What do you do to comfortable couples enjoying an all-inclusive jolly in Majorca? Tell them they’re fake and will never make it past the initial magazine deals on returning home.
Welcome to Love Island’s Mean Tweets – the annual villa experience which sees loyalties tested and egos punctured as Islanders are tasked with filling in the blanks on a handful of nasty messages from the show’s fans.
This year’s batch broke their Mean Tweets virginity on Wednesday night with Molly-Mae accused of using partner Tommy simply for a shot at the cash prize, and Amy and Curtis told they have no chemistry, before Molly-Mae took a second body blow with the suggestion that everyone thinks Tommy will end up with Lucie.
Let’s not lie here. We don’t watch Love Island just to see couples whispering sweet nothings on the day beds and “doing bits” in the bedroom at night. We want them to sweat like Tom when Maura called him out, and we want them to prove they’re more loyal than last year’s most loyal Islander, Georgia.
But with the impact the show can have on contestants’ mental health, have Mean Tweets, the upcoming annual lie detector test and the Casa Amor twist – where couples are split up and introduced to another batch of bombshells – potentially become too damaging?
ITV recently revised its aftercare processes in the wake of calls from fans and ex-Islanders (Jonny Mitchell launched a petition) following the suicides of two former contestants – series two’s Sophie Gradon and series three’s Mike Thalassitis – in the space of twelve months.
The broadcaster pledged to offer Islanders “enhanced psychological support” pre, during and post filming, as well as eight therapy sessions on their return home and access to help for 14 months afterwards.
ITV’s enhanced care even includes the offer of training specifically aimed at helping former contestants cope with the potential pitfalls of social media.
But ITV executive Angela Jain defended the use of games on Love Island, claiming that testing the Islanders is no different to the challenges new couples face in the outside world.
“We always say this, to the Islanders and to you and to the public – we’re trying to mirror real life here, and relationships in real life get tested and that is entirely normal,” she told RadioTimes.com. “So we are going to, and the Islanders are fully aware their relationships will be tested.
“That’s what the expectation is for the audience and definitely for the Islanders.”
She has a point. Who can honestly say they are in a relationship, or have been in a relationship, where the whole process of meeting, becoming ‘official’ and falling in love was as smooth as Anton’s bum?
Dating IRL is all about fighting off potential competition, resolving initial foibles and convincing sceptical friends (and yourself) that you’ve really met ‘The One’. The difference with Love Island is that it’s essentially a Tinder in the sun for a select group, whose whole lives become the fish bowl-cum pressure cooker that is the villa for the duration of their stay. Emotions will run high and outwardly small challenges will become unthinkably hard to overcome.
But if you compare this year’s Mean Tweets to previous series, it’s been toned down. And while the tweets may have seemed savage to the Islanders, they’re nothing compared to the vile abuse that is out there. Newest bombshell Arabella’s name is constantly mocked and the model has received death threats since coupling up with Danny.
Show bosses are clearly selecting tweets with the revised aftercare in mind, but with so much hate on social media, perhaps they need to be extra sensitive when choosing exactly which types of views to share with Islanders.
Mean Tweets is one of a number of psychological tests which are the essence of the show and to scrap them would be to remove the drama that makes it work, but there is a difference between tweets that only test a couple’s relationship and those that target individuals more specifically. Molly-Mae faced accusations of being a gold digger after one fan tweet claimed she is only with Tommy for the money, something she described as “savage” and which she clearly took very personally.
No-one wants a summer of watching Amy plan her wedding to Curtis – we need some drama to make Love Island the compelling viewing that it is, and that means the couples need to be tested. But when it comes to the sensitive subject of social media, perhaps ITV could keep its Mean Tweets focused on the Love (or lack of it) rather than the individual Islanders.
Love Island continues weekdays and Sundays at 9pm on ITV2