COLUMN | THE POLITICAL EYE: Alberta Health Services wrongfully blames ‘hookup apps’ for STI outbreak


The Political Eye is a new column by Tatum Miller, on BC and inter-provincial politics. Check back weekly for new content!

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]h, hookup apps. Never before has it been so easy to communicate sexual interest. A simple swipe to the right on a screen unlocks access to a wide market of potential mates. But can we really blame Tinder or Grindr for an STI outbreak?

Alberta Health Services certainly thinks so.

“To the extent that social media could be enabling these hookups to occur more often/frequently, social media would also be contributing to the STI rate increases we are seeing,” Dr. Gerry Predy, Alberta Health Services medical officer of health, told CBC News. Alberta does have a crisis: there were 3,400 reported cases of gonorrhea in 2015. This represents an 80 percent increase from 2014.

There isn’t any doubt that Tinder and Grindr facilitate hookups without the strings. However, a few issues arise with placing sole blame on ‘hookup apps.’ These apps only make it easier to meet new people, while the nature of the relationships is left to the users. It seems much more prudent to blame our culture of independence and aversion to commitment on this issue.

Admittedly, I have Tinder. So do many of my friends. It is a stereotype to say that Tinder is purely for hookups. The majority of people I’ve spoken to on Tinder say they aren’t looking to hook up (or maybe they just deny it). Many are innocently searching for platonic relationships, and many others are looking for long-term commitment. In fact, the CBC reported last year that a study by UBC instructor Jocelyn Wentland found most Tinder users are primarily looking for relationships over sex.

A Tinder match doesn’t confirm one’s interest in hooking up. I swipe right any time I see a profile from SFU. It’s a wonderful platform for breaking the ice and meeting new people. In fact, I had three Tinder matches from one of my classes this year, and it was great for sharing notes.

Tinder is just a new player in the already-existing hookup market. Clubs, bars, and parties were, and still are, notorious for sexual encounters. At least on Tinder you can view pictures and talk to somebody before deciding to hit third base. At a club, the lights are too low and the music’s too loud to properly meet somebody. On Tinder you can find out if somebody knows the difference between ‘their,’ ‘there,’ and ‘they’re.’

We live in a culture of non-commitment. I look at my circle of friends and good, healthy relationships are few and far between. They exist, but I’d imagine less than five percent of my friends are in committed relationships. How many excuses have I made to justify my avoidance of commitment? “I don’t know where I’ll be next year.” “What if I find somebody better?” “Every relationship ends in a breakup or marriage, so why bother right now?” “I’m too busy.”

Maybe I try too hard to convince myself to avoid the long-term. I’m young, have a decent job, and my education hopefully promises me a good future. Why stay single? Will there come a time when it’ll just ‘feel right,’ or is it a conscious decision to pursue something real?

Tinder reinforces the single life by exposing a wide world within the dating market. But I blame our culture and not our apps for the STI increase. Albertan authorities should stop making blanket statements about causations for sexual infections that they don’t have any data to support.

What I do know is that I’m scared of hookups now. Gonorrhea is the last thing I want.