This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
It starts out harmlessly enough. You download Co-Star when a friend does your birth chart one night after a takeaway (“Aries sun, Cancer moon… explains a lot,” they nod sagely as you demand to know exactly WHAT that means. We’ve all been there). You happily plug your details in – birth date, city, time – enjoying the novelty of it, delighted with the opportunity to spend even more time thinking about yourself.
After some encouraging Tarot instruction from your work friend Star who wears feather earrings (“You have a really special way of seeing the cards, babe”), things start to move quickly. Soon enough, you begin to give the daily notification – a one-sentence mantra that comes through to your phone at 11AM – growing credence. “Give others a wide berth today,” it warns – and what do you know? Your boss comes into work with a face like a broken egg. “Treat yourself well today,” says the next one, and you do! By spending £10 in Pret at lunchtime!
Over time, you’re checking your daily, weekly, and monthly horoscopes on various websites. You quietly subscribe to an astrology podcast; you idly scroll through stick and poke artists’ Instagrams for when you get a tattoo of your sun sign’s constellation. And then it happens: you download The Pattern. Where Co-Star feeds you tidbits, The Pattern is the all-you-can-eat buffet of the astrology app world (and like Co-Star, it’s probably also powered by AI). With its seemingly endless information mined from your natal chart, it’s easy to get sucked in, spending hours tapping “Go Deeper” until it’s breezily mentioned that you’ll probably only find genuine connection later in life, and you throw your phone across the room in horror.
To be clear, astrology itself rules – it’s a wonderfully helpful tool through which to view your life and circumstances. But it was never, ever meant to be combined with the artificial intelligence-powered app form (full disclosure: VICE has its own astrology app on iOS called Astro Guide, but its horoscopes come via actual people rather than AI). Astrology is about tuning into the world around you, which is arguably the exact opposite of looking at your phone and panicking because a computer says you’re ‘feeling closed off’ today.
All three of the writers who prostrate themselves today on the webpage here before you have had their existences at some point marred by AI astrology apps (one of the three still can’t warm to anyone with a Pisces sun sign because an app once told them they were opposites). And so we implore you to consider the following ways in which your astrology app may be ruining your life:
Astrology in itself is moreish (I once caught a housemate – who may or may not be one of the writers of this piece – who had sworn off it because it was becoming too prevailing an influence on her life sneaking a listen to a podcast about planetary movements at 7AM when she thought nobody could hear). I think this comes more from the fact that we’re surrounded by it, by virtue of the internet, however, than from something inherent in astrology itself.
The ringleaders of the cacophony, of course, are the apps, with their notifications and constant stream of new information about yourself. You constantly feel your mind wandering, thinking about when you’ll next be able to check them and learn even more about your individual condition, so much so that it’s hard to actually experience your individual condition, because your mind is just constantly focussed on getting to App Town, population: you.
THEY ALSO WASTE TIME
The need for productivity is a capitalist myth so I don’t care about that, but what I do want to ask is: do you really want to be feeding free data into an app (and, as a result, pure anxiety into your very veins) when you could be mainlining The Sopranos and a bag of Tangfastics? Do you???
THEY MAKE YOU GET WEIRD ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
You’ve been seeing someone for eight weeks now and it’s going really well. Last weekend you spent 48 hours together and you’ve caught yourself looking at the small crease in their nose while they slept. But then you check your compatibility on Co-Star and… wow. Just wow. None of your planet placements are in alignment. Their Mars is in Libra, while yours is in Cancer, which means: “Your sex life is probably unfulfilling.” The fact they made you come five times last night must have been a fluke. Instead of ignoring the app, you consider dumping them.
YOU START SEEING YOUR ENTIRE LIFE THROUGH THEM
Other people: my week has been bad because my job is stressful and I am going through a break up.
You: my week has been bad because five planets are in retrograde, the new moon in Aries is sending me batshit and recent transits have completely fucked with my Pluto’s second house of resources, according to my app.
THEY AREN’T A THERAPIST
Look sweetie, I agree that the app knows us better than our £65-an-hour psychotherapist does. It sees into our soul and reads that past life trauma. Qualified medical professional with background on your childhood shame, OCD, depressive tendencies and SSRI use symptoms, whomst?? But maybe it’s time to… stop with the app… for just a mo.
YOU BECOME REALLY SELF-OBSESSED
“Listen to this, listen to this,” you’re saying to your friends in the pub, as you get out The Pattern for the third time that night and read your personality traits out loud to the table. “Apparently I’m really intuitive?” you’re saying. “I’m also practical, when I need to be. I’m romantic. I can also be unstable. Oh, and it says here that I could have been some kind of spiritual leader in a past life?” Your mates might be nodding along politely, but trust me when I say that they do not care. No one does.
THEY PREVENT YOU FROM LIVING IN THE MOMENT
If you stopped obsessively checking The App to see what next month is going to look like, maybe you could, idk, just live your life and see how it turns out? Wild, I know.
THEY CAN BE, ACTUALLY, WRONG
Please, it might be best if you sit down for this. I know it's a shock but take deep breaths to help you process. I am really sorry to have to explain this but: it is possible that a computerised program that you have downloaded to your phone does not always get the details of your life right, and that today, in fact, you do not have to “be careful who you trust”. My condolences at this tough time.
YOU STOP TRUSTING YOUR INTUITION
Are you the sort to confuse anxiety with good old-fashioned gut instinct? In light of that, how does trying to navigate two voices, one being your own and the other that of a Qualified Guru, sound? Therein lies the issue of Woo Woo Shit being too dominant a lens for analysis in your life! Even the most straightforward of uncomfortable feeling – I just don’t like this person, I feel happier when doing this rather than that, I want to change this aspect of my life – becomes a minefield of options. Could this be my [insert character flaw as designated by The Pattern] being triggered? “How can I ever know what I really think!” you will inevitably cry. Nothing can beat your own intuition!! Oprah said this years ago!
YOU START THINKING YOU’RE SOME KIND OF ALL-SEEING EYE WHEN REALLY YOU’RE JUST A TIRED, UNDERPAID WORKER WITH AN APP
There comes a time in a spiritual master’s life – about one month into deep-dive learning from free apps – that one simply feels they know ‘too much’. The ways in which the world could be changed, nay, helped, if only everyone would step inside this magical world with you. Expand their minds, believe in the unexplained and enable all daily iPhone notifications for ‘Lifestyle’ apps. No, unfortunately you’re just a person with a curious mind, Wifi connection and absolutely zero personal boundaries.