This week’s 52INSIGHTS looks at the rise of youth trends around horoscopes and Astrology.
“Type “Why do millennials...” into Google and it will suggest “...believe in astrology”. Theodor Adorno answered that question back in 1953 when he wrote that astrology appeals to “persons who do not any longer feel that they are the self-determining subjects of their fate”.” Emily Watkins, The Independent
The system of studying the alignment of stars and planets to predict the future can be traced back to the first complex civilizations in Mesopotamia about 4,000 years ago. This practice - more commonly referred to as ‘horoscopes’ or ‘astrology’ - never truly went away. But we’ve seen a massive global rise in its popularity with Western millennials and Gen Z the past few years. Why? As we discussed in a recent 52INSIGHTS on ‘manifestation’, this generation is looking for meaning in different, varied and non-typical places. In an era when the world can turn upside down overnight, looking for direction from the stars feels quite natural.
“During times of societal change, we often see a resurgence in belief structures and systems to help give direction in an uncertain world. Young people are going through a generation-defining moment in their lives post-COVID19 and so it is natural for them to seek out systems that help them understand and exert some element of personal control over what’s going on in the moment. Rather than merely a lens for the future, Astrology serves as a mindset for life in the now - a spiritual alternative (or companion to) formalised religion in a modern setting. Astrology can help you understand and drive positive affirmation in your life. It’s also incredibly universal. Anyone can access it, do a vibe check or find something in it for themselves to help empower a deeper understanding of our complex world.” Lynsey Paisley, Strategy & Planning Director, The Youth Lab
HOROSCOPE CULTURE TODAY
A quick look at TikTok shows a tidy 4.4billion views for videos carrying the #horoscope hashtag. YouTube has 18,000 Astrology channels and Patreon has pages of Astrology content creators such as iJadee who commands a mere $9.99 a month, from all of her 4331 patrons. Memes are all over social platforms, ruminating on the characteristics of each sign.
“On social media, astrologers and astrology-meme machines amass tens or hundreds of thousands of followers, people joke about Mercury retrograde, and categorize “the signs as ...” literally anything: cat breeds, Oscar Wilde quotes, Stranger Things characters, types of french fries.” Julie Beck, The Atlantic
A whole language has been adopted and used in these communities, based on shared knowledge of celestial positioning:
“Is anyone else extra irritable today? I know the astrology behind it but I want to make sure that I’m not the only person who’s a little too close to breaking limbs… For anyone who doesn’t know, Mars in Leo is opposing Saturn in Aquarius, and both are squaring Uranus in Taurus...I don’t feel like doing a whole thread on this so imma just say that if there is risk of physical injury involved in something, double-check your safety measures. Communicate with people appropriately and respectfully since we’re still in the Merc Rx shadow.” Asa 21
THE PSYCHOLOGY BEHIND IT
For the light-touch, mainstream audience it’s often the case that only the main (sun) star sign is known. But for those who practice and follow Astrology more deeply, an all-encompassing dive into the birth chart of themselves or others throws up many diverse layers and facets of the human personality. Knowing that, for example, a ‘mercury retrograde’ may deeply affect your best friend’s moon sign (causing issues in communication) and Jupiter sign (causing issues in social life) requires you to really see the people around you as multi-dimensional beings, regularly acknowledging that others experience these troubles regularly and, in turn, it’s normal that you do, too.
“To understand astrology’s appeal is to get comfortable with paradoxes. It feels simultaneously cosmic and personal; spiritual and logical; ineffable and concrete; real and unreal.” Julie Beck, The Atlantic
To its credit, this can only make us more aware of the diverse personalities and sensitivities of others. Who wants to argue with something that can lead us to be genuinely more empathetic to others? But as for the validity of its powers to influence the events of our lives, The Barnum Effect is at play. This happens when people give high accuracy endorsements (e.g. "Wow, that really describes me!") to descriptions of personality traits that they think are tailored specifically to them (e.g. Libra, Gemini, etc.). In reality, the descriptions tend to be somewhat vague and can apply to many people. For every cynic, there’s a believer, totally unbothered by their dismissal of the zodiac.
THE BUSINESS OF THE STARS: BRANDS & APPS
“The crux of feeling like a human is being able to talk about your reality...And I think the reason astrology has stuck around for 2,500 years is that it’s remarkably good at that.” Banu Guler, Co-Star Founder & CEO
To keep up with the trends, brands have begun showing up in the astrology space. Beauty brands have shown an interest in the trend and have seen astrology themes products prove to be extremely popular. Last month as part of its new Only You feature, Spotify released a personalised playlist called “Your Audio Birthchart” which creates a playlist around your birthday/horoscope. “Your Sun sign details the artist you listened to most over the last six months,” Spotify said, adding: “Your Moon sign demonstrates an artist you listen to that best shows your emotional or vulnerable side. Your Rising sign brings it all together with an artist you’ve recently connected with.”
Co-Star is probably the most widely known app in this arena, and sets itself apart as being “Powered by AI that merges NASA data with the insight of human astrologers”. On its launch, so many people tried to download it that it crashed three times, and within a year it had a million users. In April of this year, the company says it has more than 20 million users and has been downloaded by a quarter of all young women ages 18-25 in the U.S. (which no doubt played a part in it receiving $15 million in funding). Perhaps their horoscope mentioned, “A business decision will go in your favour”...
Hard science aside, there’s an element of positive, centred spirituality to Astrology that should silence most critics. Not everyone needs to lead with their ‘Big 3’ but there’s a lot to be said for being cognisant and enlightened about the myriad of intricacies to the personalities and psyches of the people around them. It’s a way to look at the world. Everything can be taken with a pinch of salt but young people relate well to zodiac content for its universality, usefulness in the ‘now’ and as a tool for self-empowerment and awareness.
Astrology is a lens that can be tapped into to talk about self-care, wellness, empowerment and lifestyle. The visual language and aesthetics of modern Astrology are also beautiful, lush and inclusive. So long as it’s within the remit of your brand’s tone and if you are a typical Pisces (jk!), consider leaning into the fun side of Astrology.