Love Island returned for its fifth series this week – and with 3.4 million tuning in to the first episode, it was the biggest launch show ever for the ITV2 series.
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The action packed first episode set the stage for our players; already we’ve had two bombshells, a new catchphrase and a brewing love triangle.
But as always, Love Island is not just an experience limited to our television screens, with fans turning to their phones and laptops to have their say on Twitter in real-time.
The last series saw more than six million tweets, creating a staggering 2.5 billion views – and making Love Island the most talked about show of 2018.
And series five could be even bigger, with fans already swapping opinions and memes with one another online.
Anton, who entered the villa already mired in controversy – after photos of him emerged in blackface, dressed as Mr T for a party – bared the brunt of the Twitter criticism.
But Anton wasn’t the only person to face the wrath of the Twittersphere in episode one, with Anna taking her fair share of criticism – mostly about her appearance.
That’s not all – one person tweeted that Amber’s VT “was as if she was begging them to hate her”, another said Joe “looked clapped” and Callum was described as “hateful” – and that’s even before the show began.
It seems that host Caroline Flack’s call for people to “be nice” to the Islanders, especially considering recent events, has fallen on deaf ears. Just months after fans mourned Mike Thalassitis on social media and threatened to boycott the show, some are now pouring hateful scorn on a new Islander because they think her lips are too big.
15 minutes to go….. remember folks … be nice ❤️
— caroline flack (@carolineflack1) June 3, 2019
Love Island’s glossy exterior and soap-levels of drama, much of it made in the editing suite, make it easy for us to forget that these are real people with real lives who will likely come out and read the barrage of hate they receive from the public.
The sudden swelling of his social media profiles, and all the attention that came from being in the public eye (both good and bad) was something series four contestant Dr Alex George reported as being one of the hardest things he had to deal with outside the villa.
“Once my time on the island was over, I opened up my Instagram account to discover it had swollen from about 200 followers to more than a million,” he told The Guardian. “Scrolling through, I found thousands of comments, of support and hate in equal measure. It really hit me: what had I let myself in for?
“I’m grateful for the kindness of the majority of the public after the show, but I’ve also faced regular trolling on social media including attacks on my physical appearance, my personality and my relationship with my girlfriend. At first I found this incredibly hard, but I’m now in a space where I find it easier to ignore the trolls.”
Love Island has faced much criticism following the suicides of two former contestants in the space of a year, with the show’s duty of care processes called into question.
The new series will be the first time its more extensive and robust new policies will be put into practice, with aftercare now specifically involving bespoke social media training.
But the very fact that new Islanders require training on how to deal with the daily delivery of hateful comments reflects the sorry state of social media. Yes, ITV has a duty of care to the Islanders in making sure they are equipped to deal with their overnight fame, but we all have a duty of care to one another to make sure we’re not hateful for the sake of it.
Love Island’s social media presence is what helped it become such a national phenomenon, and chatting about the show online is as much a part of the experience as watching it. But with freedom of speech comes responsibility.
Enjoy Love Island – make your memes, share your views and call a snake a snake – but take a moment to think before you hit send about how those comments might feel if you read them about yourself, and consider that another person’s wellbeing is worth more than a quick laugh online.
Love Island continues weeknights and Sundays at 9pm on ITV2