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Why the YOLO Concept is Ruining Our Generation

YOLO. It’s a phrase that was introduced years ago and, though funny, may be causing negative side effects in today’s youth. How do I know?  Because I am a 20-something youth who has used the term way too many times in order to essentially shrug off a difficult situation, and I know I’m not alone.  We can all roll our eyes at how outdated it technically is because no one actually walks around saying YOLO anymore.  But, that doesn’t mean that its effects aren’t still present.  

Pause, and think of how often you apply the idea to yourself.

You don’t feel like studying and know you’re going to fail…YOLO!  

You’ve eaten healthy all week but wow do those cheese fries look tempting….YOLO.  

And though it’s all fun and games in the moment, the regret will come when you earn that D+ or your jeans suddenly don’t zip.  A YOLO moment is fine every once in a while, but I fear for myself and others, that the urge to push aside commitments is happening way too often.

I go to a great university along with 29,000 others who would gladly agree with that statement.  For the first 18 years of our lives we had one goal, and it was this university.  In high school, I’m sure that many of us developed a “kick-butt attitude” where the word “can’t” was not accepted into our vocabularies and no goal was out of reach.  Now, I know what you’re thinking—it was just high school. And looking back now, the struggle bus that we thought we were riding was almost non-existent in comparison to now. Still, I’m not sure why my friends and I had to lose that sense of drive and refusal to fail.

I’ve thought about this for a while.  “Why do I lack motivation/give up more often than I used to?”  And now, it’s clear to me that the YOLO mentality has ruined me. You only live once.  Okay, true.  That’s great for those moments where you almost didn’t sing that song at karaoke, or didn’t ride the roller coaster.  But not studying for an exam, sleeping through class, skipping work, or just not applying for that internship because you want to have a good summer…YOLO….that’s not going to better you as a person.


I’ve recently been struggling with where my future is leading me (like 99% of college students), and the decisions I need to make about school.  I so often make a mistake, or do badly on a project or exam and think “YOLO!” as if that magically makes it okay.  Recently, however, I was emailing with a professor and he sent me a message that was only two words, but did wonders for my little brain. “Kick butt.”  That’s all the email said. But, for the first time in a long time, it was someone saying “Hey girl, I know you’re going to go out and do this, don’t disappoint me!!”  Whereas I’ve gotten used to the “Hey girl, we all mess up but YOLO YOLO YOLO.  No need to fix it or feel accountable!”  And the reminder that I am capable of overcoming past mistakes and kicking butt in my future, lead me to write this post.  There has to be others out there who have misunderstood YOLO the same way as I have, and deep down you’ve felt it.


You only live once.  And yea, some parts of that life are going to be spent doing some dirty work that honestly sucks.  But you don’t live for the dirty work, you live for the moments that the dirty work produces. It’s only one life, but you don’t want to waste it and look back on a list of YOLO-moments that you regret.  Study for the exam even though you really want to go out.  Land the summer internship and forget about the lazy moments you could have had.  Embarrass yourself, but make sure it’s only in front of friends. And most importantly, remember your goals.  Don’t let the failures that might come along serve as a sign that you can’t ever accomplish them.  Be accountable, admit to mistakes, but correct them, and most importantly, KICK BUTT.

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Kaylee Brown

Chapel Hill

Kaylee Brown is a second year, Journalism major, English minor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She watches way too much reality t.v. and can quote basically any movie ever made...something she's proud of. She has rocked a bob hairstyle since 1996. Her mom is her best friend in the entire world but she's an undeniable "Daddy's Girl". She is 100% Tarheel born and bred. She loves anything Southern, struggles with an addiction to sweet tea, and likes to write things.
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