Social media platforms and sexual health

Authored by: Paul Byron

The Routledge Companion to Media, Sex and Sexuality

Print publication date:  August  2017
Online publication date:  August  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138777217
eBook ISBN: 9781315168302
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter considers the recent history and practices of promoting sexual health through social media. It considers dating/hook-up apps such as Grindr and Tinder, and common social media platforms like Facebook. In the past decade, public health researchers have entered these spaces to extend their reach to key populations, particularly the designated ‘risk populations’ of young people and men who have sex with men (MSM). Through its attention to new media, public health often expands its risk focus beyond the concept of sexual ‘risk behaviours’, to encompass digital media practices as risky, or as contributing to sexual health risks. This has generated claims that social media users (particularly users of geo-locative dating/hook-up apps) are more likely to engage in sex that puts them at risk of HIV/STI transmission. However, there is disagreement on these claims, and media studies and cultural studies approaches have offered more complex understandings of how risk and safeties are negotiated through digital and social media. This can be seen in accounts of the opportunities and affordances of these media. This chapter will trace some of these tensions within recent public health and cultural/media studies literature.

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