My Plea to the Modern Vampires

During the day, they’re all asleep. It’s quiet. Business goes about as usual. Us normal folks, go to work, take the kids to school, cook lunch, pay the bills, and run errands. It’s at night that they come out. As the sun begins to set, the young adult opens their eyes, grabs what’s in the kitchen, and begin their night. On college campuses around the country, these vampires go out on the prowl, on the hunt for a party or an event or a place to hang out with other like minded vampires. My patient, Nicole, is twenty-one. She falls into this category. She’s responsible, for the most part. She attends college. Pays for her living expenses. Lives on a college campus. She has a part-time job. She has a full-time social life.

It isn’t too different these days from when I was a young adult, except for one massive, seismic exception. The advent of the IPhone. Nicole is more connected than ever to the world. Maybe not to the world around her, but to the world according to the internet. The internet and social media have matured so much over the past few years that Facebook is no longer cool. Now, Snapchat and Instagram are the platform of choice. Dating has also changed. It used to be that people would meet in person, have a conversation in person, fall in love in person and grow old together. Now, apps like Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble have revolutionized the way people handle relationships. With the growth of these platforms, the casual hook-up is now easier than ever. As a result, a number of unexpected consequences have emerged.

With the advent of these dating apps, people are spending less time getting to know the people that they sleep with. Usually, young people have a clique of friends that they commonly associate with, but with these apps, these small cliques are essentially global. Instead of a pool of 20 to 30 people, young people now have an exponentially larger pool to play in, with exponentially more chances of infection.

According to the CDC, the number of reported cases of sexual trasmitted infections has reached record level highs. In 2016, 1.6 million cases of chlamydia were reported, which represents the highest number of annual cases ever reported for ANY condition. In addition to this, syphilis rates have climbed annually, by as much as 18% from 2015 to 2016. And while these infections are curable with an antibiotic, if left untreated, the complications can have long standing consequences like infertility, still-births, and pelvic inflammatory disease.

These are concerning numbers, but the most concerning number of all is that half of the 20 million people that were diagnosed with new STI’s are accounted for by young adults, age 15 to 24. And I believe that number to be low, as young people generally don’t see a doctor unless it’s an absolute emergency. These young vampires believe themselves to be immortal. It’s absolutely true that youth is wasted on the young.

Let’s not forget to mention HIV, HPV, herpes and hepatitis as these infections also put a cost on the system. The lifetime treatment of HIV is upwards of $300,000 per patient. There are now strategies in place to limit the spread of HIV with prophylactic antiviral medications before and after intercourse.  And while HIV infections are now better controlled these days, like other viruses, they can be forever.

STI’s are also maturing. There are now reported cases of super-chlamydial and super-gonorrhea infections that are resistant to standard therapy. As more and more cases of resistant STI’s are reported, the number of mortalities relating to these infections are also likely to increase.

Aside from the infectious epidemic brought on by these apps, there are the psychological ones. People now live in their phones. Everybody is now a professional photographer. Selfies are common place. People now place more value on appearance more so than any other quality. If someone’s nose were too big, swipe left. If their breasts were too small, left. Too heavy, left. A byproduct of the dating app is that we have now regressed to our most primal instincts. Women present themselves as sexual objects in the photos that they take, revealing more and more flesh. Men present themselves as hunters, showing off their muscles, doing adventurous things like surfing or skydiving. The psychological impact is that people are now reducing themselves to a photo. If the perfect photo can’t be taken, where a nose can’t be fixed or breasts can’t be enlarged, it damages the self esteem, which can lead to anxiety and depression among other things. The worst part of all of this is that this is a voluntary behavior. Nobody forced anybody to join Tinder or Facebook for that matter.

With all of this being said, my plea to the modern vampires out there is to know what the consequences are of your phone habits. People are more than an image. Know your self worth. Talk to your partner. Know where they come from. Know what they want. Above all else, get tested and use protection in the form of condoms if you’re going to be responsible. You may now go back to sleep.

By: Dr. Juan Borja
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