Night after night, Love Island discourse dominates every corner of Twitter, from the Fiat 500 girlies to the most passionate of football fans. No matter what online community you identify with, Love Island is one of those series that manages to unite people – for better or worse. But this year is different. Not only are fans, celebrities and journalists getting in on the action; the Islanders are, too. Well, their Twitter accounts.
Friends and family handling the Twitter accounts of Love Island contestants while they are on the show is nothing new but what’s different this year is the way the handlers are leading and shaping the conversations online, making the audience fall in love with them the way their namesakes are falling in love in the villa.
Ikenna's handler: Chuka Nwabuikwu
Chuka Nwabuikwu is a recent master’s graduate and the handler of former contestant Ikenna Ekwonna’s Twitter. A childhood friend of Ikenna’s, Chuka works in finance and has no formal social media management training. "This has definitely all been really unexpected. The growth has been crazy," he told Refinery29. In the past 30 days, Ikenna’s Twitter following has grown by over 63,000 and gets an average of over 2,000 new followers a day. Even after Ikenna left the villa over three weeks ago, Chuka’s humorous live-tweeting of Love Island episodes has become so popular that he has continued with his commentary.
"I just knew that there were certain demographics we had to tap into to make sure we got that engagement," he explained. "There's so many different groups, so you need to make sure your tweets cater to them. So that's what I have been doing on a regular basis."
As a long-term Twitter user, Chuka says he tries to tap into the "nostalgia of Twitter" with his posts, referencing well-known memes and past discourses that continue to resonate with people in order to increase his chances of going viral. "I love Twitter," he said. "I just love getting to interact with different people and I especially love the witty part of Twitter because some people are so smart and the jokes they love sometimes are just so interesting to me."
Indiyah's handler: Shyon Gredley
Chuka's public interactions with Indiyah Polack’s handler further elevated Ikenna's Twitter, with Indiyah and Ikenna initially coupled up on the show. Like Chuka, Shyon Gredley, 22, is a close friend of Indiyah’s but is also her manager and the founder of a modelling, influencer and talent agency.
"I really wanted to bring something new to running Indiyah’s account," he told Refinery29. "I felt that in previous years, a lot of handlers took the role very seriously and promoted the contestants in a traditional manner. But for me, I wanted to take a different approach and speak to the audience as if I was one of them, because I am one of them. This meant cracking jokes, engaging with other Islanders and just being an active part of the conversations going on."
Indiyah’s Twitter account was created on 23rd May 2022 — less than two weeks before Indiyah entered the villa — and since then its following has grown to over 40,000. But for Shyon, participating in the buzz of Love Island Twitter is nothing new. "I’ve always been an active part of Love Island Twitter — it’s one of my highlights of the year on Twitter," he explained. "My favourite thing about it is the memes that come from it and quick humour. I love to see my mutuals posting and scrolling through the jokes in real time, which for me makes watching Love Island so much more entertaining."
As the handler of Indiyah’s account, Shyon joins Chuka in live-tweeting commentary of each episode; there are also tongue-in-cheek interactions with Chuka as Ikenna and with Fawaz Hope, the (unrelated) childhood friend and Twitter handler of Indiyah’s current match, Dami Hope.
Dami's handler: Fawaz Hope
"I think one thing the handlers have done well this year is making jokes with each other on Twitter, which has made the audience feel more engaged," Shyon explained. "It’s almost as if we are recreating the relationships from the Islanders on screen and bringing it to Twitter in a comedic way, which people seem to love."
Unlike Shyon and Chuka with their respective Islanders, 25-year-old Fawaz was less confident in how to navigate Dami’s Twitter at first. "I was asked because I’m basically the only one who knows how to use Twitter properly," he told Refinery29. "Twitter is a very weird place. If you tweet something wrong by accident or somebody takes your tweet worldwide, you can get cooked. You can get ratioed, you can get cancelled — anything like that. So I was really unsure for the very first couple of days."
But it turns out that the secret to his success is simple. "I just started tweeting like me, like as if I would if I were to write from my own account," he said. "And it just worked from there." In the past 30 days, Dami’s Twitter account has amassed over 15,000 followers, with his most viral content including interactions with Ikenna’s and Indiyah’s handlers. "I think building that rapport between Ikenna’s handler and Indiyah’s handler was quite fun — especially Ikenna’s handler, where we did that Match of the Day skit comparing Islanders to footballers," he said. "I like to think that we’re good friends — or at least have good communication."
Shyon added: "The back and forths [between the different handlers] have had people super engaged and wanting more, which I think is important especially when contestants may not be getting the most screen time."
Year after year, fans have accused Love Island of limiting Black contestants’ screen time in favour of the white Islanders, with fans noting that Black contestants are shown significantly more in the "Unseen Bits" segment than the usual show during the week. Former Love Island contestants have also called out the show for this, with 2021 Islander Rachel Finni noting her own lack of screen time in a recent BBC podcast. "I was very, very worried," Fawaz admitted. "I was comparing Dami’s personal details to people [who have competed on Love Island] in the past and I didn't know if they would give him the time of day but honestly, I've been really happy with the screen time he's been getting."
He continued: "I think this year has been better compared to the previous years because they're giving the Black contestants more time to interact and everything like that, so we can learn to love them."
"Being Black on a reality show isn’t always easy for a number of reasons," Shyon added. "So to see people showing so much love is hopefully a step in the right direction for all people of colour in the entertainment industry."