Increasing rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) in England is a pressing public health concern. In this qualitative study, we explored the acceptability and potential uses and impacts of delivering sexual health information to MSM through social media and geosocial networking apps or dating apps.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted in person or by telephone with 25 English- resident MSM recruited via dating apps and social media advertisements. Interviews explored sexual health information sources, perceptions and uses. Attitudes towards sexual health promotion through social media and dating apps were then discussed. The data were analysed using thematic analysis.
Sexual health information delivery through social media and dating apps was viewed as acceptable. Receiving information when browsing social media was viewed positively by most, as people have time to absorb information discreetly. In contrast, concerns were expressed that sharing or commenting on social media sexual health information may lead to judgements and discrimination. While social media reaches a high proportion of the population, dating apps can easily target MSM and were considered more discreet than social media. However, tensions exist between the ability to provide information at an opportune time through dating apps, when users are connecting with new sexual partners, with the potential to adversely affect the app user�s experience. Hypothetical and actual uses and impacts of sexual health information ranged from no impact to reading information, sharing with peers, and increased awareness, to influencing healthcare-seeking, decision-making and risk-taking behaviours.
These findings support the use of dating apps and social media for sexual health promotion. More research is needed to develop interventions using these platforms and to evaluate the specific impact of such health promotion activities.