A few weeks ago, I trekked to East Oakland to get my first install of knotless braids. It’s common to leave the hair salon feeling like you just went to therapy, caught up on the latest pop culture tea, and got a sleek new hairstyle all in one. This time was no different—my stylist and I talked the day away when we landed on the topic of our dating lives and began trading stories.
She lamented over her exes and detailed how each of their astrological signs was a red flag: “Aquarius’ are liars and emotionally manipulative and a Pisces man? Girl, good luck!”
As she shared her bad experiences with each sign, I thought about my good experiences with those signs and vice versa. Her commentary was nothing I hadn’t heard before from online meme pages, hood healers, and tarot readers. I can go on Twitter right now and see multiple tweets on how “if a (insert gender) is a (insert sign), then run!” At that moment, I realized that this flattening of people into one-dimensional stereotypes based solely on their birthdays had taken the joy out of horoscopes.
Interest in horoscopes has hit a crescendo. It’s almost mandatory to meet someone, whether platonic or romantic and ask them about their zodiac sign. We’re overjoyed when a new friend tells us they too are an earth sign, whereas we silently start planning our exit when a date tells us they’re a fire sign—because mutable and fixed don’t mix. And it’s not surprising, thanks to the omnipresence of horoscopes and astrology on social media, interest in the signs and planets hit a 10-year high in 2020, according to Google Trends.
And while I’m glad people are tapping into this kind of spirituality, I’m also slightly over it. What used to be a very niche, an almost existential way for people to learn more about themselves in this expansive universe, has become the only thing I ever need to know about you. It tells me if we can be friends or are sexually compatible and confirms any preconceived notions I may have had. Everyone is now very aware of the characteristics of their sign and others. Before getting to know someone, people use little information about your sign to determine if you’re worthy of their time. It’s a bit unhealthy and toxic.
My introduction to horoscopes probably started as it did for most girls in the 90s, with lifestyle magazines. I’d flip to the last few glossy pages and peruse my horoscope. I didn’t think much of it; I just knew I was a Virgo, as was Michael Jackson, and that was that. As a shy, introspective pre-teen, reading my horoscope every month was a way to get out of my head to receive more clarity on my life.
The importance of mental health and self-care hadn’t become mainstream yet, but reading my horoscope was a way of finding solace when I had many questions about who I was supposed to be.
I had one other friend who was into horoscopes (also a Virgo), and late at night, after finishing homework, we’d both log onto slow-loading horoscope sites and run up our parent’s phone minutes talking about what the stars had in store for us. Our other friends didn’t understand it, as reading horoscopes in the late 90s and early 2000s was a fringe and, frankly, weird hobby.
Horoscopes and astrology have opened me up to dream about who I could be and what could be possible for my day, week, or year. Sometimes it was accurate, and at times, it was not, but the practice never led me to judge others differently. I would read my horoscope and live my life.
Today, what was once fringe has become mainstream. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t at least know their sun zodiac sign, their natal chart, their best friend’s signs, and, somehow, their cute new neighbor’s sign.
And thanks to meme pages like @glossy.zodiac and @bitch.rising, who have amassed millions of followers in just a few years, it’s easy to quickly gauge the assumed personality traits of those zodiac signs based on their posts. Meme pages have made taking general human behavior and tacking it onto a specific sign, the new social norms for the zodiac. At one glance at one of these pages, I could argue that Scorpios are evil, Libras are insecure, and Aries are unhinged.
I can’t count how many times I’ve done something basic like buy coffee, clean my room, or write a list, and heard “you’re such a Virgo” in response. There isn’t a day that goes by without people equating the little things I do to be a representation of my zodiac sign. I’ve had people I wanted to become friends with decide they didn’t want to once they learned my sun sign. We’d be getting along just fine, but then they’d realize their Jupiter placement conflicted with my 4th or 9th house, and now we can no longer be friends. I guess our friendship wasn’t meant to be according to the stars?
While horoscopes are a fun way to learn more about ourselves and others, social media has shifted its intention from helping us connect deeper to categorizing us apart. If we act too aggressively, we must be a Gemini, but that won’t be compatible with a Taurus who wants to sleep and chill. I still check out my favorite horoscope sites like Cafe Astrology and AstroStyle to get a more thoughtful glimpse at what the universe has in store for me. But I’ll admit I’m less engaged than I used to be.
Although it has increased in novelty, horoscopes will remain relevant as it fulfills our need to be seen and accepted. In an article for Refinery29, writer Elizabeth Gulino describes it: “The mirroring need is why we take personality quizzes online. We pour birth charts, seeing our characters reflected in our planetary placements. We desire to be recognized and understood.”
That’s always been astrology’s purpose in my life — to understand who I am and be closer to those around me. And for the record, that’s something a Virgo would say.