Relentless trolling and shocking threats of violence dominate Twitter timelines and Facebook comment sections when Love Island returns to our screens each year. When the show’s host Caroline Flack died by suicide in 2020, her Instagram post that read: ‘In a world where you can be anything, be kind’ was shortened to the ‘BeKind’ hashtag, which Love Island used to encourage their viewers to adopt the ethos or call Samaritans if they needed.
Arguably, the people that know the damaging effects of living your life inside the Love Island echo chamber of intense adoration or hatred best are the contestants themselves. They have been the subject of the trolling, had their every action ridiculed and faced the aftereffects of instant fame upon leaving the villa.
Yet, Brad McClelland, Jake Cornish, Aaron Francis and Tyler Cruickshank shocked their followers this week when they started mocking their fellow Island alumni Rachel Finni on their Instagram Live: ‘“Rachel, yet again, not a bombshell,”’ Brad read out from the comment section before the group broke down in apparently uncontrollable laughter.
‘Tyler an ambassador for suicide was laughing when Brad was making fun of Rachel, very interesting,’ wrote one user on Twitter. ‘Rachel Finni is the literal definition of a bombshell,' added another. ‘I honestly get so upset when girls go on the show and have to find out that the guy who was flirting with them was faking it all and now is laughing and bullying them,’ said a third.
While none of the boys on the Instagram Live thought to stand up for Rachel or acknowledge that their behaviour publicly humiliated their cast member, Tyler’s ex Kaz Kamwi quickly outlined the damaging power of the boys’ words: ‘I generally don’t get involved in much BUT I really wish people would honestly take a step back and think about how harmful their words and actions are and can be,’ she wrote on her Instagram story.
‘We all know what public humiliation feels like so why are you doing out of your way to embarrass and put someone else down?’ she questions as she tagged all of the boys accounts in the post. ‘Every single one of you owe Rachel an apology. Publicly and privately,’ she added. ‘What a bunch of clowns.’
Tyler, Aaron, Jake and Brad quickly attempted to swerve hate of their own and turned their Instagram comments off—a move fans claimed ‘speaks volumes’ about their behaviour. But after the damage was done and the backlash unleashed, Brad finally said sorry. ‘I want to apologise to Rachel and others for any feelings that were hurt during our Instagram Live the other night,’ he wrote on social media.
‘I've watched the video back and I can see how this was perceived. This upon reflection was not the way to behave and 100% not my intention to hurt or upset her and those who know me, know I'm not that type of person,’ he continued. ‘I have since reached out to Rachel personally and apologised for any hurt that I caused. From the bottom of my heart I am really, really sorry.’
Meanwhile, Rachel herself appeared exhausted and disappointed by the commentary when she eventually took to her own social media to address what the tabloids had begun describing as a ‘feud’.
‘Today is the first day I've had a feeling of regret when it comes to appearing on the show,’ she said. Despite EVERYTHING that happened till now, I still saw the experience as a blessing. No matter how awful and manipulated it was I just took it as part of the experience as it led me to amazing thing[s].’
'But for it to be TODAYYYY and I have actual nobodies mimicking me an discussing me publicly like a joke. I am FULLY over it and regret going on the show,’ she continued. Why is this deserving of going on a tv show? How do these actual idiots think it's ok to publicly humiliate me and discuss me like that?
'And not just today,’ she added. Multiple, multiple and multiple times over. TODAY year[s] later and I'm still being bullied/taunted openly for all to see. Honestly… if there's a statement strong than 'f**k you' understand it and receive it. I'm done.'
According to the latest research by YouGov, almost a quarter of British adults have experienced cyberbullying. Half of 18–24-year-olds experience online hate, with 25- to 34-year-olds closely behind at 33%.
Anyone can contact Samaritans free at any time from any phone on 116 123, even a mobile without credit. This number won’t show up on your phone bill. Or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Samaritans.org to find the nearest branch, where you can talk to a trained volunteer face to face.