Opinion: First world stupidity

Jody Michael

I love the Internet meme “first world problems,” which are complaints only the world’s most privileged people could ever have.

Among the most popular first world problems submitted to a list on the website Reddit: “I forgot to bring my phone with me when I went to poop and I was bored the entire time;” “My smartphone changes ‘lol’ to ‘LOL,’ making me sound more amused than I actually am;” and “I had too much food for lunch, and now I’m tired.”

The people who submit these to websites like Reddit and Twitter do so with tongue in cheek, fully aware each one is hardly an inconvenience compared to problems like poverty and human rights violations.

Unfortunately, many people are not this savvy and truly have no idea how good they have it. I notice this when scientific advancements and research help to make our way of life easier; you’ll always find sneering detractors who refuse to consider a change could be for the better.

Shortly after the amazing new Howe Road roundabout in Tallmadge opened last fall, eliminating the ridiculous backup caused by the six-way intersection’s slow traffic lights, the New York Times featured a story about the increase of roundabouts in America. It had lots of amazing quotes from people who didn’t understand them.

“Let’s just have a light there, and when the light changes, you just go,” Kitty Schaeffer said.

“Just because something works in one culture, doesn’t mean it’s going to work in another culture,” Rodney Gernert said. “In our country, we don’t hang animals in our storefronts like other cultures.”

You have a proven opportunity to reduce traffic time and severe collisions, but because it’s slightly more difficult than waiting for a green light, the roundabout is completely unacceptable?

A newer example is a looming federally mandated transition from incandescent light bulbs to energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs beginning next year.

A recent Boston Globe story explains one mother’s reaction perfectly: “What good is a thriving planet … if (her light bulbs) ruin the look of the dining room chandelier, or take forever to get bright?”

Incandescent bulb sales at The Home Depot have increased by more than 10 percent in the past year, as clueless people try to avoid the change. Why are those bulbs so special?

“People are used to that nice, warm, happy hug of an incandescent,” store owner Lucy Dearborn told the Globe. What does that even mean?

The story’s comment section reveals this country’s divide between stupid people and everyone else. The highest-rated comment is from a small business owner who switched bulbs and wrote that “the savings have been huge for three reasons: they use 75 percent less electricity than the bulbs I replaced; they last significantly longer (three to four times) than traditional bulbs; and they run significantly cooler than traditional bulbs, so it reduces the load on the air conditioning units.”

The second-highest comment refuses to let facts get in the way of a rant: “Government needs to take a huge step back and let Americans decide for themselves how they want to live.”

That American decided to live completely ignorant beyond all reason. You can buy light bulbs that burn out quickly, waste energy and cost you extra money — but not for long.

This light bulb transition is a victory for sanity. I shall celebrate with a cheeseburger; hopefully I won’t overcook the bun like last time, because that was really annoying.

Jody Michael is a junior news major. Contact him at [email protected].