The friend zone, a phrase popularized by the sitcom “Friends,” is often thought of as something to laugh about, but what most don’t realize is that friendzoning can actually bring a lot of unintentional harm to the recipient.
According to the online Cambridge Dictionary, being in the friend zone is “the state of being friends with someone when you would prefer a romantic or sexual relationship with them.”
While it is true that not everyone is obligated to like one another and that everyone is entitled to their own feelings, being put into the friend zone isn’t as simple as saying, “I only see you as a friend.”
It’s important that the person who is doing the friendzoning does so in a sincere manner, aiming to preserve the friendship. The person who is friendzoned needs to understand that a friendship is all the other person is seeking. Those who are friendzoned should realize that only following one’s agenda, while disregarding the other’s wants, is selfish.
If both parties are still left feeling unfulfilled, then there can be numerous negative effects from something that should be easily avoidable.
“(The friend zone) has a negative impact on college students, especially psychologically,” said assistant professor of human communications studies Tara Suwinyattichaiporn. “Being rejected causes negative psychological influences, for example lower self esteem, negative emotions (and) distraction.”
A lack of communication between two parties may be the root cause of this issue. Since all relationships are a two-way street, an increase in communication and empathy from both parties is the solution.
Nineteen-year-old business major Madison Smith was in a relationship that lacked communication from the other person.
“(The relationship) was going on for about a month and a half. I thought ‘Oh we’re dating, cool! I like this guy.’ And I even started to talk to my parents about him,” Smith said.
After being advised by her friends to seek out his true intentions, Smith brought up the talk.
“It was just a super awkward conversation, but basically he just said, ‘No we’re just friends,’” Smith said. “He lived a floor above me in the dorms so I saw him multiple times after that and I always saw him with a bunch a girls.”
Smith said she lingered on the thought of not being enough.
“Especially after seeing him later, with other girls too, (I thought) I didn’t meet his expectation or I wasn’t good enough to date him,” Smith said.
Some people don’t realize that the friend zone can be a form of social rejection, which can actually cause a hurt similar to physical pain.
A 2011 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrated that “rejection and physical pain are similar not only in that they are both distressing — they share a common somatosensory representation as well.”
People need to realize that someone may actually get badly hurt from the friend zone, and those who see it as a joke should be a bit more considerate, especially if it’s one of their friends.
Another person’s feelings can not be controlled, it’s true, but how those feelings are communicated can be.
“It is hard to prevent because attraction is very natural and sometimes your attraction can be to someone in line at Starbucks, someone at the gym and sometimes it’s your friend. There is no way to prevent (it),” Suwinyattichaiporn said. “The way to deal with this situation the best, is for the person who is in the friend zone, to directly communicate to the other person that they have romantic feelings for. Just say it.’”
Having this talk about relationships among friends is natural, and both parties need to be open to talking about it. Sure, it may be a bit awkward at first, but there’s always a chance the bond between two friends can grow stronger.
“You are not alone,” Suwinyattichaiporn said. “And the best way to go about dealing with this is for both people from both angles to communicate directly and empathetically.”