When Love Island’s Camilla Thurlow cries, you want to cry yourself. You’ve cancelled going-out plans to stay in and watch the reality show. You’re already worrying how you’ll cope when it all ends.
Sound familiar? Well, you’re not alone. Some 2 million people watch Love Island every night and, now we’re in week five, the addiction is getting more and more real.
But when the Love Island-haters exclaim, “Why?!”, you realise you can’t really pinpoint why you love it so much. You can only mumble something about how great Montana Brown is, or that Marcel Somerville and Gabby Allen are #relationship goals…
So we spoke to psychotherapists Samantha Carbon and Hilda Burke to see what the experts think about why the show has us so hooked. (It’ll hopefully give us some better comebacks for next time someone questions our TV choices, too…)
We’re basically just really nosy
If you’re the sort of person that loves knowing everything about everyone (guilty), it kind of makes sense why you’re obsessed with Love Island. The contestants are literally telling all their secrets on national TV, in a bid to win £50,000…
“The fascination stems from our own desire to fantasise about how easy it can be to acquire fame,” says Samantha. “I am of the opinion, and include myself, that viewers are driven towards a voyeuristic desire to snoop, intrude on others and to see the contestants in their most private and embarrassing moments.”
It’s like watching a rom-com – the relationships are nothing like in the real world
If you’re a true fan, you’ve probably had numerous favourite couples on the show – because people move on and couples change very quickly in the villa. We’re fascinated by it because Love Island is so far from a normal dating situation. And we have to keep watching because we need to know if Camilla and Jamie will work out.
Samantha says: “According to the shows’ ethos, girl-meets-boy in magical setting – and with that magical thinking comes the validation and completion of the couple. The fascination viewers have may reflect and reinforce their own deeply ingrained beliefs around how a relationship should be.
“The show demonstrates rapid conscious decision-making, which may not exist straightaway in real life relationship building, so it’s the rapidness of a potential blossoming relationship that keeps the interest alive.”
The language gives us a laugh
How many times in the last week have you joked about someone being your “type on paper” or “muggy”? It’s OK if you can’t help yourself from flinging out Love Island phrases – Samantha says it’s part of the addiction, because all of the contestants say similar things.
“The vividness and humour of the show adds a flare of origination, including the language. What is evident is the language of Love Island is a shared and mutually acceptable dialogue, which indicates there is sameness in their thinking,” she says.
“This group of contestants have inclusively created a language that many will mirror for years.”
We enjoy watching other people’s highs and lows
Reality shows like Love Island play into some very basic human tendencies, as Hilda explains.
“Firstly, ‘schadenfreude’- that bit of us that feels a little bit better when someone else is doing a bit worse,” she says. “So to see someone dumped or rejected on the show would play into that.”
Hands up if you had a big grin on your face when Jonny was forced off the show…
Hilda adds: “Secondly – and this might seem contradictory – there’s the delight in seeing others do well. Now these two qualities can be active in us at the same time but just directed towards different people. The ones we deem as ‘decent’ or even ‘like us’, basically the ones we identify with in some way, we get pleasure from when they do well.”
Well, that explains how obsessed we were when Montana finally found a guy she likes in Alex Beattie.
We compare ourselves to the Islanders
We all feel a drive to measure ourselves against other people, and Hilda thinks Love Island plays on this too.
“We get the chance to act as a ‘fly on the wall’ in people’s love lives and see how they behave, and we can use that as a benchmark for ourselves – whether it’s, ‘I’m glad my boyfriend doesn’t act that way’, or, ‘I’d never sleep with someone so soon’,” she says. “We can plot ourselves as doing well, relatively speaking, or not so well, and for many, that’s how they plot how they’re doing.”
Samantha agrees, adding: “I believe some viewers may subconsciously make attempts to identify themselves with one or more contestants, with the hope they would act different if they had to survive, build and betray the alliances which frequently challenge the contestants.”
It’s unadulterated summer escapism
The excitement and arousability of watching a show so full of drama, sunshine and beautiful people plays a huge part in why we tune in six nights of the week. At the end of the day, who doesn’t wish they could spend seven weeks in a villa in Majorca, with a pool, free food and drinks and more inflatable flamingos to laze on than even the Kardashians own?
“The setting itself is rather stimulating to anyone craving a life by a pool,” says Samantha. “For some watching, the show may subconsciously tap into personal yearnings for a life carefree and liberating – so a dose of Love Island may be the perfect tonic.”
And, of course, there’s the fear of missing out
We don’t need an expert to tell us that FOMO is one of the other reasons we’re very much under Love Island’s spell. We don’t want to miss an episode, in case our friends – or social media – tell us what happened. So, no, we can’t make any social engagements until the series is over… sorry.