Is Love Island Causing Self-Esteem Issues?

I, like millions of other people across England, had to ask myself, “What do I do now?” when last year’s series of Love Island ended. Slightly over the top, but unfortunately, true. There was a profound, empty hole left after the last episode’s credits ran – until a month ago. Our daily dose of Love Island has returned for the summer and we are two weeks away from the final. Yet again, the nation has gone crazy for it.

Who’d have known how thrilling watching a group of young single adults compete for each other’s love and attention would be? Really! All the silly challenges and dramatic twists in Love Island only add to its entertainment value. Seeing as, for the most part, that is it’s purpose. No-one is watching Love Island expecting to hear about the latest news in politics. It’s all a bit of fun and people should take it lightly.

However, experts are now warning Love Island viewers. They are stating that there are some serious and distressing issues that hide behind television series such as this one. These problems are mainly surrounding the topic of self-esteem in regards to body image amongst the youth.

Girls in Bikinis - Self-Esteem
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The Love Island body type

Critics of Love Island and the National Health Service have shamed ITV2. This is for choosing contestants who home “unrealistic” and “damaging” beauty standards on their young and impressionable viewers. This is likely since many of the contestants appear to have had plastic surgery procedures prior to being on the show. They are under scrutiny because of the homogenised body type that has cause self-esteem issues amongst vulnerable viewers.

You know the deal. The men are muscly, toned and tattooed with just the right amount of facial hair. The women are slim and sexy with little waists and no cellulite. Okay, so not every Love Island contestant looks like this, I know. Saying that, the majority do. Hence why the show is getting so much backlash as people speak up about the importance of physical diversity.

Feminist campaigners Level Up have been discussing how appalled they are. They maintain that both Love Island and the advertisements that play in the breaks of the show are “dangerous”. Also, that they depict a “narrow standard of beauty”.

I agree. The advertisements chosen by ITV2, knowing that young people are watching, are poor. From diet pills to plastic surgery advertisements that target young adults, they are forcing western society’s ideals onto us. To be skinny, have perfect features and clear skin. This could expose an image that would only weaken one’s self-esteem. That could cut deeper into their insecurities which would undeniably cause stress and upset. What are they trying to positively gain from rolling these advertisements, anyway?

On the contrary, I, amongst thousands of other viewers, understand that Love Island has a type, pardon the unintended pun, of body image they choose to represent. So, I don’t comprehend why people act surprised each year when they release the contestant list and photos.

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Who’s to blame?

The show is, by nature, superficial. Therefore, they are going to select contestants that are, by western society’s standards, attractive. We shouldn’t expect anything else as we just end up disappointed time and time again.

Yes, it’s unfair, harsh and frustrating. I’d be jut as overjoyed as the next person if the contestants had more varied body types so that they come across more relatable to the general public. Although, I’m aware that its unlikely to happen anytime soon. Let’s be real, it might be morally correct to do so, but good morals are not necessarily shouted about in the Love Island handbook.

The Mental Health Foundation stated that, “Capitalising on our young people’s insecurities for commercial gain is wholly unacceptable”. This was regarding Love Island and the advertisements played during the breaks that could be drastically effecting people’s self-esteem. I understand where they are coming from. However, they can’t solely blame Love Island.

Yes, maybe, Love Island has got to take some responsibility for the somewhat negative message they are spreading regarding beauty and body image. Nonetheless, I must say, they aren’t exclusively responsible for people’s self-esteem issues. Just look at Instagram and the magazines titles screaming at you to “Lose ten pounds in two days”. You’ll see what I mean. It’s far worse than a group of young adults hanging out in a villa. Long-term, it’d make most difference to tackle issues here. This is instead of wasting time trying to fix a reality show that has no plans on changing.

If they don’t see this then it’s evidently time to delve a little deeper.

The damage on the youth of today

Hundreds of people are debating the “Love Island Effect” on the Internet. They are expressing their thoughts on how damaging the show and its apparent reinforcement of one individual body image is.

I Hat Nothing About U - Self-Esteem
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Whilst being a reality show, it portrays such a small percentage of people’s actual reality. More than anything, its advertising a stereotypical look. This has caused it to become quite a dominant aspect of the body shaming culture – particularly on social media amongst younger generations.

