Coming into my late twenties, you’d think that I would have it all figured out. You would think.
Often if not all the time, I go to the people who know me the most. My mother, my immediate friends, even a therapist to talk through what I’m feeling in the deepest core of my gut. More often than not, I’m greeted with answers that have good intent but don’t necessarily relate to my life. It feels like a game of choose my battles that often leave me with more questions than answers. Of course, life isn’t all about figuring it out. It’s never that easy.
But as I searched for off topic relatability, my co-worker stated to me, “do you use Co-Star?” I responded with a plastered no across my face, “What?! You don’t have it-here give me your phone.” They snatch my iPhone off my desk and navigate to the blue buttoned app store to download the application. Co-Star is an astrology app that gives you direct feedback about how your planets are affecting you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I wasn’t too thrilled to give it a try—I don’t need an app to tell me what’s going on in my life. I look to actively avoid that at all costs. But my co-worker was dead set, “it’s so scary accurate, you need to use it.” I didn’t want to be accurate either.
But you may be asking, why and what is astrology and why are people so into it? Luckily, there are multiple journals about astrology. From the Harvard Journal of Philosophy, “astrology is a system based on the exact positions of the stars and planets in our sky, helping humans understand themselves, their friends, and the world around them.” But ask about the popularity of astrology and you’ll be set on a track you didn’t expect, luckily, the Co-Star team filled in the blank. Why is astrology so popular at the moment? “First, astrology has been used by humans for thousands of years, and belief in astrology has actually been consistent for the past 50 years, about half of young people and a third of adults. Now, the reason there's been so much written recently about astrology is because all that interest has moved online. People now have social tools, like Co-Star, to share and communicate via astrology and that's simply never been available before.”
We now had the app downloaded, information filled out, and a mixture of notifications popping up on my phone on the daily.
I became intrigued.
Intrigued by the headlines of the daily gist—how could the app put words into emotions I couldn’t otherwise express? I was enamored. Reading the insides of my love life, the hardships of my work, the stress of emotional capacity—how did Co-Star know? They don’t know me. Spending my whole life with my mother, seeing a therapist on and off professionally, and even the friends I’ve confided things about me. I would spend a minimum of an hour reading my horoscope top to bottom, every single day. The fact that an app knew me better than close connections was equal parts relieving and equal parts frightening. The Atlantic chimed in on Astrology in today’s age, “[…]astrology expresses complex ideas about personality, life cycles, and relationship patterns through the shorthand of the planets and zodiac symbols. And that shorthand works well online, where symbols and shorthand are often baked into communication.”
Bertram Malle, a social cognitive scientist, spoke with The Atlantic further about the confusion of those who use astrology as set in stone guides, “[astrology] provides a powerful vocabulary to capture not only personality and temperament but also life’s challenges and opportunities. To the extent that one simply learns this vocabulary, it may be appealing as a rich way of representing (not explaining or predicting) human experiences and life events, and identifying some possible paths of coping.”
A small 1982 study by the psychologist Graham Tyson found that “people who consult astrologers” did so in response to stressors in their lives—particularly stress “linked to the individual’s social roles and to his or her relationships.” Much like when I visited a San Francisco based psychic to see if it really worked, I was putting my stressors on the front line to null out the blows of everyday life.
But are stressors the indication that astrology works? According to American Psychological Association survey data, since 2014, Millennials have been the most stressed generation, and also the generation most likely to say their stress has increased in the past year since 2010. Millennials and Gen Xers have been significantly more stressed than older generations since 2012.
Am I stressed out? At this current moment in the time of writing this, yes and no. I’m overall worried that I can’t live into the expectations of success that my small town family have. I yearn for companionship beyond friendship. I’m looking to take Bob Cut to the next level, it’s a baby I have to take care of. I turned to Astrology and Co-Star to tell me what I’m feeling, telling me I’m not crazy.
A combination of stress and uncertainty about the future is an ailment for which astrology can seem like the perfect balm—It's a figment of everyone’s psyche that can be easily preyed on. But it didn’t stop me.
For months, I opened the Co-Star app and digested the entirety of my life on the 38R heading inbound to downtown. I needed to know the minutia of my day to better understand how to navigate it—a pocket therapist whenever I needed it. You may be saying, “that is incredibly unhealthy and also isn’t real.” Some also say that about religion, and in the wise words of Trixie Mattel, “[…]if something gives a person a reason to get out of bed and live their day better, it’s as real as anything.”
Co-Star (or any astrology app) is like a bible that can be updated very frequently and can be as vaguely accurate as possible. If it gives me a reason to live my life better and to think about my life in a variety of angles, doesn’t it count in some capacity? Humans are narrative creatures, constantly explaining their lives and selves by weaving together the past, present, and future (in the form of goals and expectations).
J. Walter Thompson’s intelligence group released a trend report in 2016 called “Unreality” that says much the same thing: “We are increasingly turning to unreality as a form of escape and a way to search for other kinds of freedom, truth and meaning,” it reads. “What emerges is an appreciation for magic and spirituality, the knowingly unreal, and the intangible aspects of our lives that defy big data and the ultra-transparency of the web.”
But could Co-Star be tapping into something of a religion for founder Banu Guler, quite the opposite, Guler discovered astrology in elementary school, where she would thumb through magazines to find her horoscope. It’s long been a tool she’s utilized to make deeper and more meaningful connections with people her in life.
A few years ago, when a good friend of hers had a baby, she made a full book-length reading of the baby’s natal chart. When she presented the gift at the baby shower, the other guests fawned over it, asking if she could make one for them and their children. She realized she was onto something.
“For over 2,500 years humans have utilized astrology as a way to understand themselves, their friends, and the world around them,” she says about astrology in relations to humankind, “by 2017, millions of people were using astrology in their everyday lives, but that there wasn’t a modern astrological tool to make the experience digital, personal and social.” So in 2017, Banu Guler, Ben Weitzman, and Anna Kopp launched Co-Star, the hyper-personalized, social astrology app bringing astrology into the 21st century.
In closing: astrology offers those in crisis the comfort of imagining a better future. A tangible reminder of that clichéd truism that is nonetheless hard to remember when you’re in the thick of it: This too shall pass. Take life with a grain of salt.
// Feature illustration by Anthony Rogers. Want to contribute to our Sounding Board? Why not write in to our tip line.
Anthony is the founder of Bob Cut Mag and the director of business development. Anthony writes on LGBT, people, and gender issues but catch him also writing about other shenanigans he finds himself in. Want to partner with Bob Cut? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org