Why Are Millennials So Into Astrology?
Astrology is an element of culture that has been around in different forms for thousands of years. On social media, it’s undeniable that astrology is blooming and flourishing with the same popularity as famous memes about cats. There are also tons of online publications you can turn to for your daily, weekly, and monthly horoscopes.
This era is not the only time astrology had made waves and headlines. The New Age Movement, which was at its height in the 1960s and ‘70s, had given a great deal of praise to astrology. Some even refer to this period as the “Age of Aquarius.” It is the 2,000-year period in which the Earth is said to move into the Aquarius sign.
The Resurgence of Astrology
Chani Nicholas is an astrologer based in Los Angeles. According to his observations, after the New Age boom which happened more than 5 decades ago, astrology kind of went underground for a while. Although, people who were keen on basing their decisions on their birth chart could still read their horoscopes in the back pages of magazines. But, in the last five years or so, as if by magic, Millennials have taken the concept of astrology and ran with it.
Nicholas has spoken to a lot of people who admitted they felt the negative stigma attached to astrology has reduced dramatically over the last few years.
Although this disapproval still exists, astrology has found a strong grip in modern culture, especially with young people. Millennials and the younger Gen Xers are reframing the practices of the New Age, says Lucie Greene, the worldwide director of J. Walter Thompson, an innovation group that predicts and tracks various cultural trends. To support this claim, a senior editor at Broadly, Callie Beusman, revealed that the traffic for the site’s horoscopes has made a giant leap.
Stella Bugbee, the president and editor-in-chief of The Cut, said that a usual horoscope post on the site got 150 percent more traffic in 2017 than the year before.
The Endless Depths
Since astrology presents itself as a very welcoming world where one can explore its nearly endless depths, it makes perfect sense that astrology is suited for the internet and digital natives.
With the availability of more in-depth information about astrology in the online world, more and more people are joining the growing cultural wave.
Just to be clear, astrology is not an exact science. Even after thousands of years, there’s still no solid evidence that a person’s zodiac sign actually correlates to their personality. However, it also can't be denied that astrology presents a plausible logic.
Even those who aren't huge astrology fans surely know their zodiac sign. But many don't know that their "sign" is actually just their sun sign. The placement of the other planets and the Moon at the exact time you were born also play a major role in who you are.
The Perfect Astrology Meme
Susan Miller is one of the most famous astrologers today. She shares her observation and analysis on her website, the Astrology Zone. According to her, horoscopes aim to provide information about the planets’ activities and how their movements affect each sign.
She even compared the events to a cocktail party. There can be two people talking animatedly to each other, while in the corner others are arguing. According to Miller, her job is to understand these conversations that happen every day.
Memes about astrology are a perfect way to understand these "conversations" and turn them into digestible pieces of knowledge.
Reflection of Human Experience
According to Bertram Malle, a social cognitive scientist at Brown University, there’s a deeper concept that goes beyond newspaper-style, sun-sign horoscopes. She called it “full-fledged astrology”.
According to her, it provides a powerful vocabulary that captures more than just personality and temperament. It also reflects human experiences, all of its challenges and opportunities. She even added that astrology also shows various paths of coping.
In 1982, a small study was conducted by psychologist Graham Tyson. Based on his experience, he speculated that most people tend to turn to astrology whenever they feel stressed.
Under such conditions, Tyson concluded that an individual sees astrology as a coping device. However, under low-stress conditions, most of these people become skeptics.
Astrology as a Coping Device
According to the survey data gathered by the American Psychological Association in 2014, millennials are the most stressed generation.
Since 2010, this generation had shown the most alarming increase in stress statistics. There was a spike in stress for Americans after the political tumult caused by the 2016 presidential election.
APA conducted another survey in 2017 that revealed that 63 percent of Americans are stressed about their country’s future. 56 percent admitted that reading the news stresses them out. Millennials and Gen Xers, with easy access to information, are more likely to get burned out from the news that often includes political infighting, global crises, climate change, and the threat of nuclear war.
If it’s true that stressed individuals use astrology as a coping mechanism, then it’s not surprising why it has become so popular today.
Providing Compassion and Assurance
To further support this claim, Nicholas mentioned that her online horoscope channel has around 1 million readers and subscribers. In the summer of 2017, her astrology guide book sold out in just two months. Nicholas’ editor said that the astrologer/author is at the helm of resurgence and her explicitly political horoscopes proved timely and valuable to stressed readers.
Take this perfect example: on September 5, the Trump administration announced that it was repealing DACA - the deferred-action protection program for undocumented immigrants.