If you have Twitter, please look up #LoveIsland.  Amongst all the hilarious memes, you’ll find tweets of harmless self-loathing. I’m sure there’s plenty of people who watch Love Island who’ll meaninglessly giggle at the self-critical jokes they see. Yet, recently, I’ve read tweets under that hashtag, from seemingly young girls – based upon their profile image – discussing their own bodies. Saying, “Watching Love Island makes me feel like a potato” and “Wow I’m fat”. Even if that is just a bit of sarcastic humor, surely, there’s a deeper self-esteem difficulty lying there.

One person stated that the television show is “destroying young people’ confidence” while another wrote, “Not everyone looks like a model in a bikini! No wonder so many people have body confidence issues.”

Simon Stevens – Chief Executive of the National Health Service – conversed his opinion on television shows like Love Island. Stevens emphasised the negative influence it has on the youth of today. Stevens stated that the National Health Service is currently “picking up the pieces” of an ever-increasing mental illness predicament due to a cultural obsession concerning body image. This insinuates that the influence of television and social media is impacting the youth in a detrimental way. To be honest, I believe that to be completely true.

The Love Island Response

So, those “sexy singles” are now gracing our television screens each evening for another two weeks. What effect will this have on us sitting at home watching the drama unfold?

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Cultural obsession over body image, as I mentioned earlier, is highlighted on the show. This comes by no surprise to me though. That is, taking into account that the contestants selected do majorly represent a body type that is unachievable for many. This could have been simply prevented if the ITV2 casting team chose a more diverse and realistic range of body shapes and sizes. Rather, of course, than the obvious choice of the long-legged blonde.

The ITV team behind Love Island have defended their actions. They responded to an email from a woman querying their reasoning behind choosing the contestants based heavily upon their body shape.

They wrote, “The physical appearance of a contestant is not the main criteria in the selection process – no one is chosen for their body-type alone. There are a variety of different factors when selecting each Islander”.

Whether what they say is true or not – which it must be to some extent – is beside the point. They don’t want to risk further backlash to the show so they defend their choices.  Anyone would do it. But, realistically, I don’t think many people will buy what ITV2 are saying in their response. Until we see diversity in the villa, anyway.

The experts have their say

Liam Preston is the head of the Be Real campaign which targets dealing with people’s mindsets regarding their body image and encouraging body positivity in England. Preston is  unimpressed by the body image issues that are emphasised on Love Island. He said:

Love Island continues to glorify the male and female body in a way which only promotes one stereotypical look. Given the program’s popularity among a young audience, it would have been an opportune moment to show that love isn’t just about looks, however, the show’s casting is encouraging a one-dimensional viewpoint on attraction”.

Girls in Pool - Self-Esteem
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As a young woman, I agree with Preston’s opinion. There has been a rise in self-esteem problems from the show amongst the youth, that’s a given.

I believe that Love Island should be concentrating on choosing contestants that have great personalities and intelligence – amongst other factors – over their appearance. That’s not me saying none of the contestants are smart or funny. However, apart from the contestants’ introduction videos where they express what they do for a living and how they would describe themselves, the conversations we hear from them in the villa are mostly shallow, proving a point.

I just worry that it is damaging to people who feel, due to this, that they should be more concerned about their body than their brain. That by following the body image ideal portrayed in the show is what will make them successful. That in order be good looking to another person you must fit into certain categories that has society has created. This shouldn’t be the case.

“Someone else’s body is in no way a reflection of your own. They have different genetics, histories with food, metabolisms, lifestyles and micro-biomes that all affect why we look different from one another” – Psychologist, Kimberley Wilson.

Men and women:- What’s the difference?

The more we speak about body image and self-esteem problems, the more space becomes available in society to make a stand.

I’m aware that this isn’t just about women, they aren’t representing men that greatly on Love Island either. Nonetheless, they are better depicted in terms of aesthetic. Some of the men, over the four series, do have by society’s standards “normal bodies”. Much more so than the women in the villa at least.

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One of the contestants this year even went as far as to say, “I’m thirteen stone of South London beef” and laughed. The girls are all too caught up putting on their make-up and doing squats in the outside gym at the villa. I hope you understand where I’m coming from.

It’s not the same.

Today, I still don’t believe that people judge men for their bodies near as much as women are. That’s probably because I don’t think society or people attracted to men actually care as much.

I barely see any advertisements directed to men that discuss diet pills, fake tan, plastic surgeries or anything of that nature. Even during Love Island, I’ve never seen an advert targeting men in this way. Plus, there are millions of young men who watch the show. So, isn’t that a prime opportunity to promote these things to them? Whereas, with women, it’s a whole other story – we all know that.

If you disagree then you’re possibly a little in denial.

