Love Island is back.

It’s the time of year where the honest half of the nation scramble to be in front of their TVs by 9pm to see who’s been grafting who, who’s been pied by who and, most importantly, who’s pulled who for a chat.

Meanwhile, the self-righteous half of the nation loudly bray that they could not possibly waste their time with such tripe and declare themselves to be too intellectual to indulge in such dim-witted trash.

In fact, nobody bangs on more about Love Island than those who supposedly cannot stand it.

As a mega fan, even I will concede that the programme is not innocuous. The show changes the nation’s vernacular in a way that would have Shakespeare spinning in his grave (I once wrote ‘villa’ instead of VAT in an email to HMRC).

The National Wales: The Love Island 'villa' AKA VATThe Love Island 'villa' AKA VAT

It unapologetically perpetuates a perilous toxicity surrounding body image – most years they’ll have a token ‘curvy’ girl, who in reality is a size 10 and yet is hailed as some sort of plus-size pioneer. Not forgetting the occasional boy who is branded as having a ‘dad bod’ when in reality he only has six abs showing instead of eight.

And don’t get me started on the treatment of dark-skinned black girls on the show…I’m sure I’ll have a rant about this in a couple of weeks. Sit tight.

And yet despite all of its faults, Love Island maintains its stronghold on the attention of millions of ITV 2 viewers night after night – a feat which, in the age of streaming, is the envy of other major channels.

Why?

You could argue that the programme is the apogee of millennial selfie culture. That it merely reflects a worrying vanity to which we as a generation have fallen victim. An incessant need to show off a highlight reel of our life in the hope that our peers will envy us.

But I think there’s more to it.

The islanders are venerated, especially by those a bit younger, because they are #LivingTheirBestLife. There’s a feel-good factor to watching young people enjoy themselves and getting paid to do so.

The competition really has nothing to do with winning the show, the real competition is about who can come out of the villa to a throng of adoring fans and a cushy little ASOS deal to match. To thousands of youngsters, that is quite understandably, their dream.

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When I was at school, there was so much pressure heaped on us pupils to get to a red brick university, to get a respectable job. Nobody, at any point, asked what career would make me happy.

I sweated through my A Levels, fearing that my life would literally end if I didn’t get into my first choice of university. Through, blood, sweat and copious amounts of tears I got in, but within the first month of my first semester I realised I was studying a topic I did not really care for – I had kind of been railroaded into taking Law because I was academic enough to go for a ‘clever’ subject, and apparently I was gobby (I don’t know how anybody could come to that conclusion, but there we go) so apparently Law was the right fit.

Luckily, Law gave me a pathway into the career I have now – a career I love so much that I feel a bit cheeky actually calling it ‘work’.

I feel cheeky, because there’s this mutual understanding that our work should be tedious, unfulfilling and laborious, otherwise it doesn’t really count. That if you enjoy that which you do, you’re not really working and therefore should be judged as such.

This resentment is projected onto Love Islanders who launch careers as influencers, models and the like as though the fun aspect of their career invalidates it. But who is it that young people aspire to be like? Is it the person who trudges to a job they hate day after day bogged down in the quotidian of their adulthood, or is it the Islander who makes a year’s salary in a month by posting a few Instagram photos?

You cannot blame young people for also aspiring to have a life they enjoy. We are in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, purchasing a house is unattainable for most people under thirty-five and families the length and breadth of the country are faced with a choice of whether to buy food or turn the heating on.

If the choice is between a life of navigating from one bill to the next, or necking off with a fellow islander by the fire pit then landing a £1million sponsorship deal, then who could judge a young person for dreaming of the latter.

For five years in a row, more youngsters have applied for Love Island than have applied to Oxbridge…because the Islander career is preferable to the majority of young people. Who are we to sneer at them for wanting more from life, than the mundanity of making it from one pay day to the next?

If you are stuck in the rat race, commuting to a job that makes you miserable counting down the days until you can retire, then I don’t need to hear your opinion on Love Island. With respect, it just feels a tad bitter.

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