like this. But one question arises: The goal is to raise awareness and get people to donate money. The campaign now is based on “fake” tweets. Why didn’t they use real #FirstWorldProblems tweets? There a lot of them every minute! What about the opportunity to reach “real” users, to be much more effective, to be more authentic, to spread the message far beyond the community of advertising industry? I would love to know why they chose this direction.

The video, which now has more than 800 000 views, is slowly seeping into our consciousness and the comments seem to be positive. Whether or not it will translate into donations for the organisation remains to be seen.

[Hat Tip: Mike Sharman]

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