College students love dating apps, but is it worth it?

Social media and the digitization of the modern world have made finding potential sex partners as easy as the click of a button. Now, dating apps have become one of the most popular avenues for singles in the United States, whether used for casual encounters or to find a romantic partner.

There were 44.2 million online dating users in the United States in 2020, according to Statista, and that number is expected to reach 53.3 million by 2025.

Some of the most popular dating apps among college students are Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, or Grindr for gay men.

A DePaul University LGBTQ+ student, Adin, said he uses Tinder, Bumble and Grindr to meet potential partners because it’s easier than meeting people in person, especially due to the pandemic.

“Ideally, I’d like to meet someone in class or at a party, but usually I resort to dating apps because it’s easier and more convenient,” Adin said.

With the increased use of online dating apps to find potential partners, health experts are wondering if online dating could be contributing to the rise in sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

“Especially in a time like Covid and [social] isolation, a lot of people were looking for a quick connection, and that paired with a spontaneous connection isn’t always the safest,” said DePaul psychology professor Susan Markunas.

The most recent data, released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in April 2021, revealed that there were more than 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis reported in 2019.

In 2019, reported STIs in the United States hit an all-time high for the sixth consecutive year, according to the CDC, and the most common age group for contracting STIs is people between the ages of 15 and 24.

Adin said he was recently tested for STIs because he was concerned about the history of one of his sexual partners and wanted to make sure his own health was not threatened by someone he was. he had met on a dating app.

“The rise in STIs and the persistence of positive cases is due to a lack of sex education and a misunderstanding of the seriousness of an STI,” said Jordan McCann, chair of the Sexual Health Coalition of the United States. American College Health Association. “Students have this invincibility complex, or [think] it won’t happen [them].”

McCann thinks the pandemic may have contributed to the increase in STIs because people were not only isolated, but getting tested for STIs was no longer a major concern for people.

“There’s been less sex, but STIs keep going up because we’ve been in a pandemic [dealing] with a very serious health condition, and people may not be tested as much as they were,” she said.

According to a survey conducted by the Kinsey Institute and Lovehoney, 38% of single people said they had less sex than before the pandemic.

In addition to the use of dating apps during the pandemic, experts believe that misinformation is the main cause of the high rate of STIs in the United States.

“Sex education is the only subject in schools that isn’t regulated by some sort of mandate of what you teach,” Markunas said. “This kind of misinformation is dangerous.”

McCann said young people are unaware of the risk of contracting an STI, which prevents them from using a protective measure during sex.

“Young people don’t want to be told what to do, and that’s often the message that gets sent when it comes to STI prevention,” she says.

For some college students, dating apps come with a lot of risk and often little reward.

Adin believes that while dating apps can be entertaining, they can harm a person’s mental health.

“Using these apps affects my mental health because when I don’t get many likes or matches, I tend to question my worth,” Adin said. “Even though I know I don’t need validation from a man to boost my confidence, apps still hurt my self-esteem.”

Markunas said that while dating apps have given people a forum to connect with others during the pandemic, they tend to negatively impact people’s mental health because they foster more superficial relationships.

“A lot of online dating leads to more superficial relationships because it’s based on initial attraction, and that’s why we don’t see a high percentage of long-term, lasting relationships,” Markunas said.

McCann said wearing a mask is the same principle as wearing a condom to prevent an STI, and both are protective barriers against contracting an infection that is detrimental to health and safety. others.

“If we can avoid [the spread of infections], why wouldn’t we? McCann said.

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