Are you one of the millions of people who are looking for that special someone online?
The world of dating was changed forever with the arrival of online dating. From its early days pioneered by online
giants like Match.com and eHarmony, the landscape has grown rapidly with online dating networks that cater to almost any interest.
As anyone active in the game knows, our ever-present mobile devices have been enhanced with the new phase of dating apps – letting people find and meet up no matter where they are. From general dating apps like Tinder to dating apps that have unique features like Bumble and Grindr, there is no question that online dating apps are a social force to be reckoned with.
For the most part, online dating website and apps serve a worthwhile function as they connect people who may have otherwise never met for just a casual hookup or a lifelong relationship. Unfortunately, with the freedom that online dating apps provide comes a new worry – the potential of getting more than you bargained for by getting an STD.
As our ongoing analysis of STD statistics shows, STDs are on the rise. Looking forward, there is also no evidence that these alarming changes are going to slow down. In a sexual marketplace made simpler by online dating services, people need to be extra careful to educate themselves about sexually transmitted infections and take precautions when getting cozy with a new partner.
Old School Dating – How Your Parents Did It
Dating used to be quite simple even if it was inefficient. In the old days, people would find potential romantic partners mostly through managed encounters – getting set up by friends or colleagues, through work or school, or through community networks like a volunteer organization or a church. For people looking for more immediate love, sexual partners could also be found through chance encounters at social venues like a concert, bar or nightclub.
In most situations, meeting that potential partner was just the first step. For anything other than a one-night stand, a romantic would would literally have to go through the following steps to connect with their potential mate:
- Pick up a phone on a wall and dial a number (hope it’s not busy)
- Get the object of desire on the phone
- Charm them using clever dialogue
- Set up a date
- Carry on a charming face-to-face conversation
- Hope to get lucky
For underage daters, getting hooked up was even more difficult as it required navigating any resistance from parents, the protective sibling, or other gatekeepers. And if you messed up on the date, there was no hope to fixing the situation with texting / sexting. And, after all that work, maybe, just maybe, there would be a connection?
Online Dating – The Sexual Marketplace
Like many other industries, the dating industry has dramatically changed with the arrival of web-based services. With more and more people getting comfortable with signing up and meeting potential partners online, online dating has created a massive and growing sexual marketplace for people to engage, meet and hook up. Thanks to apps like Tinder and Bumble and websites like Match.com and eHarmony.com, one can set up dates and sexual encounters with potential partners at the same time as sipping on a morning coffee. From its origins as a non-existent industry, online dating has rapidly increased in market share and some data suggests that 10% or more of people are using an online dating website or app.
Online dating websites are not just for one-night stands or casual hookups. Many of the online dating apps and websites place an emphasis on aiding people who want special aspects to their relationship. From dating apps emphasizing marriage or long-term partnerships to dating websites helping people meet others with a similar religious or cultural background, online dating is fulfilling a wide range of dating interests and needs.
There are a lot of positives to lubricating social interactions between daters. Unfortunately, there is a downside to the convenience of using technology to find your next romantic encounter. The efficiency with which people can hook up has made it easier for STDs like herpes, chlamydia and gonorrhea to spread from person to person. The ease with which people can set up online dating profiles and present themselves in whatever way they choose has made it easier for less scrupulous people to spread their infections.
STD Free – Dating App Verifications?
In an era of rampant STDs, some people have floated the idea that every user in an online dating network be required to upload a lab test report with their STD status. Is that a good solution? Is it even practical? While it might be impossible to force anyone to upload their test results unless the dating websites require it, incorporating an STD-free verification process into an online dating app profile is an idea that could help keep entire online dating communities safer from STDs.
How would an STD-free verification process work? When filling out one’s online dating profile, the lover-to-be would be able to upload an STD lab report (ideally with negative results) as part of the onboarding process and would accept terms that their status would be shown to specific people like potential matches. Not only would uploading a negative STD report make their results available for potential partners to see, but it would also show that they are serious about keeping themselves and their partners safe. If you were looking at partners on an online dating website, wouldn’t you pay attention as to whether they get themselves tested regularly and are open about fully disclosing their STD status?
While great in theory, there are some issues with including an STD-free verification process into online dating websites. As an example, consider the herpes blood test. When a person gets their blood drawn to check for herpes, their blood test result can only be considered as representing their herpes status at the time their blood was drawn (assuming the testing was performed accurately). If that person hooked up with the receptionist on their way out of the office and contracted herpes, the lab result might say they are negative when they have it.
One way around this would be to display one’s STD status and the date and time of the testing. At the very least, this would provide some measure of comfort of where a potential partner stands and make them stand out from someone who has not been tested at all. While privacy concerns about uploading one’s STD status into a dating app will always be a concern, the pros of becoming a more eligible partner might outweigh the downsides.
Ultimately, most online dating marketplaces can do very little to protect you if you do get infected from someone you met online. It’s ultimately up to you to be vigilant about the STD risk a potential partner might pose.
STDs & Online Dating – Staying Safe
With a little effort, you can have fun with new partners and stay safe at the same time. Some helpful tips:
As popular as programs like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) have become with reducing one’s risk through sexual activity, they are not as effective as using more tried-and-true preventative measures like a condom. In the heat of the moment it can be hard to use a condom but make it a priority.
Before having sex with a new partner, get tested. That means both of you. A good starting point for a new sexual relationship is a group of lab tests like the STD test panel. Depending on where you live you can have results back in just a few days and start your sexual relationship with more peace of mind.
While online dating offers access to a wide range of interesting and exciting people, it still pays to use your judgment when picking potential partners. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be smart and judicious when going on dates… there are plenty of fish in the sea.