I’m an avid consumer of dating reality TV. A show I’ve been recently obsessed with is “Love Island.” The ITV show recently returned with its winter 2023 season, and I’ve been glued to my screen every night since.
Who’s coupling with who, what couple will take a sneaky visit to the terrace and what islanders will be dumped out of the villa? As I watch the new episodes, those questions are constantly racing through my head.
And yet, one question is always the same no matter the season or characters – do people really fall in love?
Despite my love for the show it’s important to focus on the unrealistic standards it sets. There are no random texts offering yacht dates, no steamy challenges and no weekly recouplings in real life. “Love Island” is a perfectly controlled environment where the biggest hurdle is whether or not a new islander will challenge a fleeting connection.
Call me cold, but I can’t fathom the idea of being able to fall in love in less than a week. I see these islanders talking about how easy it is to catch feelings when it hasn’t even been 10 days.
Knowing that the final winning couple leaves the villa with £50,000 provides clarity since many viewers speculate that some couples fake their romantic voyage only to get that coveted prize at the end. But still, watching this show makes me think of how it distorts our expectations of love and dating.
I believe falling in love takes time. While some people strongly support the idea of soul mates and love at first sight – love needs time, space and nourishment to grow. But “Love Island” is anything but a slow burner when it comes to love, as islanders are expected to figure out who they want to couple with – and consequently share a bed with – sometimes in less than 24 hours.
It is true that islanders in “Love Island” are all together in the same villa, which could heighten their emotional connection. They sleep in the same room, eat together and lay out in the sun together. They even have weekly challenges that sometimes involve kissing every islander of the opposite sex to rate the kiss — these individuals are immediately pressured to get to know each other as quickly as possible.
But this isn’t the case in the real world — dating is often time-consuming and challenging as people are busy going through their lives. Work, family, hobbies – these things don’t exist in the villa but are essential factors in testing a relationship. Understanding how and if your partner will fit your lifestyle is vital to creating a relationship.
By pressuring couples to spend all their time together, “Love Island” also fails to show the beauty of time in a relationship. The anticipation of getting that “good morning” text from someone, waiting for that weekend date night, talking about your day and events during the week — that’s what makes dating so fun and keeps connections alive. Having a bit of mystery is essential because it keeps you coming back. In “Love Island,” mystery is all but dead.
Couples are also watched 24/7 in the show, with thousands of cameras perfectly situated around the villa. Trying to sneak a secret kiss? A million viewers have already seen it. Islanders must keep up their romantic façade as failing to show interest in the opposite sex will probably mean getting dumped from the island. Being single is risky, and letting a fling organically fizzle out is not an option.
In real life, when you give a fair chance to someone, and it doesn’t work out, you move on – no risks involved. If something does flourish from that first encounter, couples can continue to get to know each other privately and not with a giant camera focused on their every move.
The famous “testing your relationship”— where contestants explore different partners or not — further shows how technical love is in the show. You don’t need to test your relationship if the romantic connection is strong enough. And the ease at which these islanders (mostly the men) ‘test’ and ‘have their heads turned’ on the island further proves how almost none of the romantic connections are truly authentic. In the real world, if you love someone and believe in your relationship – ‘testing’ means cheating.
Will this stop me from watching the show, getting invested in the romances and being heartbroken if they fail? Probably not, but it is a reminder of the nature of the show, which at the end of the day, is still the always-questionable reality tv.