I have an inside joke with many people, but probably enough people that it should probably not be considered an inside joke anymore, especially since I am writing about it so openly. I suppose in part that this joke itself can be blamed on the proliferation of hashtags as a way of defining different elements of our existence. I have written about at least some of these matters before , but today I would like to explore a particular hashtag that is not very commonly used, but which expresses a very common and well-known reality. Today, I would like to talk about #ramenlife, in at least a few of its common situations as well as wide rammifications.
A lot of my coworkers bring ramen noodles to eat for snacks. To be sure, they usually do not make this their only meals (as they commonly order out lunches from a few standard restaurants), but there is a significant amount of ramen noodles consumed by those people I know (and, to be candid, myself personally), and I consider ramen noodles (which are an extremely inexpensive food) to be a general sign of material poverty. Perhaps this is being a bit unkind to the makers of that food, who obviously have provided a product that fills an important if inglorious niche around the world, but my impression is that ramen noodles are connected with poverty, and the sight of anyone eating that food signifies that they simply do not have a lot of money to buy anything else.
One of the earliest representations I had ever seen of #ramenlife was in the song “This One’s For The Girls,” where Martina McBride sings about twenty-five year old young women living on “dreams and spaghetti-o’s ,” which was an early and honest realization of that lifestyle among young people, one that many people can identify with for alarmingly long stretches of life. It used to be that paying one’s dues was a very short-term phenomenon, and then one could reasonably expect some sort of advancement and improvement in one’s standard of living such as to make the ramen life a brief period in an otherwise abundant life. Unfortunately, that has not been the case in recent years as the ramen life has become a very long-term aspect of existence for many people.
There are a few reasons for the proliferation of this type of living, and they are largely economic in nature. One is that the barriers to entry for young people into professions and up the professional ladder have seemed somewhat more closed for a variety of reasons. Another reason is that even where sufficient resources might be found to afford a better lifestyle if only money coming in is taken into consideration, the desire to pay off debts often means that for a long time money that might be spent in enjoying a better life in better times become money that must be paid back for debts to avoid the crushing burden of indebtedness, a burden that I unfortunately understand all too well.
The ramen life is even a problem in other countries. When I lived in Thailand, for example, there was once a food shortage that was induced by flooding in a different part of the country . Even though the weather was fine where we were, the flooding in the area around Bangkok, where the transportation and logistics networks were concentrated, meant that there was a shortage of all kinds of food except ramen noodles where I lived. It was a striking and unpleasant matter to see aisles and aisles of ramen noodles with very little else at all to buy. For those who lack adequate food storage or alternative supplies of food, it is a scary matter to go to the grocery store with money to buy, where the weather is fine, and to find nothing on the shelves to buy. Hopefully the ramen life does not become a sign of greater desperation on the part of people.
 Most obviously here: https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/first-world-problems/
Additionally, in at least one other case, a hashtag helped make my life rather complicated: