COLUMN: Zodiac switch means she’s a new kind of crazy

Friday, January 21, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CST

When signs (no pun intended) of the great horoscope switch of 2011 started popping up all over social media last week, the responses ranged from feelings of betrayal (“You can’t tell me I’m a Sagittarius after all these years!”) to regret (“What am I supposed to do with my Leo tattoo?”).

The viral culprit came from Twitter and Facebook responses to a Minneapolis Star-Tribune article that featured Parke Kunkle of the Minneapolis Planetarium, who explained that the “wobble” of the Earth had caused a change in the zodiac signs.  That is, if you were an Aries, you would now be considered a Pisces. Furthermore, he said a 13th constellation, Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer, would be the sign for those born between Nov. 30 and Dec. 17. Despite the fact that Kunkle went on to explain this “story” was more than 2,000 years old and wouldn’t affect anyone’s sign, the reaction was huge.

Who knew how much everyone truly cared whether they were a Virgo or a Libra?

The guy with a Scorpio tattoo across his back or my 13-year-old cousin who lives by what Teen Vogue says will happen to the Gemini every month might both be a little upset, but I was a bit surprised by the response from some of my 21- to 23-year-old male acquaintances.

My friend Stephen posted a “ditto” in agreement with someone who proudly tweeted, “Once a Leo, always a Leo.” Another shared a Facebook status involving profanity toward his newfound life as a Taurus. When I asked Stephen if he had ever checked his horoscope before, he told me he never had, and yet his relief when he discovered he was still a Leo was close to euphoric. I began to wonder why people cared so much about something they normally cared very little about, if at all.

While the “news” quickly spread, what many people failed to do was their research. Many of my friends reassured each other that this change only affected people born after 2009 or that the story wasn’t “real” without offering an explanation.

As it turns out, most astrology believers in Western society follow the tropical zodiac, which is fixed to the seasons and not fixed to the constellations like the sidereal zodiac, which is followed primarily in the East. Therefore, the personality descriptions and love-life predictions can live on in the U.S. for those who hold their horoscope close to their heart.

After realizing that all the brouhaha was for nothing, I wondered what the Internet has done to us. We live in a world that stops for balloon boy and the death by Twitter of Jeff Goldblum. Even MU is not immune; a “shooting” last semester that supposedly killed several students stopped the entire campus all because of a few misinformed tweets announcing that a gunman was loose on campus. The husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords believed his wife was dead for about 20 minutes after watching a false television report. The combination of the media putting out bad information and the public allowing too much time to pass before it gets its facts straight can be, as in the case of Giffords’ husband, detrimental.

We thrive on the drama of a television or Internet scandal and ignore the signs that it probably isn’t true. Is it the distraction that is offered by a spectacle that captivates us? Watching what we believe to be a 6-year-old float around the Colorado sky for several hours on an idle afternoon in 2009 is probably more thrilling than anything going on in the office or classroom. But that doesn’t necessarily make it right.

Regardless, the emotional Leo-lovers and devotees to everything zodiac can rest easy. That is, until the next hard-hitting news piece about the spontaneous combustion of the moon causing the horoscopes to mysteriously disappear altogether hits the Web, and the pandemonium can again ensue.

Amanda Koellner is a senior in the magazine sequence at the Missouri School of Journalism. She is a columnist and community conversationalist for The Missourian and a music department editor for Vox.

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