The following day, Nicholas published her monthly newsletter for the upcoming full Moon which included the following excerpt: “The full Moon in Pisces ... may open the floodgates of our feelings. May help us to empathize with others ... May we use this full moon to continue to dream up, and actively work toward, creating a world where white supremacy has been abolished.”
Seeking Hopeful Answers
Anyone who is having a hard time may look for something that can give them comfort. Astrology offers comfort for these people, the comfort that everything will be better in the future.
Sandhya was 32 years old when she fell into depression. She felt unappreciated at her nonprofit job in Washington, D.C.
In her loneliness, she turned to binge-drinking. Holding on to her sanity, she tried her best to find an escape.
That’s when she downloaded the Astrology Zone Map. According to her, she wanted to find out if Astrology Zone held the answers to her life’s questions. She was hoping to know if things would still get better and when will it happen.
The app showed her that the planet of good fortune, Jupiter, will move into her sign, Leo, in a year’s time and will stay there for a year. Her horoscope also revealed that if she started putting in an effort to mend her life now, amazing things will happen to her when Jupiter arrives.
Welcoming the Good Energy
Inspired by the good news, Sandhya spent the next year of her life preparing for the arrival of Jupiter. Instead of going out and drinking herself to death, she stayed home and cooked for herself. She also applied for a new job and started welcoming suitors. She also avoided people in her life that she felt were giving her bad energy. Sandhya said everything she did helped her significantly.
On July 16, 2014, Jupiter finally entered Leo. At that same time, Sandhya got a new job. December of the same year, she met "the one." According to her, she only followed what the app was telling her. Although she’s aware that everything became possible because of her actions, she can’t deny that believing in Jupiter’s luck had made a big difference.
Making Pleasant Excuses
Monisha Pasupathi is a developmental psychologist at the University of Utah; her practice focuses on narrative. According to Monisha, humans are narrative creatures that want to explain their lives at a constant pace. They do it by weaving together the events from the past, present, and even future. While she said that she doesn’t want to provide credence for astrology, her studies suggest that it is understandable why humans believe in astrology.
Astrology provides humans with a pleasant feeling, especially those who are dealing with stressful situations. Those who believe in their birth chart analysis can find a plausible excuse for their problems. For example, a woman can think that a guy is not texting her back because Mercury refrains him from sending a message. Other times, a person can say he can’t easily decide for himself because his Mars is in Taurus. Pasuphati says that the uncertainty about the future coupled with a combination of stress is an ailment wherein astrology can be the cure.
A Comforting Thought
Sandhya admitted that when she started to rely on astrology for help, she developed a habit of checking what her natal chart had to say in times of despair. At the back of her mind, she thinks that there’s always someone who will tell her the future will be okay. Sadhya admitted that reading her horoscope feels like reading her own life’s story.
She had always been a worrier. She didn't like cliffhangers and often skipped parts in a book to reach the end. Suspense didn't appeal to her. She always wanted to know what would happen and astrology provided her with relief. However, she also admits that when she is happy, she doesn’t read her horoscope as often. For some people, what astrology has to say about the future feels like the pleasant feeling brought by Dumbo’s feather. It’s comforting to hold on until you discover you could fly without it. However, it’s the ineffable mystical magic of the feather that inspires people to reach those heights in the first place.
Thrilling and Interesting Escape
People today are experiencing media-fatigue from things like ebooks, dating apps, and social media.
Humans are naturally curious with a tendency to look for things that can still amaze and surprise them. Of course, the question of who you really are and what lies ahead in your future is an extremely interesting subject for every individual.
Ruby Warrington is a lifestyle writer who released a book, Material Girl, Mystical World in May 2017. She also runs The Numinous, a mystical esoterica website. Although the word “numinous” is defined as something supernatural or mysterious in Merriam – Webster, Warrington says her writings are about the “unknown.”
She believes that because we live in an extremely organized and orderly world, most of us feel the urge to connect to the unknown parts of ourselves. Astrology presents the perfect channel to do so as it is composed of symbols and presents a language that can’t be easily explained by numbers and equations.
An Irresistible Attraction for the Lost
In 2016, J. Walter Thompson released a trend report called Unreality. The intelligence group found out that most people are feeling the need to escape and they somehow feel freedom by turning to astrology.
There’s an irresistible attraction and people want to get lost in the journey of discovering the intangible aspects of their lives.
This cultural "180" has happened before — after the Enlightenment’s emphasis on rationality.
The result of the study revealed that we are experiencing a similar turnaround today. Evidence to support this claim can be seen in New York magazine's use of Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, a seminal romantic painting, to demonstrate Andrew Sullivan’s recent anti-technology essay titled I Used to Be a Human Being.
