Mobbing at First Sight: How an Australian Reality Show Has Spotlighted a Troubling Social Epidemic

Castalian Stream
13 min readMar 17, 2022
What could go wrong? A lot, if you’re on national TV… (Image unsplash).

Amidst covid, lockdowns, economic chaos, mass layoffs, and now a looming confrontation of nuclear powers, Married at First Sight has long been a light diversion in dark times. What better way than to unwind from reality than gawking at some mindless “reality” TV?

The premise of the show is in the title. Two strangers meet at the altar. Then they’re asked to spend about three months living together. Seems real enough to me.

Every week, they get “challenges”, from going on a honeymoon, to various “intimacy” exercises. There’s a weekly dinner, wherein the couples can meet and blow off steam.

Half way through the process, three new “couples” are added into the mix, to see what happens next in “Australia’s largest social experiment”.

What could go wrong, right?

Well, nearly every season has seen cheating scandals. Duh. Members of unhappier marriages seek greener pastures, whilst staying on the show, with all of the potential career benefits potential “influencers” can get from maximum screen time ( — even by being a “villain”).

This is probably bad enough. However, something different has been introduced in season 2022 —and not once, not twice, but no less than in four different rounds or incarnations.

This something different is much darker than the old-school, garden variety affair. It has led to two “brides” walking out of dinner parties in extreme distress, which has not been easy to watch.

Mobbing, a dish served by at least two …

The new MAFS 2022 phenomenon is what Swedish professor Heinz Leymann called “mobbing” or “ganging up” in adult workplaces.

Mobbing is a form of bullying wherein the principal instigator recruits followers or accomplices (“vultures” or “flying monkeys”) to carry out a vendetta against the person they have targeted. Usually, the aim is destroying the target’s reputation or even their career. Fun.

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