I am not a superstitious person. Nevertheless, I was on a train somewhere, scrolling through my Instagram stories as usual when I chanced upon my friend sharing their fortune for the new year according to their Chinese zodiac. I simply couldn’t help but become curious about what the new year had in store for me too. But I should have known better than to Google this, because what I found deeply annoyed me, and I have now decided that I will never look up such fortunes again. Let me explain why.
“Rabbit, Dragon, Horse, and Rooster people are destined to enjoy a smooth life and good luck in making money in 2022.”Fortune 1 for people born in the Year of the Rabbit
“[Take] things seriously because the Rabbit has an overall mixed fortune of good luck and bad luck in 2022.”Fortune 2 for people born in the Year of the Rabbit
As someone born in a Rabbit year, I would imagine that a Tiger year definitely does not bode well for me in any aspect of life at all. After all, don’t tigers eat rabbits for lunch? Imagine my pleasant surprise when the first Google result I clicked on said that “Rabbit, Dragon, Horse, and Rooster people are destined to enjoy a smooth life and good luck in making money in 2022.” Then imagine my not-so-pleasant surprise when another website touted the importance of “taking things seriously because the Rabbit has an overall mixed fortune of good luck and bad luck in 2022. Although their star sign is generally on the rise this year, their luck also declines in some aspects.” What? All I wanted was a little good fun—I would have been perfectly fine if they had just told me I was going to have a terrible year. But I suppose it’s too much to ask for two different websites to read the same signs the same way. Also, could that second website have been any more ambiguous?
“Consider seeking help in financial management and investments. Opportunities abound, but take time to do your research before you invest. You’ve worked hard for every cent, so don’t let schemers caue you to lose your hard-earned wealth.”Websites dispensing common-sensical advice that is universally applicable
At the root of my annoyance is the painfully obvious attempts of these websites to cover all their bases: they want to provide the reader with predictions, but actually end up dispensing common-sensical advice that any self-respecting fortune cookie could provide to its consumer within its little slip of paper, and have it be universally applicable. One website tried to sell me on the importance of being prudent in financial matters. It said, “consider seeking help in financial management and investments. Opportunities abound, but take time to do your research before you invest. You’ve worked hard for every cent, so don’t let schemers cause you to lose your hard-earned wealth.” But if I may just point out one painful irony of fortune-telling websites, more often than not, they try to sell the reader a number of “lucky” bracelets attached with various crystals and rabbit charms. I wonder if the administrators of these websites see my purchases of their tchotchkes as “prudence in financial matters”? Now this would take the irony from painful to hilarious, but whatever the case is, no, thank you.
Now, at this point you’re probably asking, if you were so irritated by these contradictions and supposed “nonsense,” why were you still reading on? That’s precisely the thing: I got sucked in by the nonsense. As disgusted as I was by the ridiculous claims that I read on these websites (as if a lapis lazuli bracelet could somehow improve my luck in finding a job), I was somehow engrossed as well as amazed by the audacity of whoever wrote what I was reading. Maybe this is what happens in a conspiracy theorist’s mind, I thought. Maybe it starts from a little harmless Googling, and after one or two hours you end up questioning everything you know. Then you become someone who believes that the moon landing was faked or that birds don’t exist and are actually surveillance drones deployed by the US government. But I digress.
It’s expected that predictions for a new year will contain copious amounts of mumbo jumbo. It’s worse if these predictions are supposed to apply to an entire cohort of people born in the same year. Is that even statistically possible? If “people born in the year of the Ox will face troubles in their careers”, does that mean absolutely nobody born in the years of 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997 (and a few other years) will get a promotion at work? Maybe I’m taking this too literally, but it’s also difficult to take the website that simultaneously advises you to be prudent in investments while also selling you crystals that will supposedly bring you good luck, seriously. I’m pretty sure that website can’t really tell you anything of great importance, much less what the future holds.
Nonetheless, we read on all the same just because the unknown is scary, and maybe you’ll gain some insight into what colours you should wear for the new year, or maybe some lucky numbers you can try your luck with at the lottery—except, if you’re like me and you referenced several websites, you’ll be thrown into disarray about what your actual lucky colours are: one website says they are silver, lavender, grey, and white, while another says they are green, purple, and orange. Why don’t I just wear rainbow outfits then?
But don’t let my contempt confuse you. I do understand some of the reasons why people may find comfort or even joy in reading their zodiac predictions. It’s reassuring to believe that the heavens have your back or are looking out for you, and it certainly helps you alleviate a little of the uncertainty surrounding the future. Furthermore, the power of a self-fulfilling prophecy shouldn’t be underestimated. If your zodiac app tells you that you’re going to have a good day, it’s probably easier for you to believe that the air that day is fresher and people are smiling at you more often. Maybe the prediction of a good day makes you subconsciously change your behaviour; you walk with a spring in your step and you say “please” and “thank you” more often, and this in turn makes people react more positively to you. Ergo, you have a good day. Additionally, our brains are wired in such a way that we remember with more emphasis, those moments which conform to our expectations and we easily dismiss the times they do not as “slight inaccuracies” that are readily forgiven and which pale in comparison to everything else that was right. This only makes you look upon zodiac fortunes more favourably. After all, only you have the authority to say if the app was right or not.
At the end of the train ride that started all this—after I had mindlessly read around five different predictions from five different websites—I came to a singular decision: never again will I read up on my Chinese zodiac new year’s predictions.