Just remember that your body and your mind is what sets you apart. That’s what people should look for in friendships and relationships. Not whether you fit into society’s ideals. Literally, there’s more to life than that. Don’t consume yourself with fitting in, focus on everything else.

Racial Diversity

Love Island has been greatly condemned by viewers who are shocked at the lack of racial diversity amongst the contestants.

Many people have voiced their opinions on the absence of strong ethnic backgrounds shown on the reality show. On Twitter, one person wrote, “Getting bored with every new girl being a white, skinny long haired blonde or brunette in #LoveIsland. Just because you have Samira in there doesn’t mean you’ve ticked off the diversity box”.

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Another user gave their thoughts on the matter, saying, “This show has no diversity or sense of reality to it, I understand that it’s TV a show and this is what they deem to be perfect but that’s not real life”.

Samira Mighty was a contestant that decided it was her time to leave the villa last week. Mighty was the only girl of ethnic minority this year, except another who is of mixed-heritage. Also, still in the line-up, are two mixed-race men. Unfortunately, that’s as far as it has the Love Island casting team has gone this year in terms of ethnic background. This is because all of the other contestants appear to be white.

Impressed? Not At All

Racial diversity has been a major issue on the reality show since it began in 2015. So, I can’t be too astonished that it is this way in 2018. I came across some baffling statistics that painfully portray how little Love Island has dealt with the subject of racial diversity over the four years it has been on our screens for:

“Over this time, ninety-seven islanders have entered the villa. Yet, despite some thirty-six thousand people applying for this series alone, Samira is only the second black woman, and one of only people of colour, to compete.

However, across the four series, despite only one Asian man (Omar Sultani, series one) and one mixed race Asian woman (Malin Andersson, series two) appearing in the villa, for the most part, Love Island has reflected the racial landscape of the country. People of colour account for 13% of the British population and have so far made up 17.5% of Islanders”.

I was genuinely dumbfounded and unimpressed, although sadly not all surprised, by these figures. It just shows how much casual racism the show exposes us to daily. The lack of romantic opportunities that black people are given, specifically in television, films and the media, is beginning to have real-life penalties and backlash in society.

But, who knows what ITV2 will do about the lack of racial diversity in years to come. Hopefully more than what they’ve done up to now, which is, in the grand scheme of things, nothing. We all long for change, but on a show so superficial, should we really expect anything honorable to come out of it? Anything that truly represents the society in England today?

‘’We live in a real world were some women and men aren’t all white or straight or have a built or skinny body”.

Self-esteem issues and their effects

I still love to watch Love Island – even if it a little too religiously – but I know that there is work to be done on the show for it to progress.

Perhaps over time the show will be more racial diverse and represent more physical diversity. Bearing in mind that the average UK size in 2018 is a 14 it would make sense to do so. What Love Island choose to do with this sort of information they have is, frankly, up to them (which isn’t much so far, evidently).

If anything, this show has opened a great deal of conversations about body image and self-esteem. Unfortunately, this also comes along with a lot of discussion of insecurity – as highlighted by Simon Stevens – which could lead to detrimental effects on one’s health if not taken seriously.

Dealing with problems as awful as these could take years. A lot of expensive therapy and professional advice might be the only logical way it’ll go. We must work to get rid of the stigma that skinny equals beautiful, wanted, successful and happy. The more we allow society to assume that this is how it works, the more damage we are creating for not just our generation of youth and young adults but the next. Things have got to change.

Until then…

So, that’s my view on the matter. Whether you believe Love Island’s choices so far are morally correct or not, is up to you. Hopefully, in time, things will change in society substantially enough that physical diversity is more accepted not in just day-to-day life but on television, social media and in magazines too.

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Until that day comes, don’t spend too much time overthinking and doubting yourself. If altering your body is becoming your main concern in life, it’s time to re-evaluate. Take that time to celebrate what you love about yourself – your outlook will change and you’ll feel much more positive. You deserve to feel good about yourself. Don’t let anyone or anything put you down. Be it a friend, Instagram posts or even the contestants on Love Island. They aren’t worth it and you’re too good for that.

If you’re having some trouble with self-esteem and learning to love who you are, have a read of my previous article on self-love for some inspiration.

Post Author: Elissa Cynamon

Elissa Cynamon
I am a fashion graduate passionate about establishing a career in journalism. You’ll regularly find me writing poetry, going to dance classes or baking delicious vegan treats for my friends and family. More often than not, with a chai latté in hand. Follow me on Instagram @elissadanielle_

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