Story and Meaning of YOLO

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This concept reveals an alternative approach to lifestyle, so as not to put aside all our savings for a "bright future", denying ourselves everything, but we live here and now. The situation with the pandemic has clearly shown that the future may not be entirely bright and the opportunities that may be now may simply not be in the future. Therefore, YOLO thinking has affected all spheres of life, including the economy. The abbreviation YOLO gained popularity in 2011 after rapper Drake's single "The Motto". In 2012, the Oxford American Dictionary shortlisted the slang term for English Word of the Year.

The Story and Meaning of YOLO

You may have seen this acronym on social media or in text messages and you might be wondering what it means. YOLO is an acronym that means "you only live once". Often used as a way to encourage people to take risks and live life to the fullest, it has become a popular social media hashtag and is often used in jokes or memes (Smiley 4). The initial perception was largely positive, encouraging people and youth, in particular, to become more courageous in life and try every new opportunity. However, with time, the motto and its abbreviation received a largely negative connotation.

It is worth starting with the fact that people’s attitudes to work have begun to change around the globe. Remote work, the blurring of working hours and responsibilities, as well as emotional burnout are increasingly encouraging people to quit stable jobs in large corporations, and the funds accumulated during the lockdown allow them to take risks and do things that they have long wanted, for example, to start your own small business. People want to devote more time to themselves and their families and find meaning in their work, even if it brings less income (Kelly). This worked rather well with the YOLO mentality as, essentially, it provided the notion of “try until you get it” motivating youth to not give up and try another opportunity if the initial one would not work.

Secondly, the YOLO approach is clearly manifested in investing, its adherents are ready to take risks, and having earned money, they often do not reinvest, but spend money on expensive purchases. Again, due to the pandemic, gamblers who used to bet on sports came to the stock market, by 2024, the gambling market will grow by $114 billion. Large corporations are already concerned about the outflow of employees and have begun to take action, LinkedIn gave employees a paid week off, Houlihan Lokey paid for the rest of employees on vacation, and Twitter provided an extra day off per month (Kelly). It is very apparent that the YOLO mentality promotes the flow of funds around the globe. However, it is also important to avoid risks of financial loss and a number of addictions that a flawed interpretation of YOLO might cause.

The original and true meaning of the phrase was that a person should be able to enjoy life with all the difficulties that it presents to him. Later in pop culture, this message was a bit lost, justifying drunkenness and drug addiction among young people. YOLO is often used as a response to someone who has made a risky or impulsive decision and is also often used with sarcasm. For example, someone might say "I'm going to YOLO and eat all that pizza" after making a bad decision. YOLO can also be used to express excitement about an upcoming event, such as a concert or vacation. The abbreviation is often used to describe something that happens after a related day-to-day event. "Woke up at 10:13 #YOLO" or "Today I petted my cat for five minutes #YOLO" seemed to amuse social media users (Smiley 11). The phenomenon of the YOLO mentality serves as a rather strong and effective lesson that misinterpretation and its massive following can lead to negative consequences. While the initial role of the YOLO motto was to encourage youth, it would soon get out of control and attract societal mockery with time.


During the pandemic, people have already begun to think about whether their work is worth their time and effort, and a whole concept has appeared in the West, the YOLO economy. It is a condition in which people strive to improve their living conditions as much as possible, even if it means risking a stable job to do so. The YOLO effect on the labor market further tilts the scales towards the gig economy, freelancing, uberization, outstaffing, outsourcing, and hybridization of work relationships.

Works Cited

Kelly, Jack. "A YOLO Mindset Inspires People to Frequently Switch Jobs in Pursuit of Meaning, Purpose and Better Pay". Forbes, 2021,

Smiley, Calvin John. "From Silence to Propagation: Understanding the Relationship Between “Stop Snitchin” And “YOLO”". Deviant Behavior, vol 36, no. 1, 2014, pp. 1-16. Informa UK Limited, Accessed 19 May 2022

June 06, 2022
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