select all

Astrology, the World’s Oldest, and Newest, Meme Trend

Illustration: Getty Images/iStockphoto

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you that I’m a Gemini. And if you know even the slightest thing about astrology, you know that no one likes a Gemini.

According to the way the cosmos swirls between May 21 and June 20, Gemini humans (and I guess, in theory, animals?) are all born capricious, fake, and forgetful; we’re sociable, highly adept at communication, and creative, but we get bored easily. I might make it halfway through writing this story and decide not to finish it. If a Gemini is really going through it, she’ll Google “How to be minimalist.” We love to hold up the line at Walmart because we’re busy talking to the cashier. If Geminis represented a form of disappointment, we would be finding out our friends were talking shit about us in middle school, but we still went to their sleepovers anyway because they were fun. If Geminis were an indie pop-rock song from 2006–2010 that honestly was a jam we all are still happy about when it comes on at the occasional bar or pharmacy, we would be “Daylight” by Matt and Kim.

Maybe those last couple of characteristics seem a little too specific to apply to Donald Trump and Stevie Nicks (both Geminis), in which case you might be one of the few people left who has not encountered an astrology meme. Welcome.

Across social media — particularly on Instagram — a rash of new accounts have emerged wanting to tell you about your celestial self through memes. Rather than serve up week-predicting horoscopes, these astrological meme accounts seek to help you define yourself through your star chart. You might know your zodiac sign, but maybe you don’t know what characteristics (or indie pop-rock songs) your zodiac sign indicates. Luckily, a reaction GIF, a viral image, and a few lines of text will tell you what your deal is.

“Perhaps people are using astrology as a vehicle for understanding,” Cori Amato Hartwig, or @manicpixiememequeen on Instagram, wrote to me in an email this month. Amato Hartwig — who is 22, lives in New Jersey, and is a Gemini sun, Capricorn moon, and Aries rising — is one of a group of people who began an Instagram account to explore astrology as it intersects with humor. These savants of the web, who are largely Gen-Z women, create compulsively shareable posts that lampoon the hyperspecific behaviors, both flattering and unflattering, that the 12 zodiac signs exhibit. “[It’s] like a new philosophy, one that doesn’t give a shit about sexuality, gender identification, race, or socioeconomic class,” she said.

According to astrology meme accounts like @notallgeminis, @trashbag_astrology, @wtmastrology, and Amato Hartwig’s @manicpixiememequeen, a Pisces mom never wears a bra. Virgos and Libras overthink every small conversation and interaction they have all day. Tauruses want to be rich so that they can have Rich Person Fun, like visiting wineries and going to Hawaii for Thanksgiving. A hard pill for Sagittariuses to swallow is that life is pretty simple once they stop making things up to fit their shit perspectives. The endless wealth of these memes serve to either affirm or roast you, even as the screengrabs from The Real Housewives of Atlanta or celebrities in the Met Ball bathroom veer into absurdist territory. If you weren’t previously in touch with your celestial birthright, these accounts are quickly becoming the best way to get an education. You’re astro-curious? Maybe you’re a Gemini, too.

The format at least should feel familiar. “It starts with the photo,” Courtney Perkins, a 23-year-old Los Angeles–based screenwriter and Gemini sun, rising Virgo, and Pisces moon, told me about her process to come up with memes for her @notallgeminis account. “I’ll see a funny reaction photo and I’ve kind of gotten into a system where I’ll [write text on] memes 12 times, so I’ll do it for every single sign. Sometimes, though, it’ll just be like, ‘Oh, this seems so Libra.’” Perkins can crank out six in 30 minutes, but for the ones that are more detailed and explanatory, they can take “a significant amount of time,” she said.

Perkins started her account as a casual thing with a few of her friends in February, and two months later it took off. “I did a certain series with Venn diagrams, where I would say, ‘You’re either type one or type two of each sign.’” Initially, she said, she started the meme format because she was “really annoyed” with her Aquarius followers. “I was like, ‘You know what, I really like most of you, but some of you are being assholes,’” she explained. After seeing the Venn-diagram memes, though, many of them responded to her that she was right; they were such assholes. (Perkins wrote that Aquarians have “some obnoxiously untrue political belief they think is actually progressive,” and that they love Eminem.) “Those [memes] kind of took off because people were posting them on their stories and were circling their traits. They ended up on the Instagrams of some people who actually matter, like Diplo.” When we talked last week, Perkins had 82,000 followers. Now, she’s up to 100,000.

These accounts are the newest iteration of “micro-targeting” — what you might remember as the “introvert versus extrovert” trend of the mid-2010s. As Facebook grew in importance to publishers and readers alike, a genre of stories came to dominate your social feeds: stories that appealed to a specific, identity-based thing about a person (say, they’re an introvert from Miami who hates BBQs), under the assumption that people who fit that category would share “17 Signs You’re an Introvert From Miami Who Hates BBQs” into their feed — triggering reshares into perpetuity by people who also identified as introverts who hate BBQs, therefore bypassing the need to appeal to a larger, general audience. When applied to an infinite number of traits or characteristics or personal interests, publications like BuzzFeed could divide and conquer.

The BuzzFeed version of these posts has largely disappeared from Facebook feeds. But the “I’ve got to share this because it’s so true” instinct lives on with astrology meme accounts. Though both Amato Hartwig and Perkins said that they’d like to make money off of their accounts (Perkins has her Venmo account in her profile), they lack the cynicism that came with the mid-2010s traffic race. But the accounts do serve a similar purpose as the height of the web quiz: They make people feel seen. “I think in some sense it’s free therapy,” Perkins said about astrology. “It gives people a free space to explore things about themselves, to self-reflect, and think about their relationships, about themselves, and their patterns of behavior.”

Astrology does seem to be resurging, as a result of the memes or otherwise: According to a 2014 National Science Foundation study, Americans are less skeptical about the scientific nature of astrology than they have been since 1983, and the majority of 18- to 24-year-olds at the time of the survey considered astrology to be at least “sort of” scientific.

“We’re in a phase of life where people are searching for meaning and not finding it,” Perkins concluded. “It is powerful to try to claim that for yourself, even if it’s as simple as being like, ‘Well, fuck it, my Venus is in Taurus and that’s why I’m buying this candle right now.’” One difference — and perhaps one of the reasons these posts are compulsively shared — is that astrology used to be primarily predictive. When should you invest, buy a home, get married, have a baby? Now, maybe as a reaction to the fact that younger generations can’t afford to do any of those things, these astrology memes are much more about the way individual signs interact with others and the world around them.

“I think that a lot of our idols have failed us,” Perkins said. “Astrology is in the spirituality section of the book store, but it doesn’t force you to idolize anyone else. It’s actually pretty grounded in the earth and in the people around you. It forces you to look inward. It forces you to look at the people around you and the way they behave.” Hartwig agreed: “I feel like the world has been growing more and more absurd, and people are looking for explanations.”

Astrology, the World’s Oldest, and Newest, Meme Trend https://pixel.nymag.com/imgs/daily/selectall/2018/06/18/18-instagram-astrology-memes.jpg