Suffice to say, astrology is still having its moment in the sun. Even amidst an agonizing pandemic, people are looking for meaning behind their birth charts with the help of astrology apps to get some semblance of comprehension, motivation, or even just peace towards whatever the hell is going on in their lives.
Some are believers, while some are skeptics. And that’s fine! If charting the path of heavenly bodies gives you serenity, then no one should have to give you a tough time for it — not your friends, not strangers online, and definitely not the app itself, like what Co-Star has admitted to doing.
That’s right, the app that gets its data from NASA and analyzes them through artificial intelligence is using all that cutting-edge capacity to troll its users. Since launching in 2017, Co-Star has been the talk of the town within pop astrology circles for its generosity for forthright instead of flowery interpretations of your birth chart. This is to say it’s cruel when you least expect it to be.
On the January 6 episode of The Astrology Podcast hosted by astrologer Chris Brennan on YouTube, Co-Star founder Banu Guler talked about the app’s inception and inner machinations.
Around the 58:00 mark of the 2-hour episode, host Chris Brennan opened the matter of Co-Star sending “provocative,” “edgy,” and “satirical” delineations, or interpretations of an astrological chart, to its user. He then asked Guler how the team comes up with them. These were her response:
“I definitely am the reason that they get really edgy, because I’m like ‘yeah I totally want to spend my morning thinking about worms crawling out of my lover’s eyes” I think it makes me care about my lover more.’ So I’m definitely the source of, like, yeah let’s push people…like, it’s healthy to think about the worst thing that could happen, and become comfortable with that sort of fundamental impermanence… But we dialled it back, especially starting… once the quarantine started, I think we all decided it was, like, not the time to be brutal and push.” [58:48 — 59:50]
“Especially when you’re, like, good, you got a lot of trines and sextiles, we will troll you a little bit.” [1:03:11-15]
To interpret that last quote, trines and sextiles pertain to proximities between planets. Within the context of astrology, these represent “soft aspects,” or aspects that are gentle, harmonious, and auspicious, a.k.a. the exact opposite of “edgy” that they’d want to feed to you.
While disturbing, Guler has previously justified these copies. Their “edgy” delineations is intended to convey some sort of specificity, something that horoscope sites only ever expressed with vague and elaborate language.
“A lot of the astrology stuff you read on the internet seems like it’s written for strange people who don’t live like us. It’s pretty corny, it’s kind of superficial. It pays attention to strange things. Like … I have never wondered what lottery ticket numbers might be lucky for me,” Guler shared to Mashable back in 2019.
Okay, we concede that horoscope sites do tend to sound superficial and recommend ridiculous “lucky” things. But surely those things shouldn’t permit trolling your users in the name of authenticity — and certainly not in the name of “Scorpio humor” (really?).
Sure, we joke about each other’s signs, post memes to start a fun banter. But putting people in a bad mood on purpose just because “life is impermanent and we have to be prepared for the bad times” hardly passes as humor for us.
For all the reasons people relish in astrology, the fact remains that those who participate in it do so on the belief that it helps them live better lives. It guides them towards making healthier decisions, and nudges them towards things that strengthen their values or support their peace of mind. Thus, the least Co-Star could do is stop trolling people by giving them an emotional rollercoaster.
Or just stop trolling people, period.
Art Daniella Sison