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Love Island - Harmless or Harmful?

Tomorrow night



It's back.

Forget Anthony Joshua. Forget the Champions League Final. The real TV talking point of the weekend is actually on Monday Night. Love Island 5 hits our screens.

Last year almost 4 million of us tuned in to watch a group of strangers "fall in love" in the Majorcan sunshine. There were 27 couplings between a constantly rotating conveyor of 38 contestants.

If trends over previous years are to continue, then even more of us will watch this year. Will I be watching it each night? Can't say I will. But I know for a fact every time I open up Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook the latest scandal or "binning" will be difficult for me to avoid. In a few weeks there will be a brand new set of memes, a list of catchphrases and national outrage because some guy we don't know will turn down some girl we don't know for some other girl we don't know.

"Island chat" will fill school hallways and work canteens. "OMG, Jackson is such a player, can't believe the way he mugged off Amber." Excitement is already building and the series hasn't started yet. I know for a fact many people will be hooked from first episode to last. Maybe you're one of them.

It's understandable. Watching attractive people get with each other, argue, sunbathe and do press ups by a pool is entertaining. It's escapism. It's easy viewing. Beats the hell out of revising or preparing for work the next day. It's just a little fun between consenting adults who know what they're getting themselves in for. What's the harm?

I am not going to criticize anyone for watching Love Island. How you spend your free time is your own choice. By all means, go for it. I simply want to present a few things that might be worth remembering.

Love Island is not representative

The show has been criticized in recent years for not being representative of "normal society." A quick cross section of the actual population does not contain a perfectly airbrushed, six packed, big chested sample.

A quick cross section would more likely contain a few overweight people, some poor skin problems and the odd yellow set of teeth.

If you were to choose 10 people at random out of hat from your place of work or uni class they probably wouldn't like this.

And if they would then damn you got one photogenic workplace.

Well done you!

But it makes sense right? These people need to be attractive. They need to look good. After all they are supposed to be attracted to each other. They are supposed to couple up after about 34 seconds of seeing each other. No point having unattractive people on there. I mean who wants to watch that.

As an adult with a sense of perspective I can easily understand that the average person does not look like that. I can understand that each of the contestants have gone on extreme diets just before the show to look "optimal." I know the power of makeup, eyelashes, tan and having a quick bicep pump before shooting a scene. Love Island isn't dangerous to me. I can see it for what it is.

Through years of struggle with both mental illness and body image, I have reached a level of self acceptance. Honestly though if I was watching Love Island 4 years ago I would probably feel pretty inadequate. I'd want the abs. I'd probably feel like less of a man because of the way I looked.

And you see that's my point. What about the children, young people and actually adults too who watch a show like this with a low self esteem and a range of body insecurities.

People who are body confident and assured in who they are probably won't have any problems watching Love Island. But many people aren't actually body confident. Scratch beneath the surface and you'll see that self acceptance is pretty hard to come by

Just two months ago the Mental Health Foundation carried out some research with YouGov.

I have summarized some of their findings below.

Sample size

18 and over = 4505

13 - 18 = 1118

* One in five adults (20%) felt shame, just over one third (34%) felt down or low, and 19% felt disgusted because of their body image in the last year. 

* Among teenagers, 37% felt upset, and 31% felt ashamed in relation to their body image.

* Just over one third of adults said they had ever felt anxious (34%) or depressed (35%) because of their body image

* Just over one in five adults (22%) and 40% of teenagers said images on social media caused them to worry about their body image.

Photo by John Tuesday on Unsplash

"Love" Island is a massive stretch

During the opening episodes I guarantee you will find many contestants conveying how desperate they are to find love. How they want something real. They want to find the right person and that is their main reason for being in the villa.

The fact that they are paid a handsome sum, will receive accelerated social media exposure, get to lie around a beautiful villa and become overnight celebrities is all secondary. Y'know to that falling in love bit?

Let's consider an imaginary contestant - Davy. (doesn't exist) Davy rocks up on the island. He's a personal trainer and social media influencer. He's got a perfect tan already, though he comes from Stockport and his teeth are whiter than my ass cheeks.

Day 2, Davy's smitten with Roxy. They had a real connection by the pool exchanging makeup tips and by the end of the night, they've coupled up and "sleep" together. Day 3 Davy's talking marriage. Potential baby names and what plants they'll have in their garden.

Day 5 Freya enters the villa. Here she's fit says Davy. Gives her a cheeky wink. And Freya wants to couple with Davy. Her boobs are bigger and she has more Instagram followers than Roxy.

"Sorry Rox, actually think maybe I'm not in love with you." Davy and Freya do the whole fall in love, sleep together bla de bla thing. Until Day 9 Freya's ex Seb rocks up on the beach. And you get the drift...

We know this isn't love right. Of course we do. Yet we are being entertained by a casual like and drop attitude to human relationships. It's purely based on physical attraction. As soon as you see something better you bin what you have. It perpetuates a me me me culture and quite frankly disrespects the feelings of both men and women. In my humble opinion.

"The fun in watching love island is watching people screw each other over...

Which is actually wrong."


It suggests physical appearance supercedes all else in attraction

Let's be honest physical attraction is absolutely a part of human relationships. It's a big part and it is important. You probably aren't going to instantly fall in love with someone who you are not physically attracted to.

Yet in the few moments of Love Island I have seen it appears to me that physical appearance is often the main criterion for contestants coupling up. I mean how else would you choose who out of a group of strangers to couple up with when you knew next to nothing about them.

The message is you pick the hottest one. Choose the guy or girl who is most sexually appealing to you because you probably haven't had the time to assess their character.

This surely continues to fuel this culture that we live in where appearance trumps everything. Where people constantly feel the pressure to change the way they look in order to be attractive to other people. It's no coincidence that teeth whitening, breast enlargement and crash diet companies all featured during the ad breaks in last years Love Island.

As a result many young people and adults will see the type of girl or guy who gets chosen and naturally compare themselves to that person. Most of us won't compare favorably. Some of us will have the perspective to say "Frig it there's more to life." Some of us will say "I'm gonna make changes to be like that" And some of us, especially young people, will reinforce to themselves the narrative "that the way I look is not good enough."

Photo by Boudewijn Huysmans on Unsplash

Reading this is probably not going to stop you watching Love Island. I understand that. If anything it's probably alerted you if you didn't already know as to when it starts and where you can watch it. Free advertising for ITV I guess.

Watch it or don't watch it that's your decision.

Just know and understand what you are watching.

And reinforce positive messages to your friends and family.


Thank you so much for reading and for continuing to support this movement. If you haven't already I would be so grateful if you would join my email subscriber list and stay updated on everything we are trying to achieve. The subscribe form is at the bottom of each page.

Your support will really help.


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