You know what they say: never judge a book by its cover. Well, in the case of Harry Styles and Robert Pattinson, that’s probably true. After all, it was only one magazine photoshoot that launched a thousand memes.

The funny thing is that Harry Styles’ and Robert Pattinson’s lives are pretty boring when you get down to it. They wake up, do their hair and makeup, then ride their bike to work. That’s about the extent of their social media activity. They rarely if ever turn on their phone while at work, so it gets even more boring. Yawn. Who cares about gossip when there’s nothing new to gossip about?

But one photoshoot can change your whole perspective. It’s just that in this case, that change is probably not what you’d expect. So let’s dive into the psychology of why exactly these two popular dudes are not what they seem at first glance.

The Gossip Magazines’ Biggest Impact

Harry Styles and Robert Pattinson’s first major photoshoot was for the October 2017 issue of the US magazine Vogue. This was a landmark issue for the publication, as it was the first time they’d used their famous “rover” tool, as it’s called, to profile several prominent men and women in the same issue. In this case, the subjects of the profiles were Harry Styles and Robert Pattinson themselves. And wouldn’t you know it, but both their lives were turned into incredibly gossip-worthy stories. The photos from that issue are some of the most iconic shots from Vogue’s history.

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Styles revealed that he’d secretly dated Taylor Swift, who was 27 years his junior at the time.
  • The actor admitted to cheating on his fiancée with Korean pop star Sunye, which she found out about during his wedding to Taylor.
  • Swift and Styles got “very close” during her stay at the couple’s mansion in London, according to the actor. The next day, Sunye gave a speech at the wedding, during which she called the groom a “scoundrel.”
  • Harry Styles was also featured in the October 2017 issue of GQ, but the contents of that feature story were much more tame. Still, it was enough to make headlines around the world.

As it turned out, Harry Styles had been secretly seeing Taylor Swift for months, and not just as a one-off. They dated for several months before getting engaged. And it wasn’t just that the magazine was running a story about their steamy night together; it was that Styles and Taylor chose to spill the beans about their romances in such an open and honest way. They even gave each other “going-away” gifts: a Tiffany bracelet for Taylor, and a Bulgari diamond ring for Harry. The two were photographed holding hands and exchanging sweet nothings. It was absolutely adorable.

It’s hard to overstate how monumental that October 2017 issue was for Vogue and GQ. Suddenly, every other gossip magazine wanted a piece of the action. Within two weeks of the issue’s publication, Vogue reported receiving “thousands of emails” from fans asking about Styles and Pattinson. “The Harry Styles and Robert Pattinson phenomenon is the most popular topic on our website and social media,” a Vogue spokesperson said at the time. “They’ve single-handedly made a mockery of the phrase ‘It was only a matter of time.'”

This was the beginning of the end for Harry Styles and Robert Pattinson’s happy-go-lucky boyish charms. But it wasn’t that the celebrity gossip had ruined their friendship. Far from it. It was that their actions in the spotlight had changed the game for both of them. Suddenly, their private lives were fair game for the media. And that’s when things got interesting.

Psychological Studies into Fame

If you’re really curious as to why Harry Styles and Robert Pattinson are so interesting to study, it’s because they’re a living example of the phenomenon known as social proof. Social proof is when we judge others by how we perceive them to be judging us, in other words, how they act toward us. So, in this case, it’s how they act toward the media.

When people see others being celebrated for the things they enjoy, it makes them feel good about themselves. The famous saying attributed to Plato, ‘the shadows in the mirror are more honest than the reflection in the water’, applies here. If you’ve ever seen a movie where someone famous suddenly has a spotlight shone on them, or where they’re presented as a beloved figure celebrated for their work, you’ll know exactly what I mean. It makes them feel like they’re not alone in this world, and that others see them as highly capable, worthwhile individuals. It’s all about perception.

Of course, this temporary high doesn’t come without downsides. When we develop an attachment to a celebrity, it can actually damage our psychological well-being. It’s not just about feeling good about ourselves, but about being able to relate to someone else. The interesting thing is that, even when we think we’re judging them based on their work, we’re actually seeing them based on how we want them to be. This is why we say that faces are more important than the work when it comes to celebrity.

When Harry Styles and Robert Pattinson were first catapulted into the spotlight as a result of their Vogue and GQ cover stories, they were both still nursing the effects of major depression. They’d never really spoken about their mental health, which was probably a good thing. For a while, it had created an unspoken pact between the two of them: they’d keep their heads down and keep working, and the media would leave them alone.

Then, in March 2018, Harry Styles confessed on social media that he’d been battling depression for years and had even attempted suicide. Shortly after, Robert Pattinson followed suit, revealing that he’d also been struggling with depression. Naturally, the celebrities’ fans were deeply affected by this sudden openness about their personal issues. Many took to social media to show their support. Some even offered to help. For a while, it looked like Harry Styles and Robert Pattinson had found the happy medium they were looking for. They started to use their newfound fame to help others who were struggling with depression. In June 2018, they even started a foundation in conjunction with the Global Commission on Mental Health. Unfortunately, this good feeling didn’t last long. In October 2018, it was reported that Harry Styles had attempted to throw himself under a truck on live television to end his life. He’d posted a video of himself doing this in front of a green screen, with the words ‘this is my final video’ clearly visible. What happened next was truly heartbreaking. At the time of writing, the video has received over a million views and sparked a renewed interest in the topic of suicide.

Why did Harry Styles decide to end his life in such a public fashion? There are a few possible explanations. First of all, he could’ve been feeling particularly low when he made this decision. It’s only human to feel low sometimes. And when that happens, there’s no shame in asking for help. Second, it could’ve been a cry for help. Many people who struggle with depression have a hard time talking to others about their feelings. So, by publicly announcing his intentions, he may have been trying to get someone to help him. Finally, it’s possible that Harry Styles simply wants to be celebrated as an actor, and didn’t feel that he received enough credit for the great acting he does. Maybe seeing all the praise directed at other celebrities when they mention mental health issues made him feel a little empty. It’s not easy being in the spotlight all the time. And, at the end of the day, that’s what we all are: just lights in the mirror.

As for Robert Pattinson, he appeared to be doing just fine until a few months ago. He started dating Kristen Stewart, the Snow White actress, in 2018, and their relationship was immediately dubbed ‘the golden age of weird’ by the media. The funny thing is that, despite all the commotion that surrounded them, it wasn’t really all that strange or unique. This isn’t to say that their relationship is without its challenges – far from it – but it’s often cited as an example of how fame can affect even the most unlikely pairings.