It’s been over two years since its emergence on the scene; it started as a whisper and rose to a cultural roar. It’s a bold statement that requires zero repentance, caps lock, a pack mentality, a fondness for Drake and an affinity for fucking shit up:
It’s invaded not only our language and assimilated itself into our daily culture, but infected an already open wound. We live amongst a world of peers and celebrities alike who revel in contempt for apologies and largely disapprove of taking responsibility for their actions—apparently, saying sorry isn't sexy you guys! Miley, Kesha, Drake, even FUN have been noted as musicians and pop stars who have contributed to our culture of non-apology glorification and a gradual slope into infamy.
Obviously not everyone has been sucked into the degrading world of exalted angst and elongated teenage rebellion—but for the most part, I think we can all agree that YOLO is a downright plague and has been exhaustingly overused. It’s lazily invoked to spice up the mundane and has stripped us of the need to have a justification for any of our actions. (Not to mention the whole accountability thing.)
It's been a few years and YOLO has definitely lost some of its traction, but sadly, the mess it's created (along with other new colloquial abbreviations basically designed to avoid apologizing at any and all costs, like DGAF) is still very ever present. In my experience, every don't-give-a-fuck mentality stems from a place of fear—it’s a way to go back and create meaning where none existed prior. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of doing it wrong. If we never cared to begin with, consequences are void. We change the frame of meaning by acting like it never really mattered—an embarrassing memory is transformed to one of carefree debauchery and an "intentional mistake."
The Millennial Generation, myself included, has been called every variation of lazy ingrate that the Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers could think of. And with YOLO as a point of reference, can you blame them?
I’ll give the phrase the benefit of the doubt that it began with good intentions—Carpe Diem and live for today type motives are behind the original usage. Amazingly, YOLO takes a beautiful idea—the idea of "no day but today" and generally grabbing life by the balls—and makes a mockery of true adventure, equating fleeting moments of opportunity with drunken, ménage à trois-laden farces.
Part of growing up is learning to apologize, taking responsibility and living with intent. YOLO robs people of the chance to do that—to live intentionally. Let's all stop striving for “nights you can’t remember,” retelling these moments as sentimental stories of fuck yeah! youth.
YOLO has quickly become something more sinister; it allows us to fall on our asses, becoming utter vagrants or brainless bros. Rather than growing into adulthood, we deprive ourselves of the experience of learning from our mistakes and in terms of maturity let ourselves live forever young. What’s worse? We accept and allow this trend to continue, even after the initial YOLO dust has settled. We keep letting irrefutable fuck-ups slide as acceptable ways to interact, when they're just not.
Despite its fading glory, I still worry that we're on the verge of permanently being remembered as the YOLO Generation—a generation whose baffling and repellent vocal majority has decided we’d rather stand for youthful arrogance than stand for nothing at all.
Image: Wikimedia Commons