We’re a generation that largely resists labels and refuses to be categorised, so it’s curious that so many millennials obsessively read their horoscopes.
According to a study, 58 percent of 18-24 year olds believe astrology is scientific. The study also revealed that skepticism of astrology is decreasing, and indeed you don’t have to look far online to find the strong community of young, cool, perfectly normal people who obsess over their zodiac signs.
One of the most common parts of astrology that interests millennials is the idea of compatibility – that is, certain star signs getting on better with others.
Astrology ascribes meaning to the placement of the sun, the moon, and the planets within 12 sections of the sky—the signs of the zodiac. You likely know your sun sign, the most famous zodiac sign, even if you don’t completely follow astrology.
It’s based on where the sun was on your birthday. But the placement of the moon and each of the other planets at the time and location of your birth adds additional shades to the picture of you painted by your “birth chart.”
Astrology expresses complex ideas about personality, life cycles and relationship patterns through the shorthand of the planets and zodiac symbols. People also tend to turn to astrology in times of stress. A small 1982 study by the psychologist Graham Tyson found that “people who consult astrologers” did so in response to stressors in their lives.
This particular stress is “linked to the individual’s social roles and to his or her relationships,” Tyson wrote. “Under conditions of high stress, the individual is prepared to use astrology as a coping device even though under low-stress conditions he does not believe in it.”
According to American Psychological Association survey data, Millennials have been the most stressed generation since 2014 and the generation most likely to say their stress has increased in the past year since 2010.
Millennials and GenXers have been significantly more stressed than older generations since 2012. And Americans as a whole have seen increased stress levels because of the political tumult since the 2016 presidential election.
The 2017 edition of the APA’s survey found that 63 percent of Americans said they were significantly stressed about their country’s future. Fifty-six percent of people said that reading the news stresses them out, and Millennials and GenXers were significantly more likely than older people to say so. Lately that news often deals with political infighting, climate change, global crises and the threat of nuclear war.
If stress makes astrology look shinier, it’s not surprising that more millennials seem to be drawn to it now. Astrology offers those in crisis the comfort of imagining a better future, a tangible reminder of that clichéd truism that is nonetheless hard to remember when you’re in the thick of it: This too shall pass.
A combination of stress and uncertainty about the future is an ailment for which astrology can seem like the perfect balm.
It does give one a pleasing orderly sort of feeling, not unlike alphabetizing a library, to take life’s random events and emotions and slot them
into helpfully labeled shelves. This guy isn’t texting me back because Mercury retrograde probably kept him from getting the message. I take such a long time to make decisions because my Mars is in Taurus. My boss will finally recognize all my hard work when Jupiter enters my tenth house.
“We are increasingly turning to unreality as a form of escape and a way to search for other kinds of freedom, truth and meaning,” J . Walter Thompson’s intelligence group trend report “Unreality” read. “What emerges is an appreciation for magic and spirituality, the knowingly unreal, and the intangible aspects of our lives that defy big data and the ultra-transparency of the web.”
It might be that Millennials are more comfortable living in the borderlands between skepticism and belief because they’ve spent so much of their lives online, in another space that is real and unreal at the same time. That so many people find astrology meaningful is a reminder that something doesn’t have to be real to feel true.
People feel powerless here on Earth, so they’re turning to the stars. Some found it to be an escape from logical “left-brain” thinking; others craved the order and organization the complex system brought to the chaos of life. It’s both. That’s the point, after all.
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. It can be a relief, in a time of division, not to have to choose. It can be freeing, in a time that values black and white, ones and zeros, to look for answers in the gray. It can be meaningful to draw lines in the space between moments of time, or the space between pinpricks of light in the night sky, even if you know deep down they’re really light-years apart, and have no connection at all.