In late April, health officials in the Canadian province of Alberta announced that the number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) reached “outbreak levels” due in part to the rising popularity of hookup apps like Tinder and Grindr.
With less than a five-minute account setup and a few swipes, both apps allow for quick connections with those nearby who are looking for a relationship, dating, friends and anything in between. And it’s those in between scenarios that health officials argue are causing major damage. The ease of finding a quick and sometimes pretty anonymous hookup gives way to impulsive, potentially dangerous decisions.
According to Cantech Letter, Alberta reported 3,400 cases of gonorrhea in 2015, an 80 percent rise from 2014, along with 350 cases of infectious syphilis, double the previous year — and some doctors are attributing both increases to social media.
While the heyday of my “Tinderella” days is behind me, I can honestly say that while it doesn’t seem possible to specifically attribute numbers to the popular apps, I don’t blame anyone for making the connection. I mean, it makes perfect sense. When temptation is given proper opportunity, anything can happen.
But Canada isn’t the only place claiming connection between STIs and the apps. Back in September, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation sprinkled billboards in Los Angeles and New York making the association.
After backlash and denying that connection, Tinder declared it will now link to a locator for free STI testing via Healthvana. By the time January rolled around, the foundation announced it would remove the billboards that had been pictured silhouettes labeled “Tinder” and “chlamydia.”
Rhode Island’s Department of Health also said last May that STIs were skyrocketing due to hookup apps, following a national trend. According to CNN Money, between 2013 and 2014, syphilis cases grew by 79 percent in the state. HIV infections were up 33 percent and gonorrhea cases increased by 30 percent. Research also indicated that STI cases for young adults were growing at a faster rate than other age groups.
But I have no problem playing devil’s advocate here. The apps might create a space to be reckless and ridiculous — but at the very same time, they offer an opportunity for chance encounters, wild adventures and unforgettable moments — and they don’t have to be sexual in nature.
While casual sex might be a popular use for these apps, equally is spontaneity and embracing moments you would have otherwise missed in mundane, everyday life. It’s an opportunity to enhance your confidence and try new things. And if you’ve never read any Tinder stories on its website, you really ought to. Some of them could put ole Nicholas Sparks to shame.
The app says on its blog that in just three years, more than 10 billion matches have been made around the world — and I’m sure similar numbers are out there for Grindr, which clams to be the number one gay social networking app. And if some of those worked out to be great relationships, does it really matter how they started?
As with most anything in life, I believe if used responsibly, these apps can lead to fun and success instead of STIs. What do you think? Do you agree with the connection being made between rising STIs and the apps, or do you think it all comes back to personal responsibility?
Let SHEables know in the comments!