Can you learn how to read tarot by watching other readers on YouTube?
Or by picking up tips through Instagram posts?
Or by watching 30-second TikTok tutorials?
I pose the question because it’s something I’ve been sitting with a lot this year.
I’m part of the last generation that grew up without the internet. We had landlines, answering machines, cassette tapes, CD players. Barely anyone I knew had a home computer when I was in high school.
But it was becoming cool to get one, along with a Hotmail account. But people still mailed letters, applied for jobs in-person or over the phone, and – thank the gods – none of us had our adolescence documented from start to finish on social media.
When the internet was catching on, it was exciting. I loved the idea of being to talk to anyone, anywhere, at any time.
Growing up as a teen in the suburbs made it harder for me to find information about tarot. I had to make-do with the limited resources I could get at the mall bookstore, or the library. Or do a one-hour trek to the occult store downtown, where I could rarely afford to buy myself anything.
When the internet came along, everything became available. It would be a while before we had YouTube tutorials and BiddyTarot.com to peruse, but barriers were broken.
Everything, including tarot, is so much easier to seek out now.
But the internet is not perfect. And social media can skew our perceptions about credibility.
There are some names in tarot I think every tarot reader should know. There are too many to list, but to start (and to span several generations): Rachel Pollack. Mary K. Greer. Stuart Kaplan. Angeles Arrien. Robert Place. Arthur Edward Waite. Occultists like Eliphas Levi and Antoine Court de Gébelin. Illustrator Pamela Colman Smith. Helen Fahey. Benebell Wen.
This isn’t only about finding influence from others in tarot, or creating role models – though it helps to have people to look up to in any practice. It’s also about understanding where certain ideas in tarot come from, and who helped to introduce them. So many concepts and theories float around out there as though they’re a given in tarot, but they all started somewhere as an invention or idea.
Yet the people I consider to have a legacy in tarot, or who seem to be in the process of building one, not always the ones who have the greatest influence on social media.
However, regardless of their place in history, either past or present, those they do have great influence on tarot.
And that is a distinction that, I fear, can get lost online these days. It’s also easy to get caught up in the momentum of the here and now online, rather than remembering that there is a whole history to tarot that we can already lean on.
Of course, tarot, like everything else, is always evolving. It’s necessary for new voices to rise up and contribute to the tradition of tarot.
Yet when we’re in the moment, it’s not always easy to know whose legacies or which works will have any longevity. I don’t know how much of the digital age will survive in future decades, because digital culture by nature is ephemeral.
It also makes it easy to hop on a trend for likes and popularity, and then move on to something new once the popularity peaks. Tarot is having a moment right now, but I’ve seen a lot of people come and go in this space as fast as they arrived.
I also worry about how easily misinformation can spread online. In the last year, I’ve seen a lot of information being shared on social media about tarot that is just totally wrong. I’m not talking about techniques or interpretations, which have some variance between readers - and can demonstrate knowledge and effort.
I’m talking about things that can easily be fact-checked, such as information about tarot’s history and origins.
I've also become aware of readers who fully lift their readings or interpretations straight from a book, with no credit, or who flat out make it all up as they go along.
I also worry about the pressure social media creates to always have something to say. I have seen, at times, spiritual influencers go out with a post too soon, or share something they’ve only partially researched because they are at the mercy of staying at the top of the news feed.
At the same time, there are so many amazing people out there sharing quality information about tarot.
The challenge is that online, quality control is left up to the individual.
So when people are new to tarot, or still learning their way around it, it can be really hard to know whether a source is credible, or whether a tarot reader’s account has quality information that you can learn from.
And unfortunately, the default advice we often hear in tarot – “Go with what resonates with you” – may not always protect you from bad information.
Context is always important when we’re reading tarot cards, and it’s important when we’re learning about tarot, too. If you don’t know what you don’t know, then putting someone’s social media post into the right context might be challenging.
There’s also a difference between being interested in tarot, and actually studying it. Social media feeds are not always reliable teachers, and they aren’t necessarily intended to be.
There is no discernible curriculum to follow if you’re cherry-picking esoteric knowledge based on algorithms.
So to go back to my original question: Can you learn tarot through social media?
I’m at a solid maybe on this one.
Because on the one hand, we are always moving into the future. And the technology we use today is going to continue to change and shape how we learn and interact.
But on the other hand, I didn’t learn tarot through social media, and I personally don’t know anyone else who has.
I read books, took classes, attended workshops, and practiced. I read some tarot blogs here and there, but it was never the bulk of my learning. I never watched readers on YouTube. Instead, I bought readings with professionals and got familiar with tarot’s wisdom through integrating it into my life.
But it’s a big world out there, I know. And I can’t possibly expect to know everything that’s happening in tarot, or what works for everyone else.
Yet if you asked me right now if I advise learning tarot on social media alone, I would strongly recommend diversifying your sources. Even mine: I share tidbits on social media, but that's the tip of the ice berg in comparison to what you would get from one of my classes or books.
I would also advise to keep in mind that just because someone is good at gaining a social media following doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good at tarot. It is possible to win at both, of course, but the quality of a teacher will be found in their expertise, not in their number of followers. (And who knows? Your dream teacher may not even be on social media at all.)
With all this being said, I’m so curious to hear other perspectives. If anyone is out there who has learned tarot on social media, reach out to me. I’d love to know your experiences.
Until next time,
p.s. Want some tarot tips you can trust? Grab my go-to tarot guide for beginners here.