That’s right, Drake and Lil’ Wayne. The term YOLO has skyrocketed in fame as late as last year among the younger generations who have heard The Motto. We know how they roll: imitating the messages of the songs in their self-declared principles and beliefs.
Some can also consider Chris Brown, Mike Posner and even the trying Bieber as those who live by the mantra of YOLO, not to forget the genuine exemplars of this not-so-well-understood behavior seen in the cast of Jersey Shore. If for some reason you have not yet heard of “You Only Live Once”, it is according to the media the contemporary term for the maxim Carpe Diem.
Carpe diem is, of course, Latin for “Seize the day.” People at present interpret this roughly as something to motivate them to take risks, to make the most out of every opportunity that life presents, to grab opportunities, and to live life with no inhibitions. Some teenagers have interpreted this as partying, gulping down alcohol and getting ‘wild’. How they would want to live their life fully however, is another subjective matter, because different people have different philosophies and beliefs about fun, life, and enjoyment.
So let’s go back to the source. According to Merriam-Webster online, Carpe Diem is defined as the enjoyment of the pleasures of the moment without regard for the future, corroborating the essence from where YOLO stems.
But to equate YOLO with drinking, partying, frolicking flirtatiously, and basically just throwing away all restrictions and responsibility is a common understanding of YOLO. These traits just go to show in the music videos of many pop artists who incorporate the theme into their work. Their antics rub off on their fans and listeners; hence the image of YOLO becomes an image of gratuitous self-indulgence and anarchic ‘freedom’. Some might even go far as to say that only by believing in YOLO can we be aware that we are actually alive.
From a psychological perspective though, YOLO is there to offset a lesser known four-letter label, FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). It’s because of this fear that people find the initiative in themselves to have fun and socialize, because of the want to always be in and never miss out on opportunities for socialization, says psychologist Goal Saedl in an analysis of the YOLO-FOMO phenomenon.
To further cope with this FOMO, according to her, observers of YOLO use downward and upward social comparisons. Downward comparisons roughly refer to this line of thought: “They’re such unachieving losers who do nothing but throw away their lives by partying all the time. That’s all they are good at.” Upward social comparisons are, “They’re living the good life. They’re having fun while I study.”
An article by Brian Gordon in The Cornell Daily Sun explains that there are three kinds of YOLO, the first of which would be the use of the term more as a mere catchphrase rather than an actual motto in life. This describes those people to use the hashtag with YOLO in it, while posting pictures of everyday tasks from taking out the thrash to asking someone out on a date. The second kind would be the “break every rule there is because there would not be any other opportunities to do it” kind of YOLO. This is the stereotype “stupid” kind of YOLO, the attitude that gets you in trouble with the authorities or our parents. The third Gordon points out would be the attitude that allows one to do things because they simply are the things you might not do anymore because any time could be your last time. Examples include bungee-jumping from Mt. Everest, having tea with the Dalai Lama, riding a snow tiger, etc.
Perhaps this motto could be considered just as an empowering tool used to strengthen each other in the difficult times and some would think of it as a possibly escapist but ultimately consoling abandon, dropping everything that weighs people down and suddenly doing what makes them at least temporarily happy. Behind all the quotations about life with the background being a roughly blurred photo with people partying or smoking or drinking in it, there is a clear message to the public. More importantly, there is the youth who see all of this and are directly influenced by it while scrolling down their Facebook news feeds. It is as with all memes a contagious attitude that molds public behavior.
To cut the long story short, there is nothing entirely wrong about YOLO. It is those who live by it, or at least try, that define how the statement is to be perceived. It can be something which drives people to new heights, or if people just want to party and drink ‘til there is no tomorrow then that is for them to decide.
The choice, ultimately, is yours.