Are your problems trivial?

I think most people have been told at least once that their problems are trivial. 

Indeed, it’s very easy to assume some problems are relatively insignificant. Having slow WI-FI, being served bad food, not being able to buy Taylor Swift tickets —all these first world problems seem to be inconveniences at best. Whenever someone argues the opposite, it’s very instinctive to judge them, and perhaps even call them out for being too detached from reality. 

But, would that be accurate?

The reality is that comparing people’s problems, or trying to objectively evaluate them is an impossible task. Yes, it does seem absurd to claim that getting rejected from your dream college is more painful than to be run over by a car... but how can we prove it? It’s simply an intuition. There is no way to quantify suffering or joy—that’s the fundamental weakness of ethical theories like utilitarianism that aim to ‘maximize happiness’. 

If someone genuinely feels that Tony Stark’s death in Avengers: Endgame is more moving than the suffering of human beings in the actual world, who am I to say that’s not true? Feelings and their strength are a completely subjective experience. 

Understanding this can certainly alleviate those who think they should feel bad or guilty for caring too much about their first world problems. Of course, there are some aspects of problems that might make them more tragic than others (with irreversibility being one of them), but that doesn’t mean everyone’s scale of emotional perception is going to be the same. Again, as weird as it sounds, it’s totally possible that the subjective suffering someone experiences from failing a class is exactly equivalent to the subjective suffering other people experience when their relatives die. 

Thus, instead of labeling other people’s problems as trivial or insignificant, we should be sympathetic and keep in mind that no problem is truly comparable.