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In a recent post on Courtney Perkins’s Instagram account, two gray-haired women stand with their arms around each other, their gazes purposeful, their mouths unsmiling. It’s not clear who they are or what they’re doing, but the two have planned their outfits for the occasion: One woman is wearing a turquoise T-shirt that says I get us out of trouble in a white block print. Next to her, the second woman’s coral shirt declares, I get us into trouble. She’s also wearing sunglasses, presumably because she’s the cool one.
To make the photo into a meme, Perkins, a 24-year-old comedy writer living in Los Angeles, divvied up the 12 zodiac signs under the two shirts’ proclamations. She then posted the finished product to @notallgeminis, an astrology-meme account she created in 2017 that now has nearly half a million followers. The comments underneath the post are full of thousands of people, mainly young women, tagging the Thelmas to their Louises with messages like “thank u for looking after me n my heart.”
Different corners of the internet are devoted to different pastimes: yelling about current events, posting vacation photos, sharing recipes. Each medium tends to have its own conventions about how to appropriately express emotion, which might mean ironic detachment on Twitter, placid domesticity on Facebook, or political rage pretty much anywhere. But research shows that young Americans are acutely aware of their own emotional struggles and those of their peers, and many of them seem to want an online home for their more tender thoughts. In the past two years, millions of them have found a conduit to talk to one another about their real lives: massively popular meme accounts and newer micro-social apps, all devoted to astrology.
As The Atlantic’s Julie Beck noted in early 2018, astrology has rerooted itself in American youth culture at precisely the time many young people, who are less religious and more online than ever, feel adrift. “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,” Beck wrote. That’s especially true among queer people and in other marginalized communities, where it’s common to look outside of mainstream culture for ways to process and talk about experiences. Accounts like Perkins’s @notallgeminis, many of which are run by meme-makers in their teens and 20s, allow young people to turn that introspection outward and into something more social.
Because meme accounts exist within Instagram’s standard messaging and sharing structure, their creators have a front-row seat to the interactions sparked by their posts, such as the sweet notes in the comments section under the troublemaking elderly duo. “What I’ve found is that astrology is a jumping-off point for what people really want to talk about, and that can be anything,” Perkins says. “Astrology is a framework for analyzing yourself and your experiences, and people naturally bring other people into that.” On Instagram, the self-aware humor of meme culture lowers the stakes of involving friends in your personal reflections. Addressing the tedium and emotional distress of everyday life might be a lot easier if you lead with a photo of Martha Stewart riding a horse into the ocean.
Banu Guler, a co-founder of the astrology app Co-Star, thinks the ease with which astrology allows people to talk about personal struggles and negative emotions plays a huge role in its popularity. “It’s much easier to say, ‘I’m a Capricorn, so it’s hard for me to express my feelings,’ than to walk into a room and be like, ‘I’m an emotionally repressed psycho,’” she says. Perkins, too, has noticed that she gets a deeper reaction when her memes allude to the signs’ more negative qualities—that is, when her followers feel “dragged and roasted.”
Astrology can allow people to depersonalize and recontextualize their emotions as part of a common, collective journey, which can battle the isolation that often comes with feeling sad or anxious. In American culture, emotional struggles or “difficult” personalities are often seen as personal failings. In its own way, astrology gives people an opportunity to acknowledge the forces and power structures beyond the self that affect mood and behavior. At its best, it can encourage self-awareness instead of self-flagellation. That’s particularly important for young people, for whom shame can be especially harmful.
Research has also generally found that those with deeply held spiritual beliefs, such as faith in the personality-predicting powers of the stars, have better mental-health outcomes. But some psychologists believe that those effects may be more muted with astrology, with its intensely self-reflective nature, than in traditional religion, which tends to come with a community. Through social media, astrology buffs are building that crucial interpersonal network. “I get messages all the time about how I’m the main way people keep in touch with their siblings or their friend across the country, or that they have a group chat about my memes,” Perkins says.
