I recommend Washington Post articles about as often as I check my horoscope. But every once in a while the stars align … so I’ll say Maura Judkis’s Post piece on the astrology trend among young people is worth a look. Not for what it tells us about astrology, but what it says about millennials -- or a certain cohort of them.
Judkis, to her credit, approaches her topic as an amiable skeptic, acknowledging the silliness of “natal charts” talking to crystals and using the planets to help pick stocks.
“I mean, come on,” she wrote. “No one actually thinks that the stars and planets determine their personality.” She “realized why it seems like everyone’s so into astrology again, even if no one claims to believe in it, and it isn’t real: It’s kind of like psychotherapy plus magic.” If only her skepticism of the magic extended to the psychotherapy -- or the delicate little cupcakes so in need of it.
Astrology is big with the “millennial self-care set,” as Judkis called them. “Self-care” used to be known as solipsism, navel-gazing, self-obsession, or just plain narcissism. But today it’s positively a virtue that has spawned what Judkis calls “the wellness industry,” and she says astrology is as integral to it as “vitamins, yoga or a spa treatment.”
Judkis said that people who check four horoscopes a day or spend $19.99 a month to “summon an astrologer for a 15-minute text message reading” (really) “aren’t trying to predict the future — they see it as a tool for self-discovery and emotional exploration.”
Ross Clark, CEO of the astrology app Sanctuary, told her, “Astrology is this incredible way of looking at a story about you.”
So it’s just another selfie for the selfie-obsessed. The owner of an astrology meme site said astrology “gets people to talk about their personality and their emotions and life experiences in a way that they usually wouldn’t.” It “makes expressing your feelings ‘kind of a game.’”
Ah! It’s all about the feelz! One user told Judkis,“When it’s right, it feels really interesting and kind of weird and magical. And if it’s totally wrong, it’s just something to laugh about.”
They know it’s snake oil, but the snake oil gives them cover to spend another few hours flipping through the pages of Me Magazine. Judkis understood this:
When Dave Campbell, the president of the American Federation of Astrologers, told me that my chart showed that I had a brother who was born when I was 3, and that age 19 was a bad year for me, he was correct. When he told me that the position of the asteroid Sappho in my chart could indicate that I’m a lesbian, or bisexual, he was not.
However, Campbell’s miss was our gain, because it occasioned her to produce perhaps the Postiest sentence ever published in The Post: “‘But one of my best friends is bi, and many of my male friends are gay,’ I volunteered …”
Anyway, Judkis said her fellow millennials have had a tough “economic” and “emotional” time of it, so if they want affirmation from what she (generously) calls “pseudoscience,” tricked out with apps and memes, well, they deserve it.
Maybe. Or maybe y’all need Jesus.