Recently, people, especially the youth of the 2030 generation, are concentrating on the present rather than investing their assets for the future. A neologism “YOLO Life” mirrors this social aspect while it was also selected as one of the keywords representing 2017 by professor Kim Nan-do of Seoul National University. Following the trend, many broadcasting companies are presenting TV programs showing YOLO Life such as “Youn’s Kitchen” and “Yolo Weekend.” Also, some university students are sharing their own unique travelogues through SNS.
YOLO Life, living for the moment
YOLO is an abbreviation of the phrase “You Only Live Once,” which refers to the idea that we should enjoy our lives since they are given to us only once. This expression was first used in the song “The Motto,” which was sung by a Canadian hip hop singer Drake in 2012. In the case of Korea, it was first presented to the public in 2016 through the TV program “Youth over Flower” by showing a female university student who was traveling in Africa saying, “YOLO!” to the Korean actor Ryu Jun-yeol.
In this context, YOLO Life means the lifestyle focusing more on the present than the future. In other words, people who enjoy YOLO Life commonly do not spend money according to their long-term plans and instead have fun in the present situation. Kim Hye-rin (Freshman, College of Social Sciences) from Sungkyunkwan University, said, “I have gone on a trip to Japan on an impulse under the influence of time commerce which helped me to find a cheap air ticket. I think I had made a gratifying decision then and I am willing to take a trip in that way again.”
Different ways of enjoying YOLO Life
Although they have common in focusing on the present status, there are some different ways to enjoy YOLO Life. One is that people live YOLO Life by sharing things. Since the youth of today usually does not have enough money and some people regard owning something as a burden, they prefer sharing something to possessing it. For example, “Socar,” which is a car sharing service, provides people with a vehicle sharing and is available, paying the rental fee and driving fee. People use this service to rent cars and enjoy it whenever they want because they do not think it is meaningful to buy their own cars in long-range aim.
|Lee Soo-hyun, a university student who is called “King of the Pirates” on Facebook, is enjoying her YOLO Life traveling Lewis Lake, Minnesota, United States.|
|/Photography from Lee Soo-hyun|
Some people who enjoy YOLO Life place emphasis on non-material consumption. They stress importance on accumulating their own experiences rather than endeavoring to obtain material affluence. Such a lifestyle usually consists of traveling and learning something and it is presented as a part of the movement to break the standardized style of life. Lee Soo-hyun (Senior, Department of Consumer & Housing Studies) from Sangmyung University, who shares her record of travel on Facebook and is called “King of the Pirates” on it, said, “During 858 days of my traveling in Asia, Africa, and America, I learned diverse languages. Also, I was able to become a person with remarkable imagination by experiencing various living methods from different cultural areas.”
Spreading new lifestyle changes the pattern of the youth’s life
The fever of YOLO Life is often exposed on media nowadays. Especially in 2017, many broadcasting companies have run TV shows whose main themes were YOLO Life. “Youn’s Kitchen” which was broadcast on channel tvN this spring, includes the story of managing a small Korean restaurant in an island near Bali and meeting various customers. “YOLO Weekend” broadcasted on channel O tvN shows the celebrities finding their new lifestyle by living with a YOLO tribe, which consists of people living their lives focusing on the present in nature. Both show how people pursue their bliss at the moment by pausing their work and getting out of the crowded downtown area.
This frequent exposure of YOLO Life has influenced the patterns of young people’s life. In terms of traveling, the number of lone travelers who are not influenced by the pressure from the group is increasing. According to the national tourism fact-finding survey committed by the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade, the number of people traveling alone is on the rise recording 4.7 percent in 2013 and 10.3 percent in 2015. In addition, the scale of communities for travelers is getting bigger. For example, “Travelholic,” which is one of the communities for travelers, has secured about 1.5 million followers in three years thanks to its unique video contents that focused on personal experiences and feelings. Jo Jun-ki, the CEO of “Travelholic,” said, “I think YOLO Life was spread by the youth who was in 20s, communicating each other through SNS such as our Facebook page.
