The peacock’s tail on Grindr is physical fitness.
The costly signaling theory suggests that people engage in behaviors that appear to be costly because they want to give an honest signal to a potential mate. This signal is something that can not be copied. You cannot “cheat” to display this signal.
The classic example used to describe this phenomenon is the peacock’s tail. The quality of the peacock’s tail is an honest signal of the quality of its genetic makeup and fitness. A higher-quality tail is costly because it requires energy and resources to grow and maintain.
A costly signal is needed to demonstrate that you are the best match. It is how we know the signal is honest and is not cheating.
For some of us, we may consider an expensive sports car like the Ferrari to be the “peacock’s tail.” If someone wanted to signal access to resources, a Ferrari could be one such signal as resources are needed to obtain a Ferrari.
In the same way, good physique and physical fitness cannot be cheated. So displaying physical fitness is an honest signal to a healthy lifestyle and good genes.
In my research I found that straight guys on Tinder are more likely to use conspicuous consumption to attract women. Many Tinder men portray themselves with an expensive car for example. Tinder males are likely to signal specific resources or potential for acquiring resources, while women are more likely to signal pro-social behaviors such as benevolence, charitable work or virtue.
But from my observations, the queer men on Grindr use different “costly signals.” Their signals are more likely to be about their physical fitness.
They tend to show shirtless pictures with abs, large biceps or pictures taken mid workout. Or they briefly mention how important the gym is to them. This is done to signal positive information about themselves and their genetic fitness to others.
Grindr guys display their physical fitness and use their good looks. They demonstrate that they spend time in the gym and that they take good care of their body.
Anonymous and fast — not for long term mating
Compared to straight men, they are more likely to explicitly state that they are “DTF,” that is, looking for sex or a hookup. Grindr males are more likely to stay anonymous on their profiles than their Tinder counterparts. They want to efficiently show that they can immediately have uncommitted sex with a stranger. This is also done by showing body pictures with their abs on display.
With my preliminary analysis, I find that Grindr men use costly signaling to demonstrate their genetic fitness to potential mates. This is different from the Tinder guys who use more conspicuous consumption in their profiles to indicate resources and ability to take care of family.
The signals we use in our profiles, are a function of who we are and what we want from a mate.
The Grindr context is one where long term procreation is rarely the main purpose. The primary concern is to show that they will be a fun hookup, or attractive to be around.
Photography courtesy Shutterstock.