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The Bastardization of YOLO

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Let's start this off with a tidbit from of Urban Dictionary as it relates to the expression "YOLO."

YOLO: Acronym for You Only Live Once. Mainly used to defend doing something ranging from mild to extreme stupidity.

YOLO, as defined above, reached popularity with the Drake and Lil Wayne song "The Motto." You need only take to Twitter to see the acronym in action, thousands of times a day all over the country -- and probably the world. Here are a few semi-recent tweets:

  • Soaking gummy bears in vodka then handing them out to children....#YOLO
  • Wearing gymnastics shorts when you're not at gymnastics because #YOLO
  • I want to throw a party with fake alcohol and see how many people act wasted. #YOLO

I find the whole thing to be pretty deficient of creativity. It's basically one big cliché, boiled down to an acronym that fits nicely into 140-character tweets that allow people to celebrate their questionable choices, publicly.

A Yolo County resident asked the following question on Reddit Sunday, drawing more than 7,000 comments: "I live in Yolo County. What ways have pop culture bastardized the place you live in?" (The comments have to do with everything from Twilight to Farmville. Some are quite funny.)

I'd have likely never thought twice about the whole YOLO thing, except for the fact that I'm the editor of Davis Patch and resident of Yolo County. I find myself localizing content on Twitter constantly, tweeting stuff that looks something like this:

The #Yolo County Fair opens in Woodland this week. It's going to be very hot.

What happens is that my tweet gets tagged alongside the guy's Tweet about soaking his gummy bears in vodka.

He only lives once. I happen to live in Yolo County. And yet we both claim "Yolo." Since we're using acronyms: WTF?

Thanks in large part to Drake, my county name has been more or less hijacked. I'm not saying it matters; I'm just saying it has happened, and as it gets more and more popular, it weirds me out.

A few weeks ago I wondered if I should abandon the #Yolo hashtag to avoid getting mixed with all the kids who are living life to the max (because, after all, they only live once). But it was our county name before it was their motto and it's guaranteed to fade away in the near future. So I think I'll ride it out.

Rather than continuing to think about it, I'll bring things full circle and end this column with another Urban Dictionary entry. Here's the fourth-most-popular definition of YOLO.

In California's county of Yolo, west of Sacramento, many residents find it funny that our county's name has come to be a sort of meme of hip lingo. It's hilarious to think that beautiful people in NYC might wear shirts that say "YOLO" in giant letters when we have virtually no special reason to have any great local pride.

Example: In fashionable boutiques in Brooklyn's Williamsburg section, track jackets which read "YOLO" sell for $100; but in Yolo County, California, the Chamber of Commerce lost thousands on a run of Yolo County tee-shirts that failed to spark any consumer interest.