In what seems like an effort to further isolate themselves from modern society, researchers have come up with a way to make Facebook even creepier than you already think it is. Because as annoying as it is to have a constant trickle of “that awkward moment when” updates from your teenage cousin, or those “UUUGGGHHHH” exclamations from that sock monkey in accounting, just IMAGINE how much more annoying it would be to also be updated on THAT BURNING SENSATION IN THEIR PANTS.
Dis. Like. OMFG.
But maybe I should back up a bit. Because, without my anxiety-colored glasses, these researchers DO have some good intentions here, and the science behind their bizarre behavior sounds…logical! Peter Leone is a researcher from the Universtiy of North Carolina’s Center for Infectious Disease. He spoke at a health conference last month about the importance and effectiveness of using social network circles to help prevent the spread of STDs/STIs.
Leone found that when sexual partners of patients newly diagnosed with HIV came in for testing, 20 percent turned up HIV-positive. It might seem counter-intuitive to extend the targeted test circle to those a newly diagnosed patient is merely friends with, but people in the same social circle often sleep with the same people, and might engage in similar risk-related behavior. Instead of looking at people within a particular at-risk demographic, this approach allows them to target known clusters of infection.
He even went on to provide some examples.
‘When we looked at the networks [connected to a syphilis outbreak in North Carolina] we could connect many of the cases to sexual encounters, and when we asked who they hung out with, who they knew, we could connect 80 percent of the cases.’
Leone’s team asks patients newly diagnosed with HIV for a list of sexual partners and friends who they think might benefit from testing. Then, with the patients’ permission — permission that is more likely in North Carolina because partner notification, in one form or another, is required by law — they will contact people, sometimes using Facebook, with the alarming news that someone they know has been diagnosed with HIV, and that they might be at risk and should be tested.
A good idea…in theory, perhaps. But as much as I’d like to know if my kids’ BFF is walking around with The Clap, I’m not sure that this approach is ethically sound. I mean, we all freak about the privacy issues of Facebook NOW—that is, without our medical history being included in the database. Can you imagine some of the ramifications of this?
I can! Just off the top of my head:
1. Google ads tailored to the identification, treatment, and OMFG IS THAT OOZING?! of the STI/STDs mentioned in your timeline! Certainly would make goofing off at the library or work computer somewhat dangerous. (Which…actually…could possibly be viewed by some as a benefit…come to think of it.)
2. Leper colonies reemerge in society and are filled with people ousted on Facebook as having ridden it bareback. Obamacare crisis!
3. Those leper colonies eventually multiply and create mutant STDs/STIs, and branch off into precincts, much like in The Hunger Games. And you don’t even want to IMAGINE those battle scenes.
4. That weird relative that is up in everybody’s business? SHE JUST GOT A WHOLE LOT CREEPIER.
5. Somehow, you know this mess would eventually get glamorized, just like they did with heroin and cigarettes and friggin’ VAMPIRE SEX.
But seriously, the consequences here would get incredibly ugly, incredibly quickly. As much as I’d like to keep the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and infections at bay, I’m not sure that the pain and suffering of those infected can be justified in a situation like this.
So, until they come up with a better plan, I guess I’ll just keep the kids locked in the closet.