Dating apps are making us sex addicts, claims Sexual Health Campaigner Dr. Wendell Rosevear.
“There’s always been clubs and beats, but now the internet makes it quicker, more instant and more accessible to the broader population,” Rosevear told Courier Mail. “So, some people find themselves addicted to quick or anonymous sex and the internet fans that. The internet can be a diversion from addressing the needs satisfied by long-term relationships.”
Rosevear claims that the internet has driven people into deeper social isolation, and people are using fleeting sexual encounters to make up for a shortage of intimacy borne from their lack of social interactions.
“People are becoming more reliant on social media and app connection,” Rosevear continued. “They are desperately wanting short, anonymous connection to alleviate that need to have a sense of belonging.”
The increased amount of casual sex has led to a rise in STIs amongst both men and women according to Queerty, as more and more people are pursuing condom-free sex.
As sexual encounters become more frequent and immediate, people are becoming less likely to disclose their STI and HIV status. According to Courier Mail, Gonorrhea rates in Florida increased 31 percent last year, chlamydia increased by 48 percent, and syphilis has seen a 70 percent climb over the course of the last four years.
While the hookup rates for both LGBT and straight individuals have increased, Dr. Rosevear stated that gay people were especially vulnerable to hook-up culture.
“People can be quite lonely, a lot of gay people fear they will end up old and alone, but equally, the internet does not allow people to connect who may not otherwise meet,” Rosevear said.
“I have patients who spend their whole lives through internet socialization but can’t meet face-to-face with friends on the internet.” the doctor continued. “Some patients have only internet lives, they even have sex only over the internet.”
Interestingly, as users are becoming more attuned to hook-up culture, infamous hook-up app Grindr is choosing to move their platform from sexual to social facilitation — serving as a social media optimized for the gay community.
“The next problem I want to solve with Grindr is: ‘What do I do tonight?’ That’s what we’re optimizing Grindr for today,” Grindr CEO Joel Simkhai told Broadly. “I want you to get out of your house and do things. That could be hooking up, or not.”
According to Simkhai, Grindr could use its geolocation feature and collected data to point users toward tailored, local experiences. This could include a suggested new gay bar, a discount at local shops or group individuals with other users interested in a political rally.
“As we talk social networks — the Snapchats, the Facebooks, the Instagrams — they’re not really bringing people together,” Simkhai said. “We’re one of the unique apps that actually brings you to meet someone.”
So far the app has gone unchanged, but Grindr’s VP of marketing, Landis Smithers, hopes that the new technology will appear in the app within the next five years.
“In five years I want Grindr to be an immersive tool that can help people unlock things they didn’t know they wanted,” Smithers said. “We can use data to help us figure out ‘How can I connect you with your immediate surroundings?’ We know where our users are. We know what they like.”
With all of this innovation, Grindr still hasn’t paid much attention to the rising hook-up rates, and users are still using the app daily to meet sexual partners.
Grindr has already used ad campaigns to encourage HIV testing and safe-sex practices, and more sex-health advocacy may come with the app’s updates. But for now, many users on Grindr and similar sites are having unsafe sex, and lots of it.
“People are pushed into seeking validation from as many sexual partners as they can,” Dr. Rosevear said. “The recipe of using attention as a substitute for acceptance means they get tunnel vision of only seeing the immediate gratification.”
Dr. Rosevear believes that society needs to have a conversation about ways in which people can re-engage with their peers both socially and emotionally. He doesn’t see hook-ups as an inherently bad thing, but sees harm in the reasons why people are hooking up.
“The simple equation is people who feel valued take care and people who don’t feel valuable take risk,” he said. “Our society needs to have this conversation to communicate and be with each other. It’s very human.”