Q: I’m 19 and going off to college in the Fall. A bunch of my friends are on Tinder, and I am too, but have only really been looking…I’m concerned that my risk of contracting an STD will be higher if I use the app, rather than meet someone in person…is that true?
~ Sketched out by STDs, Boston
A: Dear Sketched,
Great question. Your risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or sexually transmitted infection (STI), has less to do with how you meet someone than it does with your behavior once you do meet them. The following behaviors increase your risk:
- Engaging in sexual contact without using a barrier method, such as a condom
- Engaging in sexual contact with multiple partners
- Engaging in sexual contact with a partner who also has multiple partners
- Engaging in sexual contact while under the influence of alcohol or other substances
- Engaging in sexual contact with a partner whose sexual history you do not know well
- Engaging in sexual contact with a partner who has symptoms of an STI
While Tinder exists to give people the opportunity to connect with someone they may have never met in-person, it is typically viewed as an app to help find partners for casual sex. It is a tool that helps facilitate sexual contact with low personal investment. As a result, it is important to discuss expectations and set boundaries with anyone you meet through the app. And though the fact that you met someone on Tinder specifically doesn’t increase your risk, casual sex with someone you hardly know—whether you meet them through an app or in person—can increase your risk of contracting an STD.
To learn about safer sex practices and what to do to take care of yourself, take a look at some of the excellent websites available for young people:
When you use any media, engage your critical thinking skills and use them mindfully for what they do well. For example, think about what you are looking for when you “look” on Tinder, just as you might think about what you are looking for when you go out on the town or to college dances or parties. If you are looking for a meaningful relationship, know that Tinder probably won’t help with that—that’s not what the app is designed for. Choose apps, websites, and even real-life activities that are designed to help you make the kinds of connections you’d like to make.
Enjoy your media and use them wisely,