The Friendzone.

The Friendzone in action.


Ah, the Friendzone. This is a topic that I’ve changed my opinions on many times in the past. I would not be surprised if I changed my opinion on it in the future. This is all the more reason to discuss it here, as I don’t see it as a simple topic.

There are a few questions which I will attempt to answer here:

  • What is the Friendzone?
  • Does it really exist?
  • Is it good or bad?
  • Should we care about it?
I apologize in advance to the mathematicians out there for my sacrifice of rigor in favor of readability. I also apologize to those who don’t understand my mathy language for my sacrifice of readability in favor of rigor. Why am I doing this again?


What is the Friendzone?

It behooves us to define the Friendzone if we want to discuss it, so that it is clear what exactly we are discussing in the first place. I’m going to start my definition in the best way possible: using math. Below I’ve outlined a mathematical definition of the Friendzone, with the convention that boys tend to be friendzoned by girls. My definition could also work for girls being friendzoned by boys; likewise it could work for gay or bi scenarios, but generalizing it further would take too long and I don’t care enough. So here is my definition for the friendzone in the context of girls friendzoning boys:

∀(gi ∈ G): (Bi = {b ∈ H| g considers b boyfriend material }) ∧ (Fi = {f ∈ H| g considers f her friend })

Where G is the set of all girls, H is the set of all humans, and G is in H.

FZi = Fi ∩ ¬Bi

Where FZi is the Friendzone of girl gi.

One can say that gi friendzones x iff x ∈ FZi and x is attracted to gi.

Translation into actual words: Every girl has some sort of method, either consciously or subconsciously, of organizing people she knows into categories or sets. There is the set of people who she considers to be boyfriend material, IE, given the opportunity she would date them. Then there is the set of people who she considers her friends, IE, she enjoys spending time with them or talking to them etc. Let’s say there is some boy who likes her, but he is within her set of friends and not her set of boyfriend material. You could say that the boy has been “friendzoned”; that is to say, he likes the girl and is her friend, but he is not boyfriend material to her so she won’t date him.


Does it really exist?

I’m answering this question because some people debate whether or not the Friendzone is a real phenomenon or if it just imagined. What defines what is “real” in this case? Isn’t the fact that some people think it exists enough to make it exist? The Friendzone does not and cannot physically manifest itself, it is only an idea. So I would argue that it definitely exists. To argue that it doesn’t is to argue that ideas do not exist, and that’s a bit too metaphysical for my discussion here.


Is it good or bad?

Generally speaking, when the concept of the Friendzone is invoked, it is used in a negative manner. It is used to describe a situation where person X likes person Y but is unable to obtain them. The fact that X and Y are friends makes this different from some other scenario where they are strangers, because X feels that the fact that he/she is friends with Y means that he/she has many qualities that Y might be looking for in a significant other. It also means that X liking Y could strain the friendship if there’s no reciprocation.

Let’s think about this. In order to eliminate the Friendzone ( for FZi to be empty for all i ), one of the following must be true:

  • F is always empty (no girls have friends)
  • B is always empty (no girls have anyone they consider to be boyfriend material)
  • F ∈ B, that is to say, for any girl, she considers all of her friends boyfriend material

This, like my definition above, could be generalized for any sexual orientation.

Clearly we do not want B to be empty, because the problem we are trying to solve is rejection. X is rejected by Y and this makes X sad. if B is empty, then all X are always rejected by all Y. Sad.

We don’t want F to be empty, because then nobody has any friends. Also sad.

But what about if F ∈ B? If all of a girl’s friends are automatically boyfriend material? Well this is awkward because she can only choose one of them anyways (I’m assuming monogamy here) so this leaves any other friends not chosen rejected and sad as well, which is only slightly better than the original scenario. This also means that person X who was originally vying for Y’s affection now finds himself competing with a larger group than before, since the set B now includes all of Y’s friends, and the competition is a bit more random because Y can no longer separate people to groups based on date-ability.

I could go into this with more detail, but my point here is that eliminating the Friendzone is not the solution to this “problem”. In fact I’m not sure that it is a problem at all, rather that it is just a natural consequence of the coexistence of boyfriends and platonic friends. I think if the Friendzone didn’t exist, then human relationships as we know them would be entirely different, and right now I’m OK with the way it is going. The “solution” to the Friendzone “problem,” I submit, is not general, but rather case-by-case; if X is interested in Y, X should not rely upon Y changing her standards for how she evaluates people; especially since these standards may be subconscious or involuntary. X’s only options are to change himself to be boyfriend material for Y, or find another girl he is interested in who considers him boyfriend material already. It is possible that Y might change her boyfriend criteria, but X has no control over this, only over himself.


Should we care about it?

I think we should care about it for the same reason we should care about any other problem – it causes human suffering. Situations involving the Friendzone can ruin friendships and cause a combination of anxiety and depression for either party involved. It can also result in a lot of complaining, and annoying reddit posts. Throw in some guilt, shame, and sexism to the equation and you have a recipe for unhappiness. Understanding what the Friendzone is, why it should exist, and what one can do about it is essential for many people to mature and find happiness.

I have had a lot of personal experience with the Friendzone; I have been on both sides of it a few times. I meant to offer my own advice on how to deal with it, but I realized after typing a bit that it would not be useful. I think most of time time, you have to deal with it yourself. The only advice I will offer is this: friendship is a valuable commodity. Never sacrifice a good friendship if you can avoid it, whether you are the friendzoner or the friendzonee. My friends that I’ve friendzoned and those that have friendzoned me are some of my closest and best friends today; and the few whose friendship I lost because of it, I regret deeply. If you love someone, either as a friend or something more, don’t give them up because of something petty like the Friendzone. You can get over it, they can get over it, and if you try hard enough you can both end up as happy people.

If there’s anything you want to say about the Friendzone, talk to me about it. I’d be glad to discuss.


Here’s one of my favorite songs.

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