By JACOB ATKINSON
It is very difficult to find a man who has not heard some rendition of the phrase, “Oh, you’re such a good friend!” from a woman that he was interested in. Quite often, people refer to the use of these phrases as being “friend-zoned.” In other words, you have romantic feelings for someone but they only want to be friends. Personally, I have been on the hopeful romantic side of this equation more times than I would like to admit, but it has given me a unique insight into the widely used expression, “friend-zoned.”
Over the last few years I have immersed myself in the world of philosophy, and through this I found the intersection of philosophy and the friend-zone.
When choosing classes for my senior year of high school I immediately signed up for a course that caught my eye, “The World of Ideas,” or as others began to call it, “The Basics of Philosophy.” Throughout the course, we covered philosophical topics such as logic, ethics and truth.
When studying truth, we delved into Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave.” After reading it a few times and researching it on YouTube and Google, I realized that being in the friend- zone is eerily similar to Plato’s allegory, and here is why.
Plato’s allegory begins with the description of a group of subjects that are shackled to the floor of a dark cave. They are focused on the wall that is in front of them and they know nothing but the shadows that occasionally appear. To the subjects, these shadows are truth, knowledge and existence. This is the first step in the cave and where we can begin drawing connections to our friend-zone allegory. In the first stage our subject, let’s call him John, is very close friends with a girl, let’s call her Jane. John has been hoping for weeks now that Jane feels the same way he does, but he fails to realize that she only sees him as a friend. It is easy to see that both Plato’s subjects and John are vulnerable to a blissful ignorance that is preventing them from seeing the truth.
The second step of both allegories is spurred from outside influences. In the cave, one of the subjects is given reason to question where the shadows are coming from and searches for the source. He finds that the shadows are being made by someone behind them and his entire perception of the world is changed. Much like in Plato’s allegory, John is going about his day quite happily when all of a sudden, his friends stop him and try to convince him that Jane does not feel the same way. He shrugs off their warnings as if they are ludicrous, but he then starts to consider how she really feels. I believe that the second step in both allegories represents a cognitive evolution that causes both subjects to question their original beliefs.
The search for the truth is our third step, and the exit from Plato’s cave. The subject discovers the puppeteer that makes the shadows and his ignorance is shattered. He begins to question, and search for the truth. Finding the exit to the cave is the key to enlightenment, and the lone subject eventually finds his way out. Enlightenment was not far away for John either as he began a similar search for truth. He started by paying more attention to Jane’s mannerisms around him, and he waits for any indicators of being friend-zoned.
After an awkward side hug and being called a “great friend” several times in one evening, John realized his friends were right. This realization changed the way he perceived the friendship and ultimately it unveiled her true feelings. It occurred to me when reading about the third step in Plato’s allegory that the discovery of truth can entirely change your perspective, much like in a personal relationship.
The final step of Plato’s allegory and John’s story go hand in hand as they return to their previous situations. Plato’s subject returns to the cave to either explain to the other subjects that there is an entirely new world just outside, or because he could not handle the truth of the outside world. Mimicking the subject, John ultimately returns to Jane either to let her know that she should be more clear when it comes to her feelings, or because he would rather be ignorant to the truth and continue hoping that she may one day take him out of the friend-zone.