In Internet Glossary, Social Media

Yolo Meaning – Why It Even Exists

Yolo Meaning

Yolo Meaning – Why It Even Exists

As we grow, so does our language. We find new ways to communicate more while using less, particularly the younger generations. This kind of behavior started around the time the Internet gained popularity – people found that it was much more efficient to use common sense acronyms, specifically ones that did not exist before popular Internet usage. Common early Internet acronyms include phrases such as “lol” (laughing out loud), “nm” (never mind), “brb” (be right back), and others. Nowadays, we have acronyms like “smh” (shaking my head), “ftw” (for the win), and “yolo” (you only live once). At times for older generations, acronyms like these can be confusing, and will often go over their heads. Sometimes they will try and use it to identify with the younger generations, only for the kids to smh. In order to help avoid embarrassing situations like that, we’re going to help you understand acronyms, one at a time, as well as the how and why of acronym development. Today’s acronym is yolo.

What does the term “yolo” mean

To get to the answer to the question “what does yolo stand for,” the yolo meaning is “you only live once.” The phrase means – more or less – that since you “only live once,” you should live life to the fullest. The longer you stagnate, the opportunities you overlook, the chances that you never take, compile and complicate your eventual future when you don’t have the time to take advantage of opportunities.

Is yolo reckless?

The principles behind yolo are to encourage people to do something that may be considered extreme, dangerous, or foolish. For example, a person could be in a position wherein his or her friends are goading him or her to do something dangerous and/or illegal, and in order to make the final push, his or her friends say “yolo!” While the pressure itself, not the word, is what people exercise on others in order to get them to act outside of their comfort zones, these people are using yolo as perhaps a mascot to encourage risky behavior.

Yolo meaning – does it encourage positive behavior?

I would argue that the yolo meaning is rarely to do something especially good or worthwhile to society. While this should not be seen by me as an indictment of youth, most people who use the term are probably not using it to describe their aspirations, or to encourage their friends to reach for bigger and better things. Those that do encourage others or themselves to become improved generally don’t use this phrase in conjunction with that betterment. Though the use of the phrase should not be taken to mean that the people who use it are not positive people – I know a lot of great people who use it either jokingly or sometimes even seriously.

Why do people use acronyms online and in text messaging?

Historically, most online acronyms can be attributed to a desire to add more brevity to one’s words in text form. In the mid 90’s, when the Internet became significantly more popular for average everyday use, people began using acronyms more and more, because it helped them to convey more while putting less energy into that conveyance. The use of Internet acronyms like lol or brb were basic communicative tools, and were given prominence around the same time that people started using emoticons. Emoticons carried the same utility as acronyms for Internet users more or less, but are done by combining letters, numbers, and/or symbols in order to replicate facial emotions. Some good and popular examples – ones that have never really fell out of favor among people – include the smiley face :), the frowny face :(, the tongue face :P, the excited face :D, and others.

Modern use of Internet acronyms

If any one acronym had to be cited as representative of modern acronym use, yolo would have to be it. I’ve heard it said by younger people probably more than any other modern acronym, no matter if it’s online, through text messaging, or spoken aloud. It can be argued that acronyms are more important than ever in the modern day. Text messaging limits often vary from phone to phone, but the limitations that messages can have often require that users limit their text. Instead of typing out “you only live once”, people realized that it was a lot more convenient, simple, and often times humorous to just say “yolo!” In using that, one can easily simply send just those four characters, and their message will be accurately understood. Even more daunting than text messaging is Twitter. Twitter famously applies a 140-character text limit to posts made, requiring you to not only limit your text, but if you want to get exposure on Twitter, you also need to add hashtags to categorize the kinds of tweets you are writing.

Expansion of Internet acronym use to real life

This generation has experienced an interesting phenomenon. While people who grew up on the Internet were not shy about saying “lol” or “brb” out loud, a lot did not – and the ones that did certainly cannot compare to the modern generation, which uses their acronyms as though they are going out of style. When spoken aloud, acronyms like yolo are almost universally spoken phonetically – as opposed to spelling it out like one would do with brb, people pronounce it as though it was a word rather than an acronym. Interestingly, the previously spelled out pronunciation of lol has changed with the newer generation. While people still spell out lol – a rather common act in fact – a lot of people are taking to pronouncing it phonetically, (the phonetic version is often spelled out as “lel”). With all of that said, the use of yolo and lol in regular speech can be confusing for those who are not privy to what they actually mean, leading to them feeling disengaged with the present conversation.

No pressure

When using the phrase yolo or “you only live once,” it’s important that you try and avoid using it in such a way as to make people feel pressured or otherwise uncomfortable about how you’re using it. It can prove to be rather easy to manipulate or force people, even if you don’t intend to make them feel that way. Using it for friendly banter or simply using in jest is probably the best way to use it – it has value, but you have to make sure that it cannot become a tool for manipulation. That is what the true yolo meaning should be!

In closing

Now that you’ve read my explanation on yolo meaning as well as why it is used to such a degree, I hope that you can now better understand what people are conveying when they all of a sudden say “yolo!” Of course, knowing a single acronym isn’t going to be enough to fully understand what kids are trying to convey sometimes, so it’s important to continue to educate yourself so that you don’t get cut out of the loop. After all, you only live once.

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