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Why Co-Star Deserves No Stars: Horoscope Horror Story

 

As anyone reading this can bear witness, it’s basically impossible to avoid astrology nowadays. If it isn’t being asked “what’s your sign?” 10 times a day, then it’s checking your own daily horoscope–often through the use of a mobile app. Boasting 4.8 stars and a rating of #19 on the App Store’s Lifestyle chart, most people opt for Co–Star, an aesthetically pleasing and user friendly astrology app powered by AI and NASA data. But, after threatening push notifications and thoughtless BLM and COVID responses, it’s time to shed some light on this app’s damaging impact. 

 

Co–Star offers many features related to a personalized astrological experience including readings, compatibility assessments, charts, and more. One of its trademarks is the “satirical”(as founder Banu Guler puts it) use of push notifications that have begun catching the attention of users, eliciting a mix of emotional responses. These notifications can range from confusing statements like “Don’t even try to make yourself understood today. It’s not worth it.” to straight up invasive with “Your unhealthy patterns have roots in your family home.” Really, Co–Star? I doubt NASA’s on board with this. 

 

Some Twitter users have leaned into the absurdity, writing posts like “can’t wait to be dragged by costar today” and “Co–Star dragged me by my eyelashes today.” Clearly, the bold messages cause some amusement, mostly at the shock that its users feel when looking at their phone screen every morning. That being said, notifications like “Your eternal rest nears. Goodbye.” no longer stem from Co–Star’s “satire,” but instead begin to prey on peoples’ mental health, a statement that has been corroborated by Guler herself. 

 

In a recent interview with Chris Brennon on The Astrology Podcast, Guler admitted to playing with users’ emotional states saying, “especially when you’re good… we will troll you a little bit.” Though both Brennon and Guler both brushed off the negative reactions, agreeing that there should be a place for satire in astrology, many users think that notifications reading “Start a cult.” and “You are not meant for human consumption. Stay home today.” can be harmful to peoples’ mental health. If the app would like to include more edgy humor, then it should be advertised that way. Comments like these lack humor; if anything, they’re strange and uncomfortable to read. In the podcast, Guler also mentions how operating at such a large scale makes it more difficult to know the emotional state of every user and tailor notifications as such. Firstly, isn’t that kind of the point of astrology? That it’s supposed to appeal to large groups with the same personality types? And secondly, in what world does that mean cults and death should be brought into the mix? 

 

As if these bizarre push notifications weren’t enough, this isn’t the first time Co–Star has been met with this level of controversy. In 2020 during the Black Lives Matter movement, the company’s instagram account decided to use a meme format to describe how different signs would act “at the demo.” For example, Scorpios would “wear sunglasses to protect their eyes and emotions” and Aries would “come with heat resistant gloves to throw back tear gas canisters.” In their apology statement, they claimed that their post was meant to encourage people to “take action” and thought that a meme format would be a more “palatable” way to share this information, as if protestors needed to learn how to take political action from an astrology account. There’s no denying the thoughtlessness that went into making this post, and the public responded accordingly. 

 

In addition, there were many push notifications sent out during the COVID-19 pandemic that seemed to allusively discourage social distancing, causing further public criticism. “How will we go on living in a world where we can no longer touch each other?” “Does not touching have any advantages?” and “Find ways to kiss again.” are just some of the notifications users received during the CDC mandated quarantine. The company’s formal statement denied any coaxing to break social distancing rules, but the posts say otherwise. If Guler is so worried about how statements will come across while operating at scale, then why push these boundaries at all? Especially, during a time of such emotional fragility? 

 

After their countless harmful decisions, it’s time to move on from Co–Star and find a new source for that astrology fix. There are tons of other apps out there, Time Passages and The Pattern to name a couple. Astrology is so popular because it’s a fun way to practice introspection and learn about different aspects of our personalities; we don’t need a group of people constantly berating us with death omens and negativity, especially when we're at our most vulnerable. There’s no harm in looking to the stars for some clarity, just maybe not Co–Star.

Serena is a student at UCSC pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Literature with a love for creativity, storytelling, and learning.
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