A huge surge in sexually transmitted diseases has been blamed on the increasing popularity of dating apps on mobile phones. Match-making firms such as Tinder, BoiZone or Grindr have seen an explosion in popularity among people in their 20s and 30s as they make lists of potential sexual partners available in users’ local area, but this same rise has seen a matching rise in sexually transmitted infections.
Gonorrhoea cases have jumped fifteen percent between 2012 and 2013, and syphilis cases rose by nine percent over the same time period in England. A spokesman for the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, Peter Greenhouse, said “you don’t have to be a genius to work out that these sorts of apps make having casual sex a damn sight easier. You can find, down to a metre or two, the nearest available person who is interested. This is something that has never been available before.”
Tinder now has millions of users, and is popular because it is spontaneous and discreet, allowing users to connect via their phones if they each ‘like’ each other’s picture. Critics say that the apps have made casual sex more normal, and that with these apps you can now “acquire chlamydia in five minutes.”
Experts at Public Health England have found that dating match apps have had a significant role in six outbreaks of syphilis across Britain since 2012, enabling a hyper efficient transmission of infections that in previous years would have been confined within a single area before spreading to other towns and cities.
Chlamydia can cause infertility in women, although it clears up naturally for most people. Gonorrhoea can also cause infertility and requires antibiotics to clear up, leading to concerns around the rise of an antibiotic-resistant strain. Syphilis can lead to blindness, brain damage and death if untreated.
The companies behind these apps argue that no firm evidence links the use of their apps to the rises in STI rates, but a spokesman for Public Health England has reiterated that “the only way to get protection from STIs is to practice safer sex.