Psychics on TikTok, Cameo and Clubhouse seeing – and making – fortunes | Daily Break
For $ 15, plus a 75-cent processing fee, Hannah Macintyre is telling me my destiny.
âWhat I’m seeing here with you is this hitting a wall (and) needing to push through, needing to step up,â Macintyre says as she looks over the three tarot cards she’s drawn from her deck: the Page of Fire, Ace of Air and Emperor.
âThere’s also this information coming in here with these cards about exciting opportunities; so I again want to talk to you about being brave and volunteering for them. â
Macintyre is a spirit worker – a clairvoyant medium, to be exact – and does her tarot readings out of a modern, cozy home office. Behind her rests a shelf of tasteful crystal orbs; a whimsical spiral staircase snakes its way through one corner of the room, bathed in a warm purple glow.
âIt’s about opening up your energy,â she continues, making a gesture like an inflating balloon. âIf we want to receive anything in the universe, we have to be open. We have to create a space in our energy to receive it. â
Macintyre is based in the United Kingdom; I’m in Washington, DC, five time zones and over 3,000 miles away. It’d be a long way to travel in person, but distance is no obstacle for spiritual energies – or transoceanic internet cables.
Like a lot of the mediums she knows, Macintyre did the bulk of her consultations in-person before COVID-19 lockdowns swept the world in 2020. But now, with limited ability to host clients in her home, she’s expanded her Facebook following twenty- seven-fold; taken a class on how to use Instagram more effectively; ramped up her use of Zoom; and even briefly experimented with TikTok, much to her kids’ bemusement.
âI went, ‘Oh, just give it a go; I’ll try and do a bit more online work, because I have time, ‘âshe said in an interview.
That’s also how she wound up pulling tarot cards on Cameo, an app where people buy and sell short, personalized video messages. The platform is mostly known as a place for C-list celebrities to send their fans celebratory shoutouts – for $ 200, a tertiary actor from âThe Officeâ will congratulate your child on their Sweet Sixteen – but for Macintyre it’s become another way to get paid for her talent. (Cameo does take a 25% cut of booking fees for itself.)
âNinety-eight percent of my business is now online, when before it was the other way around,â Macintyre said.
In some sense, spiritual work has always been remote work. After all, what is speaking with the dead if not a Zoom call between Earth and the spirit world?
But moving these storied traditions online also has the potential to sap them of their mystique. The internet can’t yet replicate the smell of burning incense or the aura of a candlelit shrine; what weight does a message from the other side hold when it shows up in your newsfeed between a dance tutorial and a low-resolution meme?
For the spiritualists who’ve moved online during the pandemic – and plan on staying there even after home visits become safe again – that lost atmosphere is made up for, at least in part, by the internet’s convenience and reach.
Not every spiritualist worker needed the pandemic to get online; plenty of witches, spirit coaches and the like were using social media to find audiences well before that was their only option. But times are tough – a database put together by the nonprofit newsroom ProPublica shows that some psychics and tarot readers have even received Paycheck Protection Program loans – and the pandemic has forced many spirit workers to rethink what their work looks like in the 21st century.
It helps that the internet is in the midst of a broad shift toward making everything, and everyone, monetizable. The ad-funded business model that’s long subsidized web surfing is ceding ground to a less centralized economy which aims to replace middleman publishers with direct-to-consumer transactions. Platforms like Substack, Patreon and OnlyFans now offer an alternative to the big, free distributors of (respectively) news, art and pornography; Cameo is a product of this trend, too.
Maria GonÃ§alves, a psychic medium based out of Canada, turned to another app – Clubhouse – in an effort to keep doing tarot readings while socially distanced. Clubhouse offers real-time, audio-only group conversations where anyone can host a live discussion âroomâ based around a specific theme; strangers can listen in or, by raising their digital âhand,â speak directly with the hosts.
The free app is full of wannabe thought leaders and cryptocurrency evangelists, but for GonÃ§alves it’s been the perfect way to meet new people interested in spiritualism and, using tarot, answer questions about their futures.
âAll you need is a phone,â said GonÃ§alves, who will hop onto the platform and pull a few cards when she has a free hour.
