Nautilus

The Hannah Montana Hypothesis

It’s pamper time for Maddie, 16, who’s sitting down for a manicure right now, but not before telling her 2,000 Twitter followers. “Spa day,” the teen taps out, her long blond hair clipped up in a sloppy bun as she streams updates throughout the day. “I love when my nails are freshly painted,” she alerts soon after, presumably when the polish is dry. (Color: charcoal grey.) 

The bubbly varsity team swimmer is a mini-celeb in her circle, with 1,200 Facebook friends and arguably more Twitter followers than anyone at her diverse suburban high school of 2,000 just west of Boston. And complete strangers around the world see her tweets, too, signing on to her feed after heartthrob Niall Horan, of the boy band One Direction, began following her. Yes, He of the spike-gelled mop-top.

“He has 13 million followers and only follows a couple thousand,” says Maddie, who doesn’t at all mind telling the story of how that happened (more on that later). “People are like, ‘that’s crazy.’” In another tweet, Maddie wonders why Miley Cyrus, her one-time role model and the ex-star of Disney’s Hannah Montana sitcom, has gone punked out and potty-mouthed. “Miley, baby, what happened?” That information may seem like a trashy tabloid tidbit, but the theory about what’s ailing today’s youth centers on the popular TV show. Call it the Hannah Montana Hypothesis.

Researchers are warning that today’s youth are more obsessed with becoming famous than ever before, and rank fame as the most important thing in life. These psychologists believe that narcissism has been increasing from one generation to the next, with today’s youth reaching a new level of vanity and idle dreams of grandeur. With 24/7 retweeting, liking, and following, every teen has a potential world audience to act out fantasies of becoming just like the stars they idolize

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