One minute, you’re the nation’s sweetheart, the next you’re an annoying mean girl with an awful hairdo. This is what has happened to Georgia, the self-professed loyal 20-year-old gracing our screens every night on one of the most popular reality shows the UK has ever seen. But that’s what you sign up for when you agree to go on Love Island, right?
Actually, yes. Many watch Love Island through two lenses, one focused firmly on the actual show, the other scrolling through the #loveisland hashtag on Twitter. It’s here where a consensus is formed, where opinions are given clout through likes and retweets and a contestant’s experience in the hallowed villa is celebrated or bemoaned. As an entertainment show, it’s all part of the game – literally, as one of the most exciting points in any series of Love Island is when islanders read out contentious and gossip-fuelled tweets from the public.
What is unprecedented, though, is the amount of vitriolic hate spouted directly to those on the show. Contestants have received death threats to their Twitter and Instagram accounts, and many of the women – including Megan and Zara from this year’s crop – have had revenge porn leaked across the internet. When you sign up to a reality show such as Love Island, it’s expected that people will have opinions of you, good or bad. What’s not anticipated is the fact that people might wish death upon you, on Twitter, just because you kissed someone.
Love Island producers cast boys and girls from auditions – more people applied to be on the show this year than to Oxford and Cambridge – but also from talent agencies and social media. Today, The Guardian has interviewed a number of those who turned down the offer to find love on television and asked them why they felt appearing on Love Island would not be a wise choice. “It might all go very badly and potentially ruin my career,” said 23-year-old model Harry Sellers, while another model, Dominique Sapsin, said it would be a pointless endeavour as she already knows most of the people on the show, saying, “My friends all joke about it and say: ‘OK, next year I’ll do it as a last resort’ if their careers don’t pick up. In theory, it would be hilarious to go on the show, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.”
If you find Georgia annoying, that’s fine. If you think Megan is fake, that’s fine. If you thought Adam was a gaslighting arsehole, that’s more than fine. But disregarding the effect our actions might have on a stranger’s mental health is dangerous
The risk of being found annoying, or fake, or boring, is clearly very real to contestants, whether they agree to go on the show or not. But for those who take the chance and appear on the show, the social-media boom has amplified the intensity of such accusations tenfold.
What we all forget is that Love Island, by its very nature, is a game show – islanders are there to “find love”, but those that do are rewarded with a handsome sum of £50,000, which they can share between the couple or take for themselves. The game is designed and manipulated by producers to create drama and tension – we would do well to remember that when we’re fuming over continuity errors like Georgia’s nails and the angle from which the camera caught her kissing Jack. This is not real life.
What is real are the emotions of the islanders – and never has that been so obvious than when former contestant Sophie died by suicide earlier this year. While an inquest is still ongoing into the cause of her death, those close to the 32-year-old say she was suffering with depression and anxiety. Her friend Calum Best, who won the very first series of Love Island, subsequently called on Love Island to provide mental support and help to islanders who may be “messed up” by online trolls.
If you find Georgia annoying, that’s fine. If you think Megan is fake, that’s fine. If you thought Adam was a gaslighting arsehole, that’s more than fine. Love Island is a jump off for lots of different serious conversations, and we are all entitled – if not encouraged – to give our opinions. But death threats and leaking nudes is morally abhorrent and illegal. Disregarding the effect our actions might have on a stranger’s mental health is nothing short of unethical and, simply, dangerous. This isn’t what Love Island is supposed to be about. We’re meant to be having fun.