Why YOLO Is the New WWJD
Thinking about making a resolution for the new year? How about a motto that will last all year?
That's what rapper Drake did in 2012 with YOLO, the ubiquitous, often grating acronym (and noun/verb/adjective) that made it onto Oxford's shortlist for word of the year.
You only live once/That's the motto, he sang way back in 2011, setting a cultural touchstone: The New York Times called it "the new LOL," and Katie Couric attempted to turn it into the new "bucket list". Eventually YOLO started popping up, often ironically, im the Twitter feeds of people my age around the middle of 2012.
My first reaction: confusion. Then irritation, at the mysterious and ludicrous origins of cultural shorthand. Apparently, correct application of YOLO is at the user's discretion. As the anti-YOLO campaign points out, the phrase seems best and most often suited to excuse foolish mistakes or offer logic for poor life choices.
Or, in a quote typically attributed to comedian Jack Black but actually sourced to a parody Twitter account: "I am fairly certain that 'YOLO' is 'Carpe diem' for stupid people."
But I tend to err on the side of appropriating cultural themes rather than strictly condemning them, and so while I can't admire the profanity-laced origins of YOLO or its more common use to excuse drunken parties, I can envision some good from the appropriation of such a snappy and social media-friendly word.
Maybe YOLO deserved to be one of the worst words of 2012, but it can have a new life in 2013, one that doesn't emphasize the experiential over the valuable.
As an example, a tweet: Inviting strangers to dinner twice this week. #YOLO
Or: Whole family turning off cell phones & going to the zoo today; back online Monday. #YOLO
Or even: Still no job offers as of today, but praising God anyway because #YOLO.
After all, the Bible has a lot to say about not putting off for tomorrow what should be done today. Paul urges us to temper opportunity with wisdom, but links the two as well in Eph. 5:16: "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil."
Often, it is wisdom to grab opportunity (recognizing this is the greatest wisdom of all, as I rediscover yearly, and almost daily). You needn't be a teenager or immersed in a pop radio playlist about dying young to understand that time is not returnable like a Christmas gift.
According to the singer Ke$ha, in an interview with SPIN, YOLO is the best response to uncertainty:
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