Love Island is due back on our screens on Monday at 9pm in the UK.
I always wanted to go on Love Island. That may or may not shock you. I’ve had body image issues my whole life and thought going on that show would solve any self esteem problems I had. It sounds bizarre, I know, but that’s how my brain works. (I also have a weird god complex and think I would be hilarious on reality TV – a twisted blend of painful insecurity and rampant arrogance.)
I am now 31 years old and understand my time on the Island is over. To be fair it never began, but I wanted the dramatics of an expulsion there.
Love Island is now in its 27th millionth season. I’m kidding, but it feels a bit that way. It began back in 2015 and since then 2 cast members, Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis, and the presenter, Caroline Flack, have taken their own lives. That’s one every year for the last 3 out of the 6 years it’s been on (I’m not including this year as it hasn’t aired yet).
Yet this show continues to be made. It continues to exploit young contestants’ self-esteem and mental health, all in the name of views. These 20-somethings are sent in, relatively unknown, and come out splashed across the front of every tabloid and all social media.
Imagine saying something taken out of context and an entire nation decides you are evil. You open your phone after weeks away to death and rape threats. You have absolutely no idea how you were being perceived and now fear for your and your family’s safety. I’m not being dramatic.
People will happily espouse their opinion, sexist/racist/offensive/homophobic/violent, on social media and TAG those it’s aimed at. What the fuck. Why would you tag them? I am guilty of sharing a negative opinion of islanders in my whats app group. We all are. That is one thing, taking it to a public platform where you can directly affect these individuals mental wellbeing is another.
What’s sad is every character who spits such vitriol would leap at the chance of going on the show. What is further baffling is that the producers of the show trawl social media and then use the horrible public posts to make a game. A game! What Larks! Uh, no. Islanders have to sit there and listen to horrendous comments made about them by the public – and sometimes celebrities, ahem, Stormzy. Not only that they then, as a group, have to guess who it’s about. This is their only ‘contact’ with the outside world during their stint on the island.
How? How is this allowed to run? I ran a poll on my instagram as to who of my followers would be watching. An overwhelming majority said they weren’t. I had just assumed I would watch it. I do every year. Some years I stick with it, some I don’t. I don’t like feeling left out.
However this poll really made me interrogate myself on this. I am a mental health advocate. I write about mental health and am very opinionated on the failings of corporations and governments in relation to mental health.
So why am I going to click on to a show that clearly has absolutely little concern for the wellbeing of the contestants. Contestants that without them, there would be no show. It is exploitation to the extreme. Exploitation of its workers, of its PROFIT-MAKERS. We all know how I feel about that. Come the fuck on now, Meg. Don’t be a bloody hypocrite.
So I’m not going to be watching Love Island this year. I pass no judgement on those who will. I can only control my own actions and I can’t in good faith call myself a mental health advocate whilst supporting a show that has cost the lives of far too many people.
Just if you are watching. Be fucking kind. These kids are human beings and no matter what they do, they don’t deserve your abuse.
In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123
In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14
In the US, the suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-8255
Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org