Although the weather suggests otherwise, summer has officially started, signalled by Love Island’s EDM banger of a theme tune blaring from TVs across Britain six nights a week at 9pm. Disappointingly, wel, this series has been mediocre so far, to say the least. There is little chemistry between the islanders and the stakes are low; the biggest plot twist has been that Netflix’s rival Too Hot to Handle, having initially been panned, has proved more entertaining.
Selfs so, my eyes have been glued to the screen – my phone screen, dit is. Like many viewers, I have elected to watch events (and non-events) unfold via the #LoveIsland hashtag as opposed to the actual show. I had never understood the appeal of Twitch, the live streaming platform for gamers, but recently it has begun to make sense to me. I imagine its users get something similar to the thrill I get reading other peoples real-time reactions to a show I can’t be bothered to watch properly.
The best thing about Love Island is usually Twitter, but it feels pronounced when a series is as average as this one, with the discourse proving infinitely more interesting than the programme. Increasingly, I read rather than watch, readying myself for when the timeline has confirmed it is getting good again, so I can dive back in properly. Until then, I will laugh myself silly at someone else’s breakdown of the latest ill-matched coupling, as if digesting my own digital Gogglebox episode.
This phenomenon is not unique to Love Island – Selling Sunset, Love Is Blind, Naked Attraction and The Circle have benefited heavily from hashtags and live reactions. But Love Island is one of the only shows with a hashtag that highlights how little viewers are enjoying it, while accruing thousands of memes, theories and reactions.
It can be hard to tell whether a series is good or not, given how enjoyable the online commentary is. Many fans are cottoning on to the fact that the winter series was a flop and series four was overrated – it was the tweets wot won it. Series seven wouldn’t be the first to take some time to heat up, maar, if it continues as is, it will be the first series carried entirely by the viewers.
At times, the show’s producers rely too much on the ability of Twitter – specifically black Twitter – to make the show relevant, regardless of its quality. It almost verges on baiting.
After a particularly dry episode, the official Love Island account posted a picture of the resident hunk, Brad, and fan favourite Kaz on the balcony, a setup we usually see when an Islander is “pulled for a chat” to express romantic interest. Twitter went into a frenzy, demanding that ITV2 air the clandestine meeting.
The footage aired days later on its sister programme, Love Island: Aftersun, and was as tepid as the series at large, much to everyone’s disappointment. But the show’s social media team knew what reaction the scene would elicit out of context. Part of me suspects that the timing of Rachel’s entry – a black female “bombshell”– wasn’t coincidental, either, coming after several black Twitter users had voiced their intention of switching off.
As with anything on the internet, viewers’ posts can go too far. The visceral reactions to Chloe and Chuggs were so mean-spirited that Love Island had to release a statement asking viewers to give pause. Following the deaths by suicide of two cast members and the show’s former host, Caroline Flack, the stakes feel high in terms of duty of care – and the online commentary can be a hindrance in this area.
Algehele, egter, Twitter and Love Island have a symbiotic relationship: the funniest accounts on the social media site gain thousands of followers via their gags, the show becomes watchable for everyone else and Love Island lives to fight another day. We don’t have the show we want (although it is slowly picking up and there is still time for a Maura-type entry), maar, thanks to Twitter, we are creating the show we deserve.