Horoscopes Are Like Trash TV: Entertaining, But Stupid

There are two things we as individuals definitively know about horoscopes: you either love them, or you hate them.

By Gwen Farrell2 min read
Pexels/Ozan Çulha

Even if you’re an admitted skeptic like myself, it’s hard not to scroll through your daily feed or flip through a magazine at the grocery store just to see what’s up with your sign.

According to the Pew Research Center, an estimated 30% of Americans actually believe in astrology. (Those aren’t the ones among us who are picking up tabloids at salons just for the heck of it.) With such a staggering number of people ascribing to this kind of belief system, the question begs to be asked: Is there something behind horoscopes, or do they belong with all our other guilty pleasures?

The Evolution of Astrology

An academic at the University of Wales argues that skepticism of astrology is dangerous, seeing as how it’s been practiced “since civilization began.” True, in all fairness, but that’s not necessarily a reason to keep practicing it… 

Once upon a time, we might have relegated astrology and horoscopes to your quirky great-aunt who reads palms and tarot cards at family gatherings. But surprisingly enough, it’s starting to see an uptick in popularity among younger generations.

A 2014 study published by the National Science Foundation found that 58% of people aged 18-24 believe astrology is “scientific.”

But is there any real empirical evidence for such a claim? Have we seen any hard proof since the beginning of this century which even begins to bolster something like that?

It’s one thing to use your horoscope to choose your new haircut or brunch place. But more often than not, the attention-grabbing headlines catching our eyes and our interest are “Should You Quit Your Job?” or even “Should You Marry Him?”.  All based on the placement of your star sign. Yikes. 

What’s the Appeal?

Maybe the horoscopes we see on Instagram or in women’s magazines are appealing to our most clickbait instincts, but there’s an actual psychological reason beneath the surface as to why we’re so intrigued.

As humans, we do have an inherent need to understand ourselves and our behavior. Logic isn’t necessarily always what we want to hear, but there’s more to it than that. 

People believe in astrology the way they believe in any other belief system. We have a need to understand ourselves, yes, but we also have a need for assurance and for information. Where we choose to fulfill those needs and how is where the popularity of new age, spiritual (yet not religious) trends such as these come in.

The Real Reason We’re Obsessed

Aside from the philosophical, there’s another possible conclusion: We like behaving badly.

Have you ever caught up with an old friend or ran into an acquaintance only to hear them say “I’m such a Libra” or explain XYZ behavior by “Mercury is in retrograde.” Maybe it’s just me (I hope not). 

Rachel Hosie for The Independent sums it up like this: “Astrology gives people an excuse for their less than positive traits or actions.” 

I can see the appeal. And if we’re encouraged to believe that our character traits are literally written in the stars, there’s not much reason to apologize for behaving badly is there? The bad behavior, negative attitudes, or sucky days at work have been preordained. That’s definitely an intriguing thought. 

Excuse or not, your daily horoscope check can be an interesting, (sometimes) accurate description of your most basic personality traits. But are they really a basis we should wholeheartedly consider making every decision by?

Closing Thoughts

Horoscopes are a lot like reality television. As far as we can see, there doesn’t appear to be much substance behind either, but they’re an entertaining, fun distraction. Does that mean we should devote all our time and energy to analyzing reality TV? Not as such.

It’s completely natural to want to explore beyond what we can see, hear, and touch, and spirituality can be a crucial part of that discovery. However you choose to explore new realizations about yourself, make sure the big, life-altering decisions that result from those epiphanies aren’t beside your weekly sex advice column, or advice freely handed out by your friends on the basis of their horoscopes.