A More Neutral Look at the 'Friendzone'


The friendzone is today almost certainly the most exhaustively discussed of the relationship woes. On the Internet, it is like a loose beast and even for the most intelligent men (and women) it is a difficult concept to shake loose. Most articles on the so-called friendzone, however, are decidedly negative, simplistic and antagonistic, so I want to write a fairly neutral, explanatory article about it, from the point of view of a young male.

A More Neutral Look at the 'Friendzone'

Most men have been in the 'friendzone' which can be simply defined as having feelings for a female friend, who doesn't feel the same way. Many like to say that this was caused by the male not making his intentions clear from the beginning, lacking confidence, being a 'Nice Guy' or a combination of these things along with other supposed factors. Of course, in my mind the story is not this simple at all.

Let's imagine that we lived in a hypothetical world where males never befriended females. Basically, females stayed in all female groups, males associated with males and the two groups only intermingled at designated social gatherings and events. I personally don't advocate this type of world, however, I'm using it for the sake of explanation. In this world, any relationship between a male and female is certainly sexual. Men approach women they are interested in and this approach is interpreted as having a definite sexual motivation and the women can choose to reciprocate or reject that man. Simple.

Now, let's look at the real world, or at least our modern approach to dealing with the two genders. Men work with women, they have women in their classes at university, their social circle likely comprises of a fairly equal distribution of the two genders. The typical male that does not sift through bars and clubs or do 'cold-approaching' will typically expect to meet love-interests in this social group, wherein each relationship has some form of context. In this case, expressing interest in a girl has real social consequences and for men that are not extremely confident, extremely popular or extremely socially skilled, things can get awkward and complicated very fast.

Men today are also pressured heavily to perceive women as ordinary people, no different than other men. Men are shamed for having interest in their female friends and for the most part their feelings go suppressed. I agree that men should have some restraint, but this isn't really the point I'm getting at here. Men are trained against their biological urges to treat women as ordinary people and completely ignore any underlying attraction or interest they may have in them.

So, how does this relate to the friendzone? As was stated earlier, there are usually social consequences for expressing interest in a woman, even if people say there isn't. Even if there wasn't, typically one will have some kind of useful relationship with that woman. This could be a professional relationship, an academic partnership or just an ordinary friendship that does add value to the guy's life. Trying to initiate a sexual relationship in any case, carries a definite risk which guys are understandably concerned about.

The most logical route (and this is what goes through the heads of most guys) then is to simply befriend these females and test out whether a sexual relationship is possible. Because many guys feel shamed by our society enough to not obviously flirt, they are usually much more subtle about showing their interest. A hazy friendship is formed with the guy's real intentions bobbing around in his mind, occasionally coming to the surface but quickly being forced back into the depths. The friendship slowly progresses. This is where a major disconnect happens. For some guys, this phase is completely mentally indistuinguishable from an actual sexual relationship, only short of physical intimacy, which actually isn't much of a deal-breaker. There is emotional intimacy, vulnerability and presumably some level of physical attraction (we're assuming the guy and girl are both at least average looking). The guy and girl may talk every day, meet each other regularly and sometimes even have physical contact of some kind.

The bubble bursts at approximately this point. The guy 'goes for it' and for whatever reason, the girl just 'doesn't feel it.' In his mind, the guy is honestly in the ficticious world I described before. He thinks that he had a deep emotional connection with this person (which for all he knows, she reciprocated), there was physical attraction, they got along great, spent time together and everything was excellent. He can remember doing nothing wrong. He was kind, respectful, but he also showed attractive traits like determination, intelligence, etc. It makes no sense. And the rejection by the girl seems logically absurd and it pretty much short-circuits his brain.

Rejections like these are powerful and actually quite common (I've experienced it first-hand). Their confidence-shattering power is mainly because of the sheer time investment involved. You may date a girl for a total of a few hours before being rejected, but these friendships often involve months of effort and an immense emotional investment. The brain naturally panicks when it realizes that all of that went precisely nowhere. This is why men relate so strongly to this idea, because the few times it happened to them were probably the worst times emotionally in their entire life, and the emotions attached to that are almost infuriating.

