The New ‘Love Me Tinder’ Isn’t So Lovely

“Love me tender” is the opening line of a song immortalized by Elvis Presley. It pledged a romantic love that would last “through all the years, till the end of time.” Now there’s a new kind of “love me tinder,” and some think it’s not very conducive to harmonious relationships.

The “tinder” to which I refer is an app for a cell phone that is defined on Wikipedia as “a location-based social discovery application that facilitates communication between mutually interested users.” For the technologically backward among us, of which I’m one, that means it is an app that allows people to easily find other people that they may be interesting in hooking up with.

Of course, by “hooking up” I don’t just mean getting together with another person in a public location to have a drink of some kind, as might have been true in my day. No, I’m referring to the term as it was understood by fifty percent of the students surveyed at a large public university, namely, a connection with another person that involves having sex.

And so it is that last week that the Tinder generation and the hook-up mentality “kissed” so to speak. Rhode Island health officials pointed to the role that social media plays in facilitating sexual encounters as a reason for the state’s 79 percent increase in syphilis cases, 30 percent increase in gonorrhea, and 33 percent increase in HIV. And that was over the course of just one year, 2013 to 2014!

According to state health officials, a sexually risky behavior now is “using social media to arrange casual and often anonymous sexual encounters.”

In some ways, the idea of blaming someone, or more accurately, something, for sexually transmitted diseases isn’t new.  A 2013 New York University study found that Craigslist was responsible for a 16 percent increase in HIV cases between 1999 and 2008 across 33 states. Grinder, a hook-up app for gay men, was associated with more than half of all syphilis cases in New Zealand in 2012, according to Christchurch Sexual Health Clinic.

This is supposedly news, but here’s the real news we don’t seem to want to report: sex outside of marriage leaders can lead to sexual diseases. No one ever got a sexually transmitted disease because they used Tinder or Craigslist; they got it from having sex.

Presumably, some of these folks who point to the evils of social media must think that if social media apps that connect people were made illegal we’d solve our problems. Maybe if we did that then maybe folks would have a harder time finding each other. And if finding each other took more time, then maybe it would take longer to have enough sexual encounters to contract a disease.

But that collection of “maybe’s” is just a matter of slowing the rate of disease down, not reducing the number of people getting a disease. Maybe without social media it would have taken two or three years for the number of syphilis cases in Rhode Island to increase by 79 percent. If that’s going to make us pat ourselves on the back, then we are too easily proud of and pleased with ourselves.

We’re not really going to reduce sexually transmitted diseases by educating people about condoms and the dangers of disease that come from hooking up if we promote a hooking up sexual ethic in our culture. This hooking up sexual ethic is just the natural evolution of the sexual revolution. Revolve in and out of enough people’s beds and sex evolves into a meaningless biological act, devoid of love and meaning and replaced by heartbreak and disease.

It’s past time for us to have a serious discussion about sex in America, the way our bodies were made, and the fact that we are not just biological machines that can just “do it” without consequences.

This “love me tinder” sexual ethic is tinder for the fires of sexually transmitted diseases in our kids, and if we love them and care about them, then we need to get honest with them. There’s nothing wrong with “love me tender” until the end of time. In fact, it’s a beautiful song to be lived out.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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