Sexual Health Monday July 4, 2011

Could social media be behind the rising number of people with STIs?

There are some researchers that believe social media is the ideal platform for STIs to spread amongst teenagers and young adults. This is because sites, in particular Facebook, allow people to get ‘comfortable’ with potential sexual partners without having to get to know their sexual history first.

However, Facebook isn’t the only medium to blame. STIs are most prevalent in people between the ages of 16 and 24, and this group also consists of the most avid Smartphone users.

Mobile applications which allow you to find partners in your area with similar interests in sex and relationships can be potentially hazardous, as they make it easy for young people to flirt and message users in their area or arrange to meet up.

Although enormously convenient, there is no way of really knowing the person you are in contact with, as most people using apps or online social networking sites are using usernames and often don’t even provide a phone or email address.

The bond that people form over social networking sites and apps are also not likely to be real and therefore it’s easier for people to have ‘no strings attached sex’ and to just walk away afterwards without considering the consequences. In most cases no contact details are swapped, which means that there is also no way of tracking some people down afterwards.

To many people, social media, apps and online dating sites create ways to meet others that might not exist in their current situation. This isn’t a bad thing, as there are many people who don't have the courage to start a conversation in a bar or simply just can’t find the time to meet people. Finding a person using social networking sites also doesn’t necessarily require a significant emotional investment, making it an even more attractive medium. However, the sense of anonymity provided by social networking may also be one of its biggest shortcomings.

No matter where you meet people, it’s important to always ensure your personal safety. You must ensure you always practise safe sex, or at least avoid sex until you are sure that your partner doesn’t have an STI.

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