Basically, the story here is that men that complain of getting 'friendzoned' are usually not bad people. They probably aren't even unattractive. Their intention usually wasn't to deceive the woman or - as way too many people have quoted: "Put kindness coins into her until sex comes out." They're trying their best to maintain their social lives, live up to the expectations society has of them in their dealings with women while also trying to satisfy their biological and emotional needs. That isn't easy for either gender, but navigating the waters of 'platonic relationships' (which are themselves not easy for a lot of men to grasp) can become incredibly frustrating. Guys pretty naturally assume that most interactions they have with women will have a sexual basis (refer to the hypothetical world I described earlier) and them committing time to a girl and having her reciprocate that is (to them) a form of flirting or expression of interest, and when that assumption proves to be false, they become frustrated, confused and frantically search for an explanation. Only a minority of guys are deceptive and terrible enough to use friendship as an underhanded tactic to acquire a sexual partner.

So, this is my interpretation of the friendzone. Let me know what you think as I admit this is mostly based on my experiences. In general, I think that as a society we need to have slightly more empathy for people in situations like this. It isn't easy and the large number of Internet 'bashing' articles is probably only making otherwise normal guys insecure. Hopefully this was a slightly more neutral article that avoided pushing too many buttons (which is probably what other articles try to do to start epic flaming comment wars).

Thanks for reading :)

A More Neutral Look at the 'Friendzone'
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Most Helpful Girl

  • abacaxi84

    There's no denying that a guy can become attracted to a woman over time, or as a result of having to interact with her regularly in a neutral setting. However, it is in a guy's interest to make his romantic/sexual interest known to her as earlier as possible. So, if after getting to know a woman in a platonic setting he decides after 3 or 4 months that he likes her - that's when he should start at least flirting and indicating his interest - not pussy foot around for many more months pretending that it's all still platonic, when it's no longer platonic for him.
    As a general rule, the later he leaves declaring his interest, the less chance he will have with the woman. What is quite off putting for women is to have a guy confess that they have been into them for however many months and years, but did nothing. and then he suddenly comes out with it.
    That will generally have the effect of creeping a woman out because she's been operating on the assumption that you've been just friends. Telling the woman as soon as possible also helps the guy out, as he avoids getting over invested in someone who may not be interested.

    Like 2 People
    Is this still revelant?
    • Totally agree! I guess a lot of guys assume that the woman will also develop feelings for him over time so he figures that taking the friend approach is safer, more socially acceptable and better for her. Of course, it doesn't really work that way (not that anyone really ever taught them that...). Thanks for your opinion!

    • Blonde401

      This! Yes! You put it into words, thank you.

    • abacaxi84

      @ResearcherGuy, I also become attracted to guys over time. There have been many occasions where I have been friends with a guy for a while before, but it's only once he makes his interest in me known that I actually think about whether or not I am interested in him that way, and realised that I could see myself dating him. However, if he'd never brought it up, I'd have continued to think of him as a friend. It's basically a case of, if you don't ask you'll never get. The longer you stay and act as a platonic friend, the less chance you have that the woman will ever be able to see you differently.

      I can some it up as this: guy friend who does no flirting stays friends with a girl for ages and suddenly declares his interest will get shot down. Guy friend who has always done at least some vague flirting with the girl, or started to flirt for a while before making his move will be more succesful than a guy who pines away for months or years in silence.

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Most Helpful Guy

  • Crazyced

    Good take. I'll add something. I think the social rules you are mentioning are used as a way to separate the wheat from the chaff so to speak. The ones that put those rules aside to go for what they want (in a skillfull fashion) are the ones that get rewarded.

    Look at the ones that are good with women. They are often not afraid to push boundaries.

    Like 1 Person
    Is this still revelant?
    • This is a good point, of course it's nearly impossible without a really good male role model to know how to go about achieving that careful balance. A take on achieving that from a guy that actually did would be interesting to read.

    • Crazyced

      GAG is lacking a bit in this department. But PUA stuff aside, there is many resources online for guys to improve their game. I'd say it's imperative for them to do so. It improve their lives and it's not just about adding notches to your bedpost. It's about being the best you can for that one girl you really want.

