Social Networking: New Tool for Spreading STDs Social media is such a powerful tool today. There’s no doubt about it. This new medium of communication and information dissemination plays a major role in the lives of billions of people, young and old alike. Last year 2012, Emarketer predicted an increase of social network users to 1.43 billion, up by 19.2 percent from the 2011 figures. These figures cover not only private individuals but as well as companies and small business owners. Nielsen confirmed that consumers are spending more time on the internet whether it’s through a computer or their mobile phone. The rate was up 21 percent from July 2011 to the same period in 2012. In the U.S., a survey by Pew Internet showed that the use of social networking sites went up to 65 percent from 61 percent in 2011. Adults under the age of 30 reported using social media at least one a day. Daily usage among the seniors aged 50 to 64 also increased to 32 percent from only 20 percent in 2010. Among business organizations, a joint study discovered that majority or 96 percent of companies plan on increasing their investments in social media. They found great benefits in using the various social networking sites in the areas of advertising and promotions, PR, customer service, market research and recruitment. Facebook When it comes to connecting with family, friends, potential clients and customers, Facebook is the most widely used worldwide. It is only in seven countries where this social media site is not the most preferred, according to a comScore report. Facebook has beaten MySpace which used to be the most popular in the past. Hitwise described it as the most visited site in the U.S. edging out Google. But since 2008, Mark Zuckerberg’s site has claimed the top spot based on the Alexa listing. Tool for STD Transmission Unfortunately, while Facebook and other social networking sites have become very useful to people, they have also become a tool in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Researchers are now saying that the site is a potential tool for predicting STD transmission and that the risk of contracting STD including HIV can extend to a person’s immediate circle of friends. These sites allow members to connect not only with their friends and the people they know but even with the friends of their friends whom they only get to meet online. Sometimes, men befriend women they find attractive on the sites despite the fact that they’re not even acquainted with each other personally. With the internet, it has been very convenient for people to find new friends online. It has been a money-saving tool for men looking for a date. They don’t need to go out, meet at a certain place and spend money for their date. This can be the initial set up but of course, the friendship and dating are often continued in the real world eventually. Sooner or later, they will have to meet in person and who knows what can end up. For the singles regardless of age, there’s normally an expectation to eventually get intimate with their new partner whom they’ve met via social networking sites. Even the older people (particularly the men) who are active internet users can still have this attitude of being sexually powerful and appealing to the opposite sex. Many are still raring to engage in sex with new people they meet even if they’ve not known them personally. This reality and the rise of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the U.S. have prompted health experts in the different parts of the world to blame Facebook and social media for this growing health concern. They stressed that online technology has made it much easier for people to have multiple partners before without any knowledge of the person’s sexual history. The health experts have found that many of the teens today are communicating more with their friends on social networking sites rather than with their parents. They get connected with people they don’t really know, meeting them in person and contracting diseases. More often, they end up in their separate ways after a one-night stand. Other than Facebook, there are also new apps that help users meet new people. The Grindr, for instance, will tell a user if a person nearby (about 500 feet away) regardless of gender is interested in going out with others. This, according to authorities, contributes to the increasing cases of sexually transmitted infections as it lets people get intimate even on first meeting. STD Cases in the U.S. STDs are a major health concern in the U.S. Chlamydia is on top of the list with more than 1.3 million cases as reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This STD that causes infertility affects one in 15 sexually active young ladies aged 14 to 19. Other common STDs in the country are gonorrhea with more than 300,000 cases and syphilis with more than 13,700 cases. AIDS caused by HIV are on the rise as well with more than 470,000 cases. What Officials are Doing Health authorities are not letting these issues go unnoticed. Many are taking the necessary steps to educate people on what they can do to protect themselves from STDs. They are also tapping the social media as a way to disseminate information on how they’re improving health care, clinical practice and research particularly on HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases.