It’s 2018. Can We Please Call Bullshit on Sun Signs?

Social Commentary

It’s 2018. Can We Please Call Bullshit on Sun Signs?

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

He’s a Capricorn, you are an Aries. I told you this would not work out,” exclaimed my Linda Goodman-obsessed, tarot-reading friend Anisha matter-of-factly. She seemed too self-assured for someone reading a “Which cat breed you are, based on your Zodiac sign” listicle.

Yet, nothing about Anisha’s extreme fascination with astrology and her need to label people based on their birth month surprises me anymore. “When’s your birthday?” was the first thing she asked me when I was introduced to her. Surely enough, it was routinely followed by a “Dude, what kind of an Aries are you?” whenever I bailed on a party to just Netflix at home or displayed any trace of underconfidence that was apparently “un-Aries”.

Anisha, like many people of our generation, is a Zodiac-obsessive. All around me, I see otherwise bright millennials – functioning adults with an education, I presume – turning to pages like the “Zodiac Mind” and “Susan Miller’s Astrology Zone,” either to tag a friend on annoying posts like “People with these signs will die single,” or to decode their partner’s erratic behaviour, or to just read something that can take their mind off a busy day. They slyly check their horoscopes every morning or at the end of each month and can quote Bejan Daruwalla in their sleep.

Even international publications targeting young people, like Refinery29 and Broadly, have their versions of horoscopes and astrology-themed articles, that have gained a huge following over the last few years. Brands have also cashed in on this phenomenon. A luxury cosmetic retailer in Canada had a whole new line of astrology-themed lipsticks. Online clothing brands promote a #FashionHoroscope that give you styles for your zodiac signs.

As Indians, we are not unused to seeing adults make important decisions of their lives by matching kundalis and consulting babas. As a country, we have been privy to enough  superstitions to last us a lifetime.

But what I can’t wrap my head around is the hold astrology has over the well-read, opinionated, and Netflix-and-chill generation, that otherwise takes pride in its atheism and sneaks out of religious ceremonies their parents drag them to so they can grab a smoke. What is it about astrology that still finds an audience in millennials? Is there anything really spiritual about it, or is it just a passing fad like organic food?

One look at the comments on zodiac posts, is indicative of how much people crave to read nice things about themselves.

Though it encompasses some scientific and cosmological elements like the alignment of stars and planets, astrology is still not a proven science. And it is about as accurate as a baby attempting a bull’s eye. An individual’s upbringing, their access to education and work opportunities, and the social set-up they belong to play a huge role in shaping anybody’s personality. One obvious reason behind astrology’s continuing popularity, is it’s blend with pop culture. By serving this ancient practice in the language today’s youth understands, like memes and personality quizzes, astrology has reinvented itself. Anyone following Stranger Things is curious to know what character is their zodiac sign. The more frivolous and fun it gets, the more people jump on to the astrology bandwagon.

Then there’s also the fact that millennials find something reassuring in knowing that their zodiac sign or that of their partner, has certain qualities they desire. It is rooted in a need to seek validation for who they really are, a feeling not unlike wanting more likes on their pictures or more views on their YouTube vlogs. They need to be constantly told they are good enough and astrology fills that need by glorifying the strengths of a sign. It is like an equivalent of really liking that weird aunt who reminds you of your inherent potential to succeed.

One look at the comments on zodiac posts, is indicative of how much people crave to read nice things about themselves. There is also the tiring and indecipherable phenomenon of modern romance that pushes millennials who are struggling with love to click on articles about how and when they will find their soulmate and the signs they are likely to be most compatible with. Since dating apps and hook-up culture leave little space for actually having a meaningful conversation with anyone, guessing what their partner would really be like by reading about their zodiac sign is an option to fill up time.

Reports claim that millennials are more stressed than all of the previous generations. Which is true if you follow the news or just look around your office. The uncertainties of today’s world and the growing awareness about it, have led us to constantly look for anything that can give us a bit of hope, any sign that tells them it will all be fine, and that they can control or predict their future.

In the case of my friend Anisha, after a string of break-ups and a bout of depression, when the horoscopes pointed at new positive beginnings, it enhanced her faith in life. Also, she could conveniently blame Mercury being in retrograde for her heartbreaks. I suppose I should look for silver linings – there’s one right here.