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Date

2016

Abstract

Background: Since 2009 geosocial networking applications (GNAs) have rapidly emerged as a new technological platform for users to communicate, date, and meet for sex. Popular GNAs include Tinder, Grindr, Bumble, Plenty of Fish, and many more. GNA’s are unique to traditional dating websites in that they allow users to connect with each other based on geographic proximity of their mobile phones. Given the pervasiveness of technology usage among young adults, it is important to understand the potential risks and benefits that GNA-facilitated communication poses on sexual health, emotional well-being, and safety. Popular GNA’s, like Tinder, estimate the majority of users are 16 to 34 years-old. Coincidentally the CDC reports half of the 20 million new sexually transmitted infections each year are among 15 to 24 year-olds. Examination of GNA use and its association with high-risk behaviors and sexual health outcomes among heterosexual young adults is warranted.

Methods: A focus-group was held with Western Connecticut State University’s (WCSU) Collegiate Health Service Corps Club (CHSCC) in an effort to create a survey for undergraduate and graduate students on campus. WCSU Institutional review board granted an exempt review status for the project. Through a collaborative effort, a 26-question survey was developed and administered to WCSU students ranging from 18 to 25 years-old. The number of surveys distributed was stratified based on three age groupings: 18-20 years-old (n = 19), 21-23 years-old (n = 20), and 24-25 years-old (n = 20). The survey contained questions regarding GNA’s usage and practice, student sexual health and practice, and overall safety and wellness.

Results: A total of 26/60 (43.3%) young adults surveyed reported using geo-social dating applications. The distribution of GNA use among the three age groupings did not differ significantly. The most popular applications used: Tinder (58%), Plenty of Fish (15%), OkCupid (12%), and Bumble (6%). The vast majority of students report using the apps for 11 months or less. A total of 80% of students stated they were sexually active, however over half reported either inconsistent or none-existent barrier method contraceptive use. The primary reasons for using GNAs was “curiosity/fun” and “companionship,” however a smaller minority reported seeking either romantic relationship, casual hook-ups, or sexual intercourse. Of the GNA users, a total of 48% reported they meet-up with other users either “sometimes” (29%), “somewhat often” (15%), or “often” (4%). The nature of these encounters included mostly conversation, texting, social activity, and a smaller minority reported dating, ‘hooking-up,’ oral sex, and sexual intercourse. Interestingly, over half the GNA users have worried about their safety at some point.

Conclusion: Survey results cannot directly equate GNAs with STD risk or prevalence, however they do encourage app-users to think about whether their own app-use places them at a sexual, emotional, and/or safety risk. Given the demonstrated prevalence of GNA use among young adults, it is important for the general public, health care providers, and app-users to understand the potential risks and benefits of this type of social networking platform.

Clinical Site

Danbury, CT

Keywords

Geo-social networking applications, usage, sex, young adults, safety, sexually-transmitted infections, health, outcomes

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Disciplines

Clinical Epidemiology | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Epidemiology | Medical Education | Other Public Health | Primary Care | Public Health Education and Promotion