Why tweeting about Love Island has become better than actually watching it

Tilly Brogan
January 25, 2024

It’s been just over a week since Love Island returned to our screens. After last year’s season was cancelled because of the pandemic, the whole nation was excited to hear the cries of “I’VE GOT A TEXT!” and the endless possibilities of “Can I pull you for a chat?” once more. However, despite being gone for a whole year, the comeback season of the hit ITV2 series has only just started to pick up pace.

It’s universally accepted that the first few weeks of the show are normally the worst; no one really knows each other, the public aren’t invested in anyone’s relationships so the dumping of the islanders doesn’t seem as emotional – apart from when Shannon got brutally dumped on just day two – and everybody still has their guard up. But in terms of the contestants and the chemistry between them, this season started off comparatively lacking. So much so, that tweeting about Love Island quickly became more entertaining than actually watching it.

Every night from 9pm (apart from Saturdays when ITV shows a bonus episode of unseen clips from the week instead) #loveisland trends on Twitter. By clicking on this hashtag, you can enter the so-called world of “Love Island Twitter” – including, but not exclusive to, the subgroup of “Fiat 500 Twitter.” Love Island Twitter is the glorious result of what happens when everyone is watching the exact same thing, at the exact same time; even former contestants have joined in by providing their own live commentary on this season. However, unlike when other events spark discourse online, there is something about this side of Twitter that feels comforting, inclusive, and somewhat like an online community.

Love Island Twitter is the glorious result of what happens when everyone is watching the exact same thing, at the exact same time.

One reason why many – including myself – might able to find solace on this social media platform at exactly 9pm each night, is because we can see people like ourselves in the tweets; despite hundreds of pleas for more diversity in skin colour and body types, ITV2 are still intent on only choosing contestants for the show who fulfill Western beauty ideals. The women are super slim, while the men are incredibly muscular and toned. There are hardly ever any noses with lumps or bumps in them. The majority of the contestants are white. And in terms of variance in sexuality, ahead of this season Love Island said they weren’t including any LGBTQ+ contestant because they were a “logistical difficulty.”

Love Island’s refusal to add any meaningful diversity to the show means the only people we can relate to are not those on the other side of the tv screen, but instead those on the other side of our phones. It says a lot when Love Island’s biggest competition, Netflix’s Too Hot To Handle, has become more diverse than the ITV2 dating show – despite it having its own issues in diversity.

As well as a lack of diversity, another reason why people are using the show simply as background music to the main commentary online is that a lot of the contestants simply aren’t being authentic. Original Love Island fans can remember when the contestants weren’t aspiring Instagram influencers, or even established influencers already; in 2019, only six of the 36 islanders actually applied to be on the show – the rest were scouted via social media. The problem is the contestants know just how many people are watching them, and more importantly, who; which brands would want to work with a contestant that wasn’t always showing their best side?

In 2019, only six of the 36 islanders actually applied to be on the show – the rest were scouted via social media.

In some ways, the controlled behaviour of the islanders can be explained by the philosophical concept of The Panopticon. Put simply, The Panopticon is a central observation tower placed within a circle of prison cells. The tower shines a bright light onto the cells so the watchman in the tower is able to see those inside – however, those in the cells aren’t able to see the watchman so assume they are under constant observation. As a result, inmates are always on their best behaviour and never let themselves slip up. In Love Island, the islanders are living in the cells while the whole of the world watches them from the central observation tower, also known as the ITV hub. The contestants alter their behaviour so they can be rewarded with brand deals when they get out, but they are also aware that behaving poorly might result in a mob-like pile-on from the same online community responsible for making their name trend each night.

The thing is, viewers know that Love Island contestants aren’t an accurate representation of society – that’s why it always feels like a slap in the face when producers consistently send in one token POC woman into a villa of men that only like “blonde hair and blue eyes,” and why this season’s addition of the show’s first physically disabled contestant Hugo who has clubfoot, sparked backlash from the disabled community – so instead, we have all collectively turned to Twitter to joke with those that are. See point: when Faye and Sharon got offended when they thought Hugo insinuated they had had too much work done, Twitter was collectively in agreement that he had just said he preferred more natural-looking women, and was not viciously attacking Faye on all of her childhood insecurities.

In fact, there are so many people engaging in the Love Island discourse on Twitter that ITV2 have issued a warning about the nature of some of the tweets. This statement goes hand in hand with ITV’s bekind campaign that urges viewers to think before they tweet in light of the deaths of two of the show’s contestants, Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon, and presenter, Caroline Flack; in response to the show’s statement, Love Island Twitter was quick to point out that the show should also take responsibility by not editing the footage to merit such a response.

The fact that we’re spending more time tweeting about Love Island than watching the show itself, demonstrates how the lack of diversity and inability to recruit islanders that are more entertaining than the discourse surrounding them, might have dented Love Island’s shiny reputation. If anything, it doesn’t even matter if the seasons after this one start as slowly as season 7 did – going forward, the online community will always be there to fill in the gaps.

That being said, I’m not giving up on this season just yet – I’ll just be watching it in the background while I scroll through my Twitter feed at the same time.

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