In addition, we can find the boom of YOLO Life in the consuming pattern of the youth. “Small Luxury” is a form of consuming behavior brought up by YOLO Life and it means that people are satisfied with spending more money on small things such as groceries and cosmetics in the limitation of their expenditure. Son Ji-su (Sophomore, Department of International Trade) said, “I usually buy lipsticks at the department store since they are cheaper than some other cosmetics. It is affordable for me to feel joy on it.” Another student who wished to stay anonymous explained, “I usually order a piece of cake with drinks when I go to a cafe. I do not think that it is a waste to spend money on dessert.” Another example of newly appearing pattern of consuming is “Anger Cost,” which is an impulsive consumption committed under the influence of rage. People often pay Anger Cost when they want to relieve stress and refresh themselves.
Age of austerity makes the youth pursue YOLO Life
One of the reasons why YOLO Life has appeared is the global economic depression with low growth, deflation, and low interest. According to the Korea Development Institute, the rate of economic growth in 2017 will be 2.4 percent which is a smaller figure than the previous year’s record. Accordingly, people began to regard sacrifice and investment for the unclear future as an idle thought. Jo Dong-gi, the professor of the Department of Sociology, said, “YOLO Life seeks to be faithful to the present rather than delaying gratification for the uncertain future. The unclear future is caused by low growth, unemployment crisis, intensification of competition in neorealism, and rapid change in society.”
Another cause of spreading YOLO Life is the idea that no one backs you up. Such thoughts are stirred because people regard the damage caused by someone else’s actions as unfair. For instance, in Korea, the government’s improper actions against social problems such as the monopolization of government administration, the earthquake, and the MERS emergency have stricken the nation with a victim mentality. People are disappointed because they have been negatively affected by things for which they are not responsible. As such more people are pursuing YOLO Life.
Millennials, main agents enjoying the present
The values of millennials are also a factor that has created the trait of YOLO Life as valuing the present as the most important. Millennials consist of the children of the baby boomer generation. They were born from the 1980s to the early 2000s and they cover about 40 percent of all Korean citizens. They do not place importance on typical values such as marriage, childbirth, and having a house on their own.
Moreover, they enjoy being alone in order to concentrate on their individual joy in their offline mode, but when they are in online mode, they exchange their information and interact actively through social media because they are skillful at using digital devices. Professor Jo Dong-gi said, “People feel like escaping from the competitive society and accordingly, they try to avoid face-to-face contact and prefer online communication.”
Pursuing happiness of the present gives the youth a fertile life
|Daiso is presenting various kind of tablewares for the youth living apart can consume daily products in affordable prices.|
|/Photograph by Kim Min-ji|
Although the change of the youth’s lifestyle into YOLO Life was mainly caused by a gloomy future, there are several positive results expected. First of all, YOLO Life can improve the structure of the consumption experience. “B+ Premium” is the marketing strategy for the consumption habit of small luxuries and it is carried out by adding premium such as practical value, sensible and rational design, freshness of original granules, and differentiated experience to the common products. For example, Daiso, a daily supplies shop, is launching various kind of daily products so that young people who live alone can satisfy their desires to personalize their houses in affordable prices.
Secondly, YOLO Life can motivate people to challenge themselves in various areas. Especially in terms of traveling, the youth can commit to self-directed consumption that can improve the quality of their lives. Lee Soo-hyun said, “As I traveled many regions such as China, Thailand, and Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), I had many experiences of challenging new tasks. Thanks to those experiences, I gained many things such as new friends, viability, and patience.” CEO Jo commented, “I was impressed by two 30-year-old women who quit their works and traveled around the world for a year. I think they were truly enjoying YOLO Life by pursuing their own pleasure of present not a wealth.”
Professor Jo stated, “As YOLO Life spreads out, each individual can live their life subjectively and have rational and objective recognition so that the quality of life will be improved. In terms of social area, it is expected to recover dynamics of the society and to revitalize production and consumption.” He added, “Moreover, the phenomenon where talented people pursue the ‘stability first’ fields like becoming civil servants and teachers rather than making a new leap forward will eventually decrease.”
From old times, we have thought that it is desirable to sacrifice the present joy for the future. However, recently, YOLO Life which places importance on enjoying the present rather than focusing on the future is having a huge effect on the consumption habits of the young including university students. Following the stream of YOLO, therefore, it is necessary to enjoy the lifestyle wisely. Lee Soo-hyun said, “I believe YOLO Life is the way in which we can achieve self-realization by getting out of the fear and stress about future. So I recommend students to consider what they really want to do by not being tied down in one thing but taking account in various directions.”
Kim Min-ji email@example.com
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