"Using Hook-up Apps in 2017" is a series addressing issues of safety, racism, and emotional health. Apicha CHC recognizes that there is a lot that comes with pursuing sexual and romantic relationships using technology. We hope that this series will raise awareness about these issues and offer some tools and resources to prevent or deal with issues that may arise.
Illustration by Paul Tuller
In this blog, we're going to talk about safety tips when using hook-up apps. We know if you're using these apps, you're probably looking for good time, but don’t leave safety out of the equation. When browsing hook-up apps, there’re certain ways that you’re putting yourself at risk. But these tips on safety can protect you and are easy to follow.
Protect Who You Are
When you first meet a stranger, odds are you don’t give them your entire name, your address, or other personal information. Why would you put this information on your profile? What if you’ve struck up a great conversation with someone and want to move things from the app to the phone? It may be a good idea to use something like Google Voice or Line 2. These enable you to talk to other people without giving out your phone number. If things go bad, you’re able to block them easily (Grindr).
Also, if you’re interested in removing your distance from your profile to protect yourself, here’s how.
Take Things Slow & Be Honest
Grindr offers some really helpful advice on their Safety Tips resource about how to be a safe app-user:
If you’re not ready to give your phone number out or give your location away, don’t! No one can make you and if you’re feeling pressured, it’s probably a good idea to cut things off. You should only agree to meet someone if you both are comfortable enough to. Think about making the meet up spot in a public location.
Honesty is always the best policy so don’t pretend to be someone that you’re not. Be yourself, not someone who you’ve always wanted to be. It’s unfair to someone who may find a interest in your profile.
This doesn't mean you have to spill your guts about your whole life story! It just means that it's better, in the long-run, to be honest about who you are. You dont have to share anything you're not comfortable sharing on the app, and can always share more as you get to know these people in a face to face context.
And remember, even though we advise users to be honest, not everyone is. So, it’s important to not believe everything you see. It’s easy for someone to use a picture they found of someone else as their profile picture. It’s just as easy to use an old, outdated, or edited picture.
See some serious & silly Dos and Don'ts put together by BuzzFeed
Have a Conversation About Expectations
PinkNews suggests having an open conversation about expectations for whatever plans you make with someone on a hook-up app. Being clear about expectations can help you know if you are on the same page about meeting up. If you both agreed to just meet and talk, but the person keeps pressuring you to do more, you can refer to the expectations you mutually established. This doesn't mean that things might change when you two meet-up, but it ensures you are going into this with clarity and as much information as possible. These steps can really help in keep you safe.
Don't miss this: Gay Sex and Primary Care
Keep People Updated
So you’ve met a great person on your app of preference, you’ve talked for awhile, and now you want to meet each other in person. Make sure you tell a friend where and when you are meeting this person and when you plan on leaving. This way, someone knows where you are at all times, just in case this person isn’t who they say they are.
Luckily, technology is not just for meeting people! Find My Friends, available for IOS and Android, makes it possible for your friends to find you. This can be especially useful if you are meeting someone for the first time and taking measures to be safe. It allows you to share your location with your friends, so that they know where you should be. Let your friends know the plan for your date and they can check the app to make sure everything is going as planned, if the plans change then send them a text to update them and send them an update of your location.
While the chances of something terrible happening to you seem slim, it’s never a bad idea to keep these safety tips in your mind. There are a lot of people with good intentions out there, but unfortunately, there’s also some bad ones out there too. These tips for safety are easy to follow and even easier to implement, so keep yourself safe and enjoy your time.
Have A Safety Net
You can have all the fun you want, as long as you're aware of the implications of some of that fun. Unprotected sex, for example, can lead to various STD/STIs or HIV. Make sure you're protecting yourself, and make sure that you have a safety net.
For example, know where you can get reliable, fast HIV/STD testing done. Also know who your nearest PEP provider is (bonus points if you're already a patient at that provider. The faster you take the medication, the better!)
How Apicha CHC Can Help
Apicha CHC would be happy to provide that medical safety net for you. We offer quick, reliable HIV testing with the INSTI® HIV-1/HIV-2 Rapid Antibody Test. This is a confidential HIV antibody test that requires collection of a blood sample through a finger stick and provides a test result in 1 minute. Request an HIV/STD testing appointment today.
We also offer both PEP and PrEP services. If you would be interested in taking preventive measures with PrEP, please reach out and request an appointment. We would be happy to help!
Read more about the intersection between gay sex and primary care here