Playing With Matches: Tinder and The Rise of STDs

By Chris Persaud (For the 10% blog post)*

The popularity, acceptance, and amount of users of online dating services has risen exponentially over the past few years, and this should come as no surprise, since access to online dating services is easier than ever, thanks to smartphone applications. Of these online dating apps, one of the most common services is *Tinder, *which allows users to make a profile, and then browse the profiles of others, based on their age and distance. While browsing, these users can choose to either swipe left to reject each other, or right to like each other, creating the possibility of matching with one another. Once two users have mutually liked each other, a match is made, and only then, can the users send each other messages.

Tinder is an app that “New research shows [has] 50 million active users […] who check their accounts 11 times per day and spend an average of 90 minutes per day on” (Newall). For these users, Tinder has helped accumulate over “26 million matches per day”, and over “9 billion matches in total” (About Tinder). While Tinder may be an effective way for users to meet new people, some studies suggest that the app, and others like it, may be contributing to the rise of STD/STI’s spreading.

Due to Tinder’s ability to create potential matches based on geographic location, many users have begun to use the app for casual-sex relationships. With these casual-sex relationships, also comes the risk of spreading sexually transmitted diseases. While all sexual endeavors can potentially lead to these diseases, some professionals insist that the use of hook-up apps like Tinder are to blame in the rise of STD outbreaks. As Lynn Beltran, the epidemiologist at the Salt Lake County STD clinic told *The Guardian* in regards to the increase of STD infections, “the perfect storm has been brewing […] It is becoming more socially acceptable to have casual sexual partners […] with apps like Tinder […] people who are interested in anonymous sex […] has it is right [at] their at their fingertips” (Gabbett). As a result of these app induced hook-ups, STD/STI outbreaks have been on the rise across the world.

For instance, in Road Island, “The number of syphilis cases in the state rose by 79% from 2013 to 2014, while incidents of gonorrhea swelled by 30%” and “Newly infected HIV cases increased by 33% in the same time period” (Gabbett). Also, in Utah, cases of gonorrhea “infections [increased] 700% over a three-year period” (Gabbett). In addition, cases of syphilis, which “By 2000 […] was on the brink of elimination in both the US and the UK” has “More than 3000 cases a year” in the UK, and “more than 16,500” cases in the US” (Bhattacharya).

In response to this increase in cases of STD/STI’s, experts have credited hook-up apps like Tinder for some of the blame. As Shaoni Bhattacharya explains in his journal article Swipe and Burn for New Scientist:

“For all the fun and spontaneity, a darker side is emerging. The rise of such apps has coincided with a surge in outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that had long been under control, and an increase in other rare diseases. Public health officials are now pointing the finger of blame at a combination of relaxed attitudes towards safe sex and the easy access to partners provided by these apps” (Bhattacharya).

As Bhattacharya describes, the use of these apps has caused users to be less health-conscious when it comes to having protected sex, because the apps have made having casual sex easier than ever. While this theory may be plausible, there is more solid evidence to prove the correlation between the users of hook-up apps and STD/STI infection. For example, in Winnipeg, Doctors who asked patients for the contact information for their recent sexual partners, so that they can notify them of their potential risk, have found that “50 per cent of people being treated for syphilis said they had met sexual partners through [hook-up apps]” (Bhattacharya).

The association between Hook-up apps like Tinder and STD’s has become to popularised, that in a recent ad campaign, the Aids Healthcare Foundation used the image shown in this post on a billboard “encouraging users of dating apps [such as] Tinder […] to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases” (Brait). With all of these studies and expert opinions correlation the rise of STD/STI out breaks with the increase of Hook-up app usage, we may start to see more users giving these apps a left swipe.

Works Cited

"About Tinder." Tinder, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Bhattacharya, Shaoni. "Swipe and Burn." New Scientist 225.3002 (2015): 30-33. Factiva. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Brait, Ellen. "Tinder and Grindr Outraged over STD Testing Billboards That Reference Apps." The Guardian, 29 Sept. 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Gabbett, Adam. "Popularity of 'hookup Apps' Blamed for Surge in Sexually Transmitted Infections." The Guardian, 28 May 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Newall, Sally. "Tinder: The Online Dating App Everyone's STILL Talking About." Marie Claire, 13 Nov. 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.