Love Island: The New Summer Drug?

Words by Sophie Perry

Without even watching a single episode of Love Island, you would have had to be living under a rock to deny it has been the show of the summer. For two months at 9pm each night a single, solitary tumbleweed could be seen making its way through towns up and down the country as near enough everyone from your next door neighbour to Stormzy tuned into Love Island. But how could we not be enthralled by the antics of the contestants in the villa, when it is a constant cocktail of recouplings, banter and muggy-ness? How can we not be outraged when Johnny thought he could just bin Camilla off for Tyla? How can we not be very smug when Camila then recoupled (and upgraded) with Jamie, a Calvin Klein model who can cook, play guitar and perform the Dirty Dancing lift? Love Island has spent the summer capturing our interests so intensely that it has brought ITV2 record ratings but what is it that sets it apart from other reality shows in our minds? Arguably, it’s the addictive personalities of the contestants accessible instantaneously through the unceasing platform that is social media.

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As Love Island’s format is just familiar enough to other reality shows to warrant watching but different enough to be exciting it thus becomes the contestants who are the crowning jewel of the show’s acrylic nail. We watch their ridiculously gorgeous selves (because they are all ridiculously gorgeous) arrive in the villa straight out of their airbrushed, tanned introduction videos and monitor their every action and reaction. Similar to “Big Brother” and “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!” these contestants are watched every minute of every day by 68 different cameras throughout the villa, meaning every snide comment and secret conversation is broadcast for us to see. We come to see more sides to these contestant’s personalities and their budding relationships than we do with our closest friends as we watch them eat, sleep, couple up, argue (a lot, if you are Oliva and Chris) and even have sex (a lot, if you are Amber and Kem).

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It is for this reason that the personalities of the contestants became so addictive to the Love Island audience, for we are able to infiltrate their lives so acutely that we feel almost we are a part of Love Island itself. It is this feeling of connection to the contestants that has led to such a powerful social media fever around the show, whereby during each episode thousands upon thousands of people would tweet their opinions on the action in villa. This being because viewers felt they had as much right to excited about Gabby and Marcel, flabbergasted at Olivia or angry about Tyla as the contestant’s real family and friends might be. For, in the viewers’ opinion, we are able to know them just as well.

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The presence that social media has in our lives where we can so easily join in on what is happening on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram in less than a second means that Love Island does not just remain a one hour experience. The opinions, debates and discussions we engage with about the show spill over and past the shows 10pm cut off point and into our daily lives at work, university or hungover at 2pm on a Sunday. Notifications from the show’s Twitter account (which popped up on my phone more often than I like to admit) keep us incessantly in the loop of Love Island gossip. In essence, the contestants invade our lives in the same way we are invading theirs.

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Since the show has come to an end this notion of invading our lives has become a much more dynamic experience, allowing us to accept the loss of the show and further our obsession with the contestants. In the time since the finale crowned Kem and Amber the winners, it is not only host Caroline Flack or Love Island’s official PR run Twitter account that keep us in the loop of Love Island off-air antics but the contestants themselves, as since leaving the villa they have re-joined the social media sphere. Instead of just being able to watch them and debate and discuss amongst ourselves we can now interact with the contestants directly, as if they are real people just like us mere mortals. Here our obsession with these contestants is fed on an hourly basis as we can keep up with Harley staying #Humble following his 15 minutes of fame, Jess and Dom’s countrywide nightclub tour extravaganza and Chris and Kem’s spin off show and collaboration with Stormzy (yes, really). With the click of a follow button we are able to keep up with ventures of these people indefinitely as social media allows us to infiltrate their lives. I believe only as time goes on will we be able to tell if Love Island is a summer addiction or a long term one as is the case with the Kardasian’s ever growing clan. Either way, even if we soon forget all about the contestants and they blur into obscurity on our timelines, there is always Winter Love Island 2017.

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