If you’ve ever been curious about the STD status of someone you’ve been chatting up at the bar, you’re in luck. There’s an app for that!
A new app called MedXSafe allows users to bump their iPhones and know each others’ STD test status instantly. The data is loaded into the app for the user after their doctor signs off on the results.
In theory, this is a fine and noble idea. Rational people would love to know they are making safe decisions, even if they are for more promiscuous acts.
It’s a nice idea, but….
…would anyone actually do this??
In a perfect world where each person acts rationally and economically at all times, apps like this would be great. No one would think twice, because it would produce the safest outcome.
But people don’t act rationally and economically. We are complicated creatures with all sorts of thoughts and actions that don’t really make any sense at all. In this particular issue, social factors drive us to make bad choices. Despite free supplies and a plethora of education on the subject, a lot of college kids still have sex without condoms. It’s not because they don’t know better, it’s because of social issues preventing them from proper planning:
Some sexually active people under 25 years of age associate condoms with a lack of trust, while others believe carrying them could imply sexual experience, which might be a plus for men but not necessarily for women.
The studies, carried out between 1990-2004, showed that young people assess a potential partner’s disease risk, and the need for a condom, by their appearance and how well they know them socially.
Young people know what they should be doing to be safe, but it makes them uncomfortable. They feel like their partners don’t trust them if they demand it. Women feel judged and promiscuous for carrying protection. It’s easier to evaluate safety by instinct than ask an awkward question.
We also grossly underestimate the likelihood that we’ll get to the point of even having to make that risky decision, either. In a normal, calm state, we don’t predict that we’ll have too many drinks and decide to go home with a stranger without protection. But, we’re different people when emotions are high. In Predictably Irrational, author Dan Ariely found in studies that people were twice as likely to engage in odd or immoral sexual behaviors while in an aroused state. We all have a darker side when emotions get the best of us.
So while the idea is nice, I don’t anticipate seeing many people bumping phones, smiling and skipping off together for the night this Saturday. The nature of our social norms in such situations makes it very unlikely.