Co-Star, which launched in late 2017, is part of a new crop of apps, along with The Pattern and Sanctuary, that use the time and location of a person’s birth to generate a detailed natal chart that goes deeper than the sun-sign horoscopes first developed as newspaper curiosities. Most of these apps have significant Instagram followings of their own (Co-Star has more than 600,000 followers) and post sleek, well-designed memes, complete with soothing colors and fashionable fonts, that have a more professional feel than the DIY culture built by Perkins and her contemporaries. The aesthetic seriousness offers an option for people who want to joke about feelings and anxiety, but don’t think an image of the Jersey Shore cast mate Snooki sipping from a giant, beer-infused margarita is the note they want to strike.
Co-Star has also spawned a different kind of sharing: The app’s frank (or rude, depending how you look at it) daily push notifications have developed a social-media life of their own. The messages, which say things like, “Your biggest challenge is to avoid becoming dead inside,” are frequently screenshotted and shared by users on Twitter and Instagram who feel, well, dragged and roasted.
The notifications are generated by artificial intelligence, and Guler says the company is constantly tweaking the formula to strike the right note. “We really try to think about how we talk to and text each other,” she explains. “It’s not sunshine and rainbows; it’s also pushing each other to be better humans and think more clearly.” Many people seem to find the approach compelling: Co-Star had more than 3 million members as of April, and the app has a five-star rating in the Apple App Store.
No matter your preferred medium, experts agree that a willingness to open up to others is a key step in the process of maintaining mental health. A close reading of one’s natal chart is by no means a replacement for necessary professional care, but the Child Mind Institute calls reaching out “a vital part of getting the help you need,” and research suggests that repressing negative emotions worsens stress. With rates of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and suicidality rising among young people, astrology’s ability to break down communication barriers and depersonalize the prohibitively personal has proved valuable to plenty of people. “That’s why astrology has stuck around for so long, especially in communities of punks and queers and anyone outside of mainstream culture,” Guler says.
Now interest in the practice goes far beyond those communities—a 2014 study by the National Science Foundation found that almost half of Americans believe astrology is at least sort of scientific, the highest proportion the organization has found since 1983. In the years since those data were collected, astrology has only gained cultural momentum, in part because of the efforts of people like Perkins and Guler.
There’s no scientific evidence that the planets have an effect on personality or behavior, but as with any system of belief, total adherence to astrology’s teachings isn’t necessary to dabble in its benefits. Maybe all it takes is an image of The Rock making friends with a porpoise, accompanied by a gentle joke about how Capricorns have trouble with intimacy, to help you feel seen by the stars.
No one can deny that astrology is experiencing a cultural moment right now that extends beyond the traditional weekly sun sign horoscopes in the back of the newspaper. It has blossomed into full-fledged readings and advice-giving based on mathematical calculations — and the public is here for it. But if you don't have access to a personal astrologer, this new glut of information and entertainment can be overwhelming. So how can you curate your astrological experience? One way is through another tool that has become part of our daily existence: by following astrology Instagram accounts.
Most contemporary astrologers have their own Instagram pages, so if you prefer to follow the teachings and style of a particular individual, this is a good place to start. Then there are the apps. These tools can provide daily horoscopes or hyper-personalized chart information in a number of technologically intricate ways; the visual medium that Instagram provides can be a great introduction.
Lastly are the cosmic meme accounts that have become a huge slice of the meme pie over the past two years. Nearly all of the accounts listed below will incorporate some level of astro-memery, because who doesn't want a little humor sprinkled in with predictions that can often feel perilous? But there are some accounts that sprang up with the horoscope meme as its sole purpose, and they excel at giving great visual comedy in addition to their insightful skewering of the 12 signs of the zodiac.
Below, 12 accounts, in honor of these 12 slices of the zodiac circle, that embody the best of all three of these categories.
Chani Nicholas & Jessica Lanyadoo
Los Angeles-based Chani Nicholas and the Bay Area's Jessica Lanyadoo have both been practicing astrological counseling for over 20 years and have been well-known to the queer community for many of those. But with both releasing books this January, they've stormed onto the mainstream scene to become America's reigning queer queens of the zodiac.
The New York Times bestselling author of You Were Born For This: Astrology for Radical Self-Acceptance, Chani Nicholas is Oprah magazine's resident astrologer and has been featured in numerous other places from the Rolling Stone to The Atlantic and Netflix. Her Instagram is a mishmash of personal and international news, portions of audio and video interviews, quotes from her own work as well as that of folks she respects, and pieces of her full moon and new moon horoscopes she has been publishing on her own site for over 10 years.
