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The “Friend Zone” refers to an interpersonal relationship in which one member wishes to become romantically involved while the other would rather remain friends only.
The term “Friend Zone” was coined in the November 3rd, 1994 episode of the American television sitcom Friends titled ""The One with the Blackout." While Ross is pining over his friend Rachel, Joey tells him that he waited too long to act on his feelings for her and was running out of time to be able to change their friendship into something romantic. By the end of the series, Ross and Rachel (shown below) end up married.
On July 17th, 2002, The Straight Dope Forums member FunLvnCriminal submitted a post titled “Friend Zone, Truth or Fiction? Ladies?” asking female forum users to explain why they reject ben by saying “I don’t want to ruin our friendship.” The earliest Urban Dictionary definition was submitted by user I Like Bread on December 15th, 2003, who defined the term as “What you attain after you fail to impress a woman you’re attracted to.” On February 27th, 2011, Redditor dubtool submitted a post titled “Friend zone [fixed]” to the /r/pics subreddit, including a screen capture image from the video game Super Mario Bros. with instructions on how to escape the friend zone (shown below). Prior to being archived, the post received over 5,600 up votes and 375 comments.
On April 4th, 2012, Redditor xawesome submitted a post to the /r/funny subreddit titled “Friend Zone Level: Bridge,” which featured a photograph of a woman walking over a man laying across a small stream. Prior to being archived, the post received over 24,300 up votes and 1,120 comments. On April 6ththe viral content site BuzzFeed published a post titled “18 People Who Will Never Get Out of the Friendzone,” featuring several photographs of men appearing uncomfortable around women. On July 23rd, Redditor ChicagoRunner submitted a post to the /r/Feminism subreddit titled “The Friend Zone,” which featured a Matrix Morpheus image macro deriding the concept of friendzoning (shown below).
Nice Guy Syndrome
Escaping the friend zone has been a common topic among dating advice columns and pickup artists, many of which argue that friend zoned males are typically too meek or “nice.” An entry on WikiHow for “How to Escape the Friend Zone,” advises readers to break the “nice guy” stereotype by being less emotionally needy to the object of their affection. The Psychology Today blog similarly advises that those wishing to escape the friend zone should seem more aloof and less interested. Several posts on the /r/seduction subreddit have outlined various methods combating the friend zone, with several Redditors outlining methods they have used in their own lives.
Research as to whether or not men and women can have friendships without one of them having romantic feelings for the other dates back to as early as 2000 when researchers from the University of Texas at Austin published an article finding that men perceived the potential to gain a sexual partner more beneficial than women did, who saw more of a benefit in receiving protection from an opposite-sex friend. In 2001, Psychology Today published the first of their many investigations into friendships between the sexes. In 2011, the magazine published an article specifically on how to make the move from a friend to a romantic partner. The next year, Scientific American reported on a study out of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire that interviewed 88 pairs of undergraduate male and female friends that found the the men were more likely to be attracted to their female friends (shown below). They were also more likely to think their female friends felt the same way, which was not the case in most pairs. The study was also featured on the Huffington Post.
Ladder Theory is a colloquial idea used to explain how people determine the dating potential of others. It was allegedly conceptualized by Dallas Lynn and Jared Whitson in 1994 after “years of sociological field testing” but the academic status of the authors or nature of this fieldwork is unknown. The non-scientific theory claims that women have separate “ladders” by which they rate the relationships in their lives, one for platonic friends and one for lovers, whereas men have a solitary ladder for everyone they meet. Ladder Theory was first defined on Urban Dictionary in May 2006. Discussions on the validity of the theory have appeared on the Harvard Crimson, ElleGirl Magazine, RelationshipTheory.com and eHow. As of October 2012, an unofficial Facebook fan page for Ladder Theory has 244 likes.
Friend Zone Fiona
Friend Zone Fiona is an advice animal image macro series with a stock photo of a laughing girl. The top caption typically refers to something a girl would say to her romantic partner followed by the bottom text confirming that she is just a friend. As of October 2012, the Quickmeme page has more than 2500 submissions.
Friend Zoned Phil
Friend-Zoned Phil is an image macro series initially intended to serve as the male counterpart of Friend Zone Fiona. The character was first introduced via Reddit in a thread titled “My friends and I made these to honor a friend who can’t ever seem to get the girl” posted under the AdviceAnimals subreddit on September 26th, 2011. As of October 2012, there are 593 instances of this series on Quickmeme.
Friendzone Johnny is an image macro series created on January 8th, 2012 after Redditor shakee submitted a post titled “Friendzone level 99” to the /r/funny subreddit containing a screenshot of a photo from a teenage girl’s Facebook page showing a boy in a doorway with a flower bouquet. The description noted that he showed up at her place at midnight with flowers and she was “so blessed to have such great friends.” As of October 2012, there are more than 1000 submissions on the Friendzone Johnny Quickmeme page.
Psychology Today – Escape The Friend Zone: From Friend to Girlfriend or Boyfriend
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships – Benefit or burden? Attraction in cross-sex friendship
fn17, eHow – What Is the Ladder Theory?