The tarot cards, dense with symbolism and meaning, give structure to GonÃ§alves’ guidance, and facilitate intimate conversations that turn the Clubhouse room into something between a psychiatrist’s couch and an oracle’s cave.
During one nighttime session, GonÃ§alves drew the Seven of Swords for a visitor looking to make a career change. The card suggested an abundance of âfakenessâ in the visitor’s life, GonÃ§alves warned, such that if she wanted to succeed, she’d have to learn to ignore the people dragging her down.
For a young woman questioning whether to pursue her dreams of becoming a digital nomad? The Nine of Cups said: go for it.
âThis is your yes,â GonÃ§alves explained – though she’s quick to append her predictions with the caveat that we all still have free will.
Another Clubhouse room, the âPsychic Friends Circle,â features similar content, sans tarot cards. The room’s multiple hosts instead perform âintuitive readingsâ based on a subject’s ambient energy.
âSomething’s coming, and it’s coming soon,â one of the hosts, a medium and energy healer who works under the name Katie with Spirit, told a guest who was curious about where their career was headed.
Speaking later, Katie explained that even though she does these Clubhouse rooms for free, they’re still an important part of her business.
âYou can be someone who’s never had a psychic reading, and hop into a room and listen to me giving a reading to a total stranger, and it kind of demystifies the idea of ââwhat to expect and what a psychic reading really is,â she said. âSomeone, let’s say in London or in India or in Michigan, who would have never known who I was might go to my Instagram and then go to the website and book a reading one-on-one.â
And getting people to her website is how Katie actually generates income: $ 60 for a âpsychic checkupâ offering insights about life, love and work; $ 80 for âdistance reiki,â a remote version of the controversial energy healing practice; or $ 120 for an hourlong Akashic Records reading (âa sacred energetic field that holds impressions of all that was, is, and will be,â her website explains).
As the world of mediumship moves online, the different features each web platform offers lead to different relationships between psychics and their clients.
On the short-form video app TikTok, for instance, the black-box âFor You Pageâ algorithm that decides which video clips a given user will see adds an aura of fate to the web surfing experience.
âI like the randomness of TikTok,â a tarot reader who works under the stage name Lynn Herbabae said. If you’re seeing a given tarot video, âyou’re seeing it for a reason. People really like that. They’re like, ‘Okay, this came across my For You Page, so this is really meaningful for me.’ I believe that’s how [the] law of attraction works, and a lot of people believe that too. â
Herbabae was working online well before the pandemic but she has seen COVID-19 drive demand for psychics.
âI did have an increase in readings because there was so much uncertainty,â she said. âI think that’s when people start looking outside of what is right in front of them for answers.â
The pandemic has opened up new categories of work, too. Herbabae said the struggles of long-distance quarantine relationships have made love-life predictions especially popular.
Hillary Nichols, who works out of New Jersey under the name Lady Layn Tarot, sells email-delivered tarot readings through Etsy – a âquick blunt messageâ for $ 22.22, a âpast, present, future spreadâ at $ 33.33 – as well as Patreon , where fans can subscribe to personalized monthly videos. Etsy charges a $ 0.20 listing fee and takes a 5% cut of sales. Patreon offers several different membership plans, taking from 5% to 12% of users’ monthly income.
âI didn’t know if the distance would create a barrier for me,â Nichols wrote in an email. âI did many, many free readings … to test out how accurate my readings would be when done online and to my surprise, it worked!â
Meaning the readings were âas good as in personâ – judged on the basis of whether they resonated with the client. If a reading makes sense to someone or reflects a situation they’re currently in, âI consider it successful,â Nichols said.
It’s a question many psychics asked themselves in the early days of their forced digitization, only to conclude, quickly and out of no small necessity, that, yes, they can.
Fortune-telling and mediumship have been around for thousands of years; why would a few apps be what finally does them in?
âAt risk of sounding crazy, time and space don’t exist in the spirit world,â said Macintyre, the clairvoyant Cameo. âIt’s not (that if a client is) miles away, you can’t possibly feel his energy.â
âYou can break that barrier easily.â
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