WGSN is another trend-forecasting group. Like JWT, they conducted their own study.
They released a report called “Millenials: New Spirituality” that contains the trends that have caught on with millennials in recent years. They have focused on sound immersion, tarot, and healing crystals among other trends.
According to Nicole Leffel, a 28-year-old software engineer based in New York, today, it has become less acceptable to decide things that are not based on fact or rationality.
The Hunger for Honesty and Sincerity
Bugbee, the editor-in-chief of The Cut also noticed a dramatic shift that happened a few years ago. She said that snarky tones no longer appeal to people. Until then, the site was filled with disrespectful horoscopes and gifs. However, she soon realized that people are looking for some sort of honesty. When they began writing more sincerely, they noticed a great shift in interest.
However, even if there is a growing interest in astrology, it doesn’t mean that all people are willing to abandon rationality and turn to more mystical beliefs.
A historian of astrology, Nicholas Campion wanted to clear some things up; he explains that the question of whether people believe in astrology or not is not really a plausible one to ask because it would be impossible to produce a definite answer.
There are those who can say that they are not consumers of astrology yet can easily mention their zodiac sign. There are those who would read their horoscopes but will not change their behavior according to what it says.
There are some people who accept astrology as a fact. However, the young adults who are reviving the zodiac do not fall in this category. Most of them consider astrology as a tool or a language of symbols that are more or less metaphorical than literal.
Alec Verkuilen Brogan is a 29-year-old chiropractic student living in the Bay Area. He spent more than a decade studying astrology. To him, it is a system that uses the language of the planets. He explained that the planets are not literally going around and saying, “I’ll do this now or perhaps later." Instead, it’s a language that illustrates the seasons of life.
A Way to Look at the World
At the time of the total solar eclipse in August 2018, Michael Stevens was dealing with a quarter-life crisis. He was a 27-year-old man living in Brooklyn, a traditional skeptic that describes himself as Dana Scully from X-Files. Around the time of the eclipse, he cold-called the famous astrologer Susan Miller and asked if she would like to put some ads on her website, Astrology Zone.
Michael could tell she was annoyed. It was a bad time for her to talk, but Miller asked for his sign. Michael told her that he’s a Sagittarius and the astrologer bluntly said that the new moon is rough for him. They continued the conversation and ended up talking about his work and other troubles, even his personal relationships with other people.
A Matter of Perceiving Things
Several studies have shown that if you tell someone that a generic personality description applies to them, more likely than not, they will think it’s accurate. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in a form of a birth chart analysis, horoscope, or even a fortune cookie.
Michael said that Miller told him he’s going through a lot. But he felt that was easy to tell. For him, it’s 2017 and most people were going through a lot. Still, he couldn't deny that hearing what Miller said made him feel better.
Two months after the call, Michael left his advertising job and landed in the staffing field. Months after that, he and his girlfriend decided to call it quits. Michael’s story is one of those accounts that demonstrates the prevailing attitude many people have towards astrology. The concept matters to them only if it is useful.
Annabel Gat works for the astrology staff at Broadly. She admits that she takes the subject very seriously. However, she also said that she doesn’t necessarily believe in what it says.
For her, astrology is not a religion or science. Instead, it’s a pleasant tool for self-reflection.
Another staff member echoed these thoughts, admitting that in all aspects of her life, there are many conflicting things. She had learned how to hold two or more ideas in her head in the process.
Are We Trying to Find the Truth in Fiction?
Perhaps it’s true that Millennials find comfort in living between their beliefs and skepticism. After all, so many millennials spend so much of their lives in the digital world, a space that is both real and unreal.
Astrology is proof that something doesn’t need to be real to feel true. Leffel remembers the story from Neil Gaiman’s book, American Gods; Shadow, the main character in the story, wonders where the lightning is coming from. He has two answers in mind. It could be from a magical thunderbird or an atmospheric discharge. He also wonders if his ideas are just the same thing.
Many people have tried to explain the reason behind astrology’s resurgence. Of course, the digital natives are self-absorbed; some even stated that astrology, birth chart analysis, horoscopes, and the likes are just navel-gazing obsessions. Others think that people feel helpless on Earth and as a result, they turn to the stars for help.
There are those who defined astrology as a break from logical thinking and others hope that the complex system can help them deal with the never-ending chaos in their lives.
For one to understand the real appeal of astrology, one must learn to feel comfortable with paradoxes first. Concurrently, it feels personal and cosmic, logical and spiritual, concrete and ineffable, real and unreal.
In a time of division, it can provide relief. It can deliver freedom and can bring meaning in the space between moments of time.
That’s the point.
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