According to the internet, if you want your partner to be an unpredictable, chaotic supervillain, you ought to date a Gemini. Donald Trump, Kanye West and Draco Malfoy (yes, really) are among some of pop culture’s most notorious Geminis, and current internet logic stipulates that it’s not down to their individual personalities that they’ve ended up the way they have. Rather, it’s down to their birth charts.
Venture online or on a dating app today, and you will find many making sweeping judgments about swathes of people based on the “typical” traits of their star signs. “Geminis are evil”, reads one recently viral tweet. “Virgos are extremely judgmental, which makes them terrible friends and people – they can’t even hide it,” reads another. What warrants prejudging an entire group of people based on some loose interpretations of astrology?
The popularity of astrology on the internet might be a good place to start. Over the past decade, the corny magazine horoscopes of old have been replaced with digital astrologers – some of whom are legit, many of whom are not. Astrology vernacular is everywhere. Mercury being “in retrograde” gets used as an explanation whenever everything seems to go completely wrong for someone at a given time – Liz Truss came into office just two days after mercury last went into retrograde in September, for example. In addition, the horoscope app Co-Star has been downloaded more than three million times since its launch in late 2017. Dating app Bumble now has an advanced filter allowing you to decide what star signs you want to be matched with, while on Hinge you can make your star sign visible on your profile. Even a new astrology-based matchmaking app, Stars Align, claims to help people find romantic connections through horoscope-based compatibility predictions.
As a (proud) member of Gen-Z, I’ll confess that the topic of star signs comes up in most conversations I have, from small talk with strangers to deep chats with friends. Whether it’s trying to decipher what a person’s star sign says about them, or loosely calculating the compatibility between a friend and a new beau, astrology is shaping how we choose to perceive one another. In dating, many are using the Zodiac as a quick vetting system.
“I will only date someone who’s an Aries,” says activist John Junior, 34. “I always ask what someone’s star sign is before we start speaking. Aries have amazing qualities, like being very open. I’m strict about [who I date] because I know that I’m highly compatible with an Aries.”
A quick disclaimer: astrology is not science and there’s no proven evidence that one’s Zodiac sign correlates to personality. Astrologers themselves are also sceptical about people using signs as a basis for decision making. “[Star signs are] a good conversation starter, an ice breaker, a rough guide,” says Kerry Ward, an astrologer with over 20 years of experience and author of The Good Karma Tarot. “But a person is the sum of way more than their star sign alone. Family, culture, values, education, life experience, friendships, career and health all go into that melting pot of personality, too. I don’t think anyone should base their interactions with others, or their opinions about them, based solely on their sign.”
People will usually tut and assume that I’m two-faced or a snake
Instead of analysing someone’s star sign, a complete birth chart can provide a bigger picture, according to astrologer Inbaal Honigman. Someone’s birth chart will show the placement of the sun, moon and planets at the exact time of their birth. “It’s really helpful in personality analysis,” she says. “It might indicate why someone might be more attached in a romantic situation in comparison to a platonic one.”
Naomi*, 22, is an art history graduate who typically avoids air signs – Gemini, Libra and Aquarius – when she’s dating or meeting new friends. Her justification? She’s tried dating air signs but realised she lacks compatibility with them. “As a Taurus, I’m not meant to get along with Aquariuses and Geminis,” she says. “And that’s proven to be true for me. I find Aquariuses to be quite cold, detached and hard to connect with. It’s similar with Geminis: you don’t know which side of them you’re going to get. I find them difficult to be around. I don’t have any Aquariuses or Geminis as close friends. I am friends with some Geminis, but very, very scarcely.”
Ward thinks that the growing popularity of star signs is related to a newfound eagerness to quickly filter people. “Star signs, like everything else in this world, have their stereotypes and biases too,” she says. “It’s just what humans do – [find a] shortcut to a snapshot of a group. I think people are always looking for criteria and safeguards to help them zoom in on compatible partners. I think my sign, Gemini, gets a bad reputation. Signs that are associated with being overly flirty – dare I say cheater material – get a hard time (Gemini, Sagittarius) as do ones which are aloof or chilly (Aquarius, Capricorn), or a bit OTT and loud (Aries), or dark and dangerous (Scorpio).”
While there’s no harm in having personal preferences when it comes to dating – it seems to be working for John and Naomi so far – these criteria are often informed by having kissed a few Gemini, Scorpio-rising frogs. Honigman understands that past dating experiences will likely influence someone’s outlook on star signs; she too decided that Pisces and Sagittarius were the most compatible signs for her after some serious trial and error (her husband is a Pisces). “I think it’s unwise to judge someone only on their four signs [star, earth, sun and moon],” she says. “However, if you’re experienced with the way that you’re triggered by a specific star sign, it’s a good idea to look at the first red flag and not wait for the next big thing.”
So, we know that people love to berate Geminis on the internet. But what’s it like to be on the receiving end of star sign vitriol? Maria Dmitriev is a 21-year-old master’s student who feels like she’s constantly being hyper-analysed by strangers or friends when she reveals her sign. “I’ve never had a positive response from telling people that I’m a Gemini,” she says. “They will usually tut and assume that I’m two-faced or a snake. People tend to psychologise my behaviour… like telling me that I’m a ‘typical Gemini’ when I do something they think is questionable. What used to be reading your horoscope in the newspaper has turned into this whole personality [categorisation]. Am I the only one who thinks this is a bit weird?”
At a recent dinner party, Maria cringed when someone decided to begin some inevitable star sign chat. “I don’t know much about astrology, but enough to know that it’s more complex than a star sign explaining your entire personality,” she says. “All I know is that I’m a Gemini and people hate me.”
Tried and tested compatibility might help some people find romantic connections or lifelong friendships more easily, but weaponising someone’s star sign against them clearly isn’t the ethos of the astrology community. “Using someone’s star sign to tear someone down is disingenuous,” says Honigman. “It’s absolutely not the reason why we have this knowledge in the first place.”
Personally speaking, I’ve had a run of eye-watering dating experiences with Pisces men, finding them to be distant and noncommittal. Does this mean I’ll storm out of a bar if a Hinge date confirms that he was born between the dates of 19 February and 20 March? Probably not. Part of me might be a bit wary, but I’m also courageous (read: reckless) and apparently brave. I’m an Aries, after all.
*Names have been changed