Like all of the years that have come before it, 2019 has been a year of trends. “Old Town Road,” leopard print midi skirts, Billie Eilish, true crime think pieces, neon green accents and for me and my friend group, more than anything, it’s been the year of astrology apps. Co-Star. The Pattern. Sanctuary. No matter how much you care about (or believe in) astrology, you’ve probably heard of at least one of the popular social-ish media apps.
I say “social-ish” because none of them are robust enough to be a full fledged replacements for Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Their focus is too insular and their messaging systems are too rinky dink to successfully vie for your constant attention, but what (most of) these apps keenly master is the ability to make you feel like they know you. Co-Star will call out troubles in your work life, The Pattern will systematically breakdown your relationship (or friendship) with another person and Sanctuary will give you an emoji of the day because that app is basically useless.
Combing through these apps feel spooky. Like the newspaper / magazine horoscopes before them, reading about your rising sign or your 12th house is imbued with a sense of horror movie voyeurism. Is someone spying on you? How do they know you’re indecisive (true)? Or that you sigh a lot (medium true)? Or that you hate being told what to do (the most true thing in my life to be honest)? Most of the time this sense of understanding is supposed to be a good thing. Finally, some(one/thing) can see that you’re naturally charismatic, quick-witted and empathetic. At last, there’s an explanation for your short temper, your need to prove yourself in romantic relationships and your tendency to feel trapped.
But like everything since the introduction of the Notification Center with iOS5 in 2011 (or earlier if you had a non-apple phone, RIP my Moto X), all of that ease and understanding is ruined as soon as you start getting multiple notifications a day. It doesn’t matter if it’s text messages from your loved ones or reminders from your bank, nothing is more annoying than the constant buzz of notifications, especially when those notifications seem designed to systematically throw you off your game by leaving cryptic tidbits that distill flaws in your personality.
My first dip into the wild world of astrology apps was The Pattern. Often described as the most “mysterious” astro apps, The Pattern needs your birth date, time and location, but unlike the rest of its brethren, it doesn’t mess around with sun signs or houses, instead it allows you to “Go Deeper” into segmented aspects of your personality. I might be “Charming & Diplomatic” but for the next 53 days I’ll also be “Indecisive or Unreliable” and for the 522 days I’ll have a “Provocative & Intense Mind.”
Out of all of the astrology apps, The Pattern’s notifications have been voted most likely (by the yearbook council in my mind) to breakup my relationship (and maybe even make me lose all of my friends as a fun bonus). After adding my boyfriend to the app it told him (while we were both on vacation with his family!) that “a destined partner may enter [his] life in a surprising way.” A few days later, it alerted him to the fact that I’m “prone to staying in a relationship even if it’s unsatisfying,” and that I “might run into difficulty in [our] relationship life right now.” At the same time, The Pattern assured me that “it may feel uncomfortable for [my boyfriend] when [we’re] together.” It’s 2019 and an astrology app is trying to convince my boyfriend to breakup with me and start a relationship with another mysterious woman…. Or maybe The Pattern has become sentient and it wants to date my boyfriend? The options are limitless and I’m perplexed (and fascinated) by all of them.
Surprisingly, The Pattern isn’t even the worst offender in my daily barrage of anxiety inducing notifications. Co-Star, which seems to be the astrology app of choice (it’s the best designed and the least opaque when it comes to terminology), is so much worse. The Pattern might be trying to ruin my relationship, but it actually feels less cryptic. Co-Star’s notifications are so brief and (seemingly) random that they feel like mean fortune cookies for your soul. Apropos of nothing, Co Star will explain to me that “understand[ing] people is not a waste of time,” (I never thought it was!) or that I should “listen before [I] leap to conclusions.” (You’re not my real dad!)
But wait, it gets worse! The most cutting Co-Star notifications tack the word “today” onto their little missives, making me feel like the clock is ticking on me being a good person, like I’m running out of time to make the right decision. Messages like, “you don’t have to be afraid of any feeling you have today,” “try not to come to any conclusions today,” and, “proving that you know everything won’t win you any friends today,” feel wild and leave me yelling (on the inside) what the hell have I done to deserve this? I’m not afraid of my feelings (usually)! I don’t jump to conclusions (more than most people)! And I don’t think I know everything (unless I’ve been drinking or I’m talking to a man)! One time in the middle of the work day, Co-Star pleaded with me to, “try not to bash your friends behind their backs.” Don’t tell me what to do, you aesthetically pleasing star based algorithm! I’m a good person!
There was also the one time that Sanctuary told me my emoji of the day was a trashcan, but you get the picture. Besides siphoning off my data to every semi-profitable company in Silicon Valley (and some companies that have never been profitable), my phone is bullying me one astrology app at a time. And I love it. The screenshots are too good.