NYC Health Department warns Grindr might be linked to meningitis outbreak (hint: it’s not)

app warning meningitisDiseases spread through sharing the same air. Through touching, sneezing, kissing – all of the bodily intimacies of being physically close to someone can facilitate disease transfer. Messaging with someone who may be miles away from you, on the other hand, is not known to cause disease. While social critics often bemoan the alienating effect overuse of mobile communication has on our in-the-flesh relationships, a recent health scare in New York City makes it more obvious than ever that social apps and networks facilitate real-life friendships and relationships. And unfortunately, when social networks increase sociability, they also increase the likelihood that you’re going to socialize with someone sick. 

Since 2010, meningitis has been on the upswing in New York City. It has infected 22 New York-area men, killing seven, over the past three years. Since the last three of the five cases were fatal, concern over the outbreak is growing. The New York Health Department issued a statement encouraging men who use hookup apps to get vaccinated. This is because, as Slate reported, all 22 men infected were using gay hookup apps like Grindr, Adam4Adam, Manhunt, and Scruff. 

Although the NYCHD’s warning also encouraged men who visit bars or go to parties to get vaccinated (it’s pretty broad) they’re still treading on fraught ground. The actual statement given by the NYCHD isn’t inflammatory – it makes sense to note that using this type of app was a common factor in the spread of the virus. But it could be easily misinterpreted as a homophobic statement. 

The idea that the finger could be pointed at gay hookup apps or even gay hookup culture in general is problematic because it assigns blame to the culture and tools rather than the virus. And the fact is, this is just a typical case of a disease spreading through a community. You might as well tell every gay person who goes out and doesn’t have a monogamous relationship to get vaccinated. Apps like Grindr and its ilk are used by millions and millions of people, most of whom do not get meningitis.

These 22 cases are certainly worth making announcements about, and it’s good that the NYCHD issued the statement and encouraged people to get vaccinated, but it’s important to note that just because they included apps on the list of things that make you vulnerable to meningitis does not mean that using Grindr or other hookup apps will make you more vulnerable to most diseases. In this instance, because meningitis hit a section of the gay community in New York that uses these apps, it may seem like hookup apps are the cause of the outbreak. But the virus would have still spread without the app, as long as the people carrying it were socializing on the same level. This is a case where it’s important to make distinctions. If members of a water polo league contacts mono after a weekend-long tournament, it’s not because they played water polo. Or if a group of Redditors have a series of meetups and give each other the flu, it’s not because they use Reddit. The tools we use and the way we choose to socialize are conduits for disease only inasmuch they facilitate human closeness, which is really the only way to spread contagious illness. 

Smart Home

Facebook Portal and Portal+ video-calling devices gain new content and features

Facebook's Portal devices are video smart speakers with Alexa voice assistants built in that allow you to make calls. The 15-inch Portal+ model features a pivoting camera that follows you around the room as you speak.
Mobile

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this winter with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Killing Eve'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Twilight Zone’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Social Media

What do yodeling and Kylie Jenner have in common? YouTube’s top 2018 videos

In a true nod to the variety found on YouTube, the platform's top 10 list of videos from 2018 range from celebrities to sports, from perfectly tossing a picture frame on the wall to a kid yodeling in aisle 12 at Walmart.
Home Theater

It took Tom Cruise to raise awareness of this troublesome TV setting

Tom Cruise, in an unexpected PSA tweet, asks you to turn off motion interpolation on your TV, but stops short of how to do it. Here's more on the topic, along with links to a guide on how to rid your TV of the dreaded "soap opera effect."
Business

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.
Computing

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than ever, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.
Social Media

Snapchat facial recognition could soon power a new portrait mode, code suggests

Digging into Snapchat's code suggests a handful of upcoming camera features, including a portrait mode. The feature appears to use facial recognition A.I. to blur the background. The code also suggests an updated camera interface.
Computing

Google+ continues to sink with a second massive data breach. Abandon ship now

Google+ was scheduled to shut its doors in August 2019, but the second security breach in only a few months has caused the company to move its plan forward a few months. It might be a good idea to delete your account sooner than later.
Social Media

Walkie-talkie voice messaging finally comes to Instagram

In its latest grab from messaging apps, Instagram now lets you send walkie-talkie style voice messages. Apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and iMessage have offered the feature for some time.
Social Media

‘YouTube Rewind 2018’ is about to become its most disliked video ever

YouTube is about to achieve a record it really doesn't want — that of "most-disliked video." Yes, its annual recap of featuring popular YouTubers has gone down really badly this year.
Social Media

GIF almost anywhere with Giphy’s new keyboard and sticker maker

We all love GIFs, but not every app supports them. Fortunately, the new Giphy' keyboard brings GIFs to any iOS app that supports multimedia. The update also comes with a new tool for creating animated stickers.
Social Media

#ThrowbackThursday is only the start: Instagram hashtags for every day of the week

Not getting your hashtag fill with #ThrowbackThursday or #ManCrushMonday? Here's a list of some of the more popular Instagram hashtags, so you can outfit your next post with the proper tag, regardless of what day it is.