It seems as though a mass epiphany has struck the global youth, an all-consuming realization that you do, in fact, only live once. Apparently, this concept proves shocking to the average teenager. Within the past few months, Drake’s infectious motto has swept the globe, ubiquitous on social media sites and a common chorus in high school hallways. You would think that this generation has never heard of the maxim’s clichéd cousins who all express the importance of living life to the fullest. The truism is a staple in the works of Socrates, Horace, Hemingway, and even the people who write fortune cookies. Funny enough, teens of a media-dominated era derived our obsession with the slogan from a twenty-something rapper, not from his literary predecessors. Accepted as a novel premise, the YOLO bandwagon quickly filled with devout followers, and MTV’s target demographic continues to jump on board daily. Now the modern seventeen-year-old’s mantra, the acronym has initiated a trending, go-to excuse for any and all questionable behavior. The number of Spring Break photo albums sentimentally entitled “YOLO [optional winky face]” speaks to the message’s rapidly applied synonymy with Hedonism. Kids love to take advantage of a pretentiously philosophical justification to do dumb things and evade regret. If irresponsibility remains an inherent facet of adolescence, then so must weak rationalization. Abuses of YOLO are, consequently, a threat, as it has increasingly been deemed appropriate to cite the contemporary proverb as a defense of asinine behavior. Twitter overflows with variations of “[Insert lapse in judgment] #YOLO” as tribute to the inspirational axiom, the range of such lapses startlingly expansive. To some people, YOLO means ordering the fries instead of a salad; for others, it’s an excuse to sleep around. However, the YOLO mindset cannot be considered at fault for every unbecoming decision teenagers make; rather, its rising popularity serves as testament to youth’s need to be a little reckless, make mistakes, make excuses, and realize that, however cliché, life is too short to waste opportunities. Ironically, teens are just as imprudent as we are fickle, so like any iTunes Top Ten Download, the fad is likely to get old and fizzle out by the end of the summer. Why not embrace the trend while you can? After all, you only live once.
March 29, 2012