We have reached that time of the year again. That time when all your co-workers gather around the water cooler daily to ruminate on the latest juicy scoop in reality TV. When your friends feverishly discuss the fresh scandals broadcast nightly to the country, dropping names as if they were talking about people in your own friendship group. You guessed it: the nation has once again been gripped by Love Island-mania.
You may be excused if you’re not a fan of the show – it’s certainly not everyone’s “type on paper”. We certainly won’t judge you (however we can’t say the same for your co-workers and friends). For some, the show is mindless drivel not worthy of the small screen; others, however, will swear by it, watch it religiously, and even plan their days around it. But despite its divisive nature, you can’t argue against the show’s grip on the country and how it makes waves in wider British culture for every year it airs.
But what makes a show like this so relentlessly popular and so far-reaching? What makes it so relatable and relevant?
Well, like any reality-show, Love Island exposes real people, with all their vices and virtues, “confined” in a luxury villa for 8 weeks. The goal of the competition is for contestants to “couple up” with one another and be the last couple standing by the show’s end. Each week, contestants are voted off by the audience and fresh contestants are added into the mix, just to shake things up and create more drama.
As expected, as this micro-community changes and evolves and adapts, unbreakable friendships are made and loving relationships bloom. But, just as often, tears are shed, enemies are made, and contestants act questionably. What we witness are people being quintessentially human. People laughing and arguing together, being rude to each other, or being selfless, compassionate, and kind.
However, along with the day-to-day petty disputes, we inevitably also observe weightier problems: sexism, emotional cruelty, sexual assault and, in recent years, even mental health issues and suicide.
Already this season Ofcom has received over 1,215 complaints about Love Island, revolving around two issues. The first issue was in relation to one contestant trying to force a kiss out of another contestant, an incident that many described as sexual assault. The second was to do with one contestant allegedly manipulating another.
This is not the first time that complaints have been raised by audiences about the show. Last year, thousands of complaints were made about the show’s manipulation of one contestant, which many believed was done gratuitously and only served to generate talking points on social media. More tragically, two recent ex-contestants have committed suicide in the past year, leading many to question how the show affects its participants.
But what does the show teach us about our work environments and ourselves, as people? The answer may well lie in the very questions that the show poses. Ultimately, as mentioned earlier, Love Island is a show about people, about us.
While we become engrossed in the spectacle, we’re also faced with the truth that these ‘characters’ are not so different from us. This realisation can invite us to consider more difficult questions about our own mental health and that of those around us.
The conflicts and relationships the show depicts are not necessarily a far cry from those that one might witness at work. No office is perfect, even if it has an incredibly efficient HR department! Unfortunately, sexism – and even sexual assault – are still found in some workplaces.
Concern about mental health continues to grow as more and more people come forward and join the dialogue to address it. People are overly stressed by work, deadlines, and even their co-workers. All the situations we witness on Love Island can be found, to some degree, in our daily lives, and this is perhaps what makes the show so popular.
However, as we watch, we should be mindful of this and try to remain aware that these troubles are not confined to the television screen. In fact, the very people we work with may require support and guidance.
As the complaints continue to come in, and more and more questions are being asked about the emotional support that Love Island should be providing to its contestants both during and after filming, perhaps we should ask ourselves how we can do the same for our employees.