Lanyadoo's self-described reference book, Astrology for Real Relationships: Understanding You, Me, and How We All Get Along, has also garnered much acclaim as she has toured the East and West Coasts touting astrology as a mathematics-based spiritual toolkit. Her Instagram is equally diverse with just a few more lighthearted memes and, most importantly, snippets from her popular weekly podcast, Ghost of a Podcast, in which answers one listener's personal question before going into how the week's transits are likely to affect us all.
Bronx native Mecca Woods played East Coast co-host to Lanyadoo's West Coast flavor on TLC's Stargazing show in addition to her many other projects. Her Instagram account mixes some no-nonsense commentary with plenty of selfies and reveals about her own chart and how the coming transits might affect her personally. She also uses Instagram to highlight astrological-adjacent artwork including a full set of coloring books she authored in addition to her year-old book, Astrology For Happiness & Success.
Jaliessa Sipress (OMA)
Jaliessa Sipress of Obsidian Moon Astrology, former bodyworker and lover of Doc Martens, centers her practice around the self-care of those living in the margins. This highly personal and restorative approach to astrology lends itself well to her portrait-heavy Instagram. Often an introduction to her depth-delving classes or a tender look at the day, these intimate photographs consist largely of women and non-binary people of color living, healing, and just being great style inspirations for us all.
Practical astrologer Sam Reynold writes about 'stars, planets, astrology and whatever streaks nude across [his] mind,' but his most interesting investigations might be the astrology behind serial killers. Are we compatible chinese astrology taurus. His Instagram is not quite as curated as some but is delightfully unpretentious in its regular horoscopes and affirmations.
Colin Bedell is a gay Gemini Twin from Long Island and resident astrologer at Cosmopolitan. In 2018, he published A Little Bit of Astrology: An Introduction to the Zodiac, as part of the Little Bit book series that became an Amazon bestseller. In addition to updates and astrological artwork, Bedell's Instagram also includes some hilarious dance numbers and performance snippets to personify the transits of the week.
The popular hyper-personalized astrological social network allows you to see not just your chart and that of all your friends but outlines how each current transit hits your own chart, what it means, and how long it will last. It also gives you all the good, bad, and ugly about how your planets line up with those of your friends, family, and lovers. Their Instagram account takes this wealth of data and uses it for almost exclusively text astrology jokes that take a certain topic and drag each sign for how they embody it. They even drag themselves occasionally, like a recent post that characterized how each sign has complained about the early lack of an Android version of their app. My personal favorite is Aquarius: 'What is the status on its completion? I will make my own version if it will be much longer.'
This interactive app uses a conversational tone in its daily forecasts and live readings, as well as an audio podcast reading, for each sign that greets you every morning to start your day. Its Instagram is a multicolored jump-off point that uses whimsical pastel cartoons to illustrate subtle but beautiful jokes and gentle ribbing in contrast to Co — Star's stark black-and-white. Recent examples include each of the signs as candy hearts, Super Bowl dips, and classic childhood books.
Los Angeles-based comedian and screenwriter Courtney Perkins started the Not All Gemini's Instagram as a joke account in early 2018 that by summer shot to the top of the astrology meme game. Or rather, perhaps Perkins actually started the trend of combining astrology and memes. Either way, now her account has over half a million followers. This combination has become extremely popular on Instagram, a phenomenon that Perkins attributes to the relatable nature of memes becoming even more personalized with the addition of astrological signs.
A$tro Pigz & Jake's Astrology
For those who like a real roast, look to Astro Pigz and Jake's Astrology. Jake Register, known for his hilarious astro-Bingo memes also writes 'Sexoscopes' for Cosmo, while Astro Pigz bills themselves as 'astrological shit talk str8 from the slop trough served by 2 haughty fire signs.' Both took the astrology meme trope and made it just a little naughty.
Astrology Sign Meanings Chart
For those who like charts, graphs, Venn diagrams, and visual representations of math and organizational systems more than pop culture, Julia's (no last name given) Look Up the Stars Instagram account is for you. We may not fit all of our sun sign stereotypes, but it's statistically likely we'll find something of ourselves and loved ones within those pie chart wedges telling us 'How to recognize an Aquarius in a few words,' 'How NOT to dump an Aries,' or 'What to expect when marrying a Cancer.'