Being on Love Island is undoubtedly incredible for many contestants. A short stint in the villa can lead to millions of followers, brand deals, and invites to all of the hottest parties. But, being on the show, there's obviously a huge down side: you're now open to having your life dissected by millions of viewers and the press. And pretty much all contestants are trolled, even if they're loved by everyone and seem to be the most popular with the public.
Following the tragic deaths of former contestants Sophie Gradon, Mike Thalassitis and host Caroline Flack, people pledged to #BeKind. And ITV strengthened their aftercare package, offering islanders no less than eight therapy sessions. But every year, as last year's contestant Sharon Gaffka tweeted, it seems many forget to be nicer. Because, before the contestants have even stepped foot in the villa - before they've coupled up or shouted 'I'VE GOT A TEXT!' - they're being abused by people online.
'A week to go until season 8 of #LoveIsland starts,' she said. 'The contestants aren’t even all announced yet, and I’ve seen some VILE comments! Why is it every year we have to say #BeKind? Because we just seem to forget every tragedy we’ve had, like it’s not enough?' You only need to take one look at the comments under articles on certain websites to see that Sharon is right.
And, when everyone's actually on screen, it's sadly probably only going to get more toxic. Trolls see reality stars as fair game, according to psychologist Jo Hemmings, who spoke to Grazia last year about why women on reality TV receive so much abuse. 'I think there’s still a belief that if you put yourself out there on a TV show, you’re fair game,’ she explains. ‘It’s very dehumanising. I don’t think trolls realise the impact they’re having a lot of the time.’
Last year, speaking to Grazia, Sharon wrote about the extent of trolling she received. And it was horrific. 'I wasn’t naive; I expected some trolling,' she said. 'But I didn’t expect death threats, or violent and racist messages. I didn’t expect VoiceNotes from people saying they would stab me in the street if they saw me, or telling me to end my own life.'
Obviously enjoying the show, talking about it online and sharing an inoffensive mems is fine; the show is there for entertainment and one of the reasons Love Island is so popular is because of the discussion it sparks online. But no contestant - no matter how fame hungry they seem - deserves to be slated for their appearance, or sent violent threats, from faceless, anonymous accounts. It's a shame that people have to be reminded every year not to do that - but they'll be reminded until it stops.