    • brocha

      This is a really good point yeah. Where are the resources other than the whole PUA be a bad boy stuff that can help to stand out, push the boundaries and succeed with women and female friends?

      I mean I'm nervous round girls, female friends, and don't know how to do this stuff you mention! I do click with women, and befriend them, try to hit it off, I often seem to hit it off with women only to find they have a boyfriend, but I never knew that! Then they become single?

      Totally agree that you have to be different, partly it's about being a good person right?

    • Show All

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What Girls & Guys Said

  • roxyreigns

    "Men are trained against their biological urges to treat women as ordinary people and completely ignore any underlying attraction or interest they may have in them."

    this is really awkward phrasing. i think you meant something else and it came out wrong.

    "Guys pretty naturally assume that most interactions they have with women will have a sexual basis" this certainly has not been the case in my experience and i can't even figure out why this would be a natural assumption.

    honestly, the whole thing is more simple than that - one person is attracted, the other person isn't, and they happen to be friends, and there's a broad spectrum of behaviours in between, but specific subcultures have popped up online that make the most attempt to claim the words like "friendzone" for themselves, or are most associated with saying "i'm a nice guy, why do stupid bitches only go for jerks"?, and then people who talk about friendzone stuff get trailed along in the mud for the ride. those connotations aren't going to rub off easily.

    Disagree 1 Person
    • Apart from my awkward phrasing, I can assure you from a male perspective, the second point is not far from the truth. If a guy makes an active attempt to befriend a girl and do things for her, he is interpreting this interaction as sexual in nature. As for your final point, I didn't at any point say it WASN'T that simple. What I'm saying is that a guy can be dragged into this cycle because of social pressures/lack of knowledge of the 'right' thing to do which only leads to a more hurtful rejection later, contrary to what he believes and was taught initially.

    • roxyreigns

      i mean, i have known plenty of guys who had no sexual intents with me and believe me i know the difference

  • Azara

    it happens to women too-- exactly the same thing. you dont have to be a guy to relate to being rejected by someone you felt you had a connection with. you can't write for all men any more than you could write for all women, your genitals dont you insight, your experience does... You can write as a person who developed a close friendship they thought was going somewhere and realized they'd been wrong. just wrong. ouch. thats life.

    any other variation. maybe the feelings were returned but not enough, maybe their paths had crossed over. maybe one wasn't ready. whatever. but plenty of people know the feeling of liking someone being friends with them -partly bc they are interested- investing time, all for nothing. H. U. R. T. S. its fucking frustating, but is an important lesson to be able to deal with it.

    its just that guys who complain about it-which im sure is a small amount compared to all the people who have to deal with it and move on gracefully- talk about it like its a special elite problem they experience as being men and are dealing with a special kind of pain women can not comprehend, and that bc they were nice and tried,. they somehow deserve more.

    women deal with this just as much as guys if not more depending on the age.

    it sucks to want more than friendship from a friend. but you're not being zoned, your feelings aerie not being reciprocated. there's nothing to drive out of its just how it is and it sucks but its not special its not bc of historical change or gender rules or broken gender roles, its just life. we dont always get what we want even if we try really really hard and got really really close.

    the term friend zone was created by sore losers who perseverate and can't move on. the zone is not what someone puts you in but what you pour yourself in by getting stuck.

    when a person rejects you they are giving you a gift. the gift of time. they are allowing yo to go forward in your life. friend zone means 'im stuck'. its not about being evil or malicious its about being delusional and ineffectual.

    Like 1 Person
  • brocha

    This is a truly FANTASTIC article.

    Seriously well written, eloquent and I think it hits the nail on the head.

    Not all guys are misleading their female friends nor are being deceitful and trying to trick them. Some genuinely like their friends, may fall for them or find them attractive from the get go.

    And as you say, they are also nervous or unsure how to test the waters with these fine females when they see them relatively often and as they value them as good people, don't want to lose said females.

    Seriously really really good take!! I also think that it's difficult for a guy to immediately tell a girl he knows, rather than just a stranger, that he thinks she looks good. The real consequences is a good point. I mean do the female friends think about the guys or feel the same way maybe? Thoughts?

    I do agree, that for a guy, she's pretty and she's friendly, and these are the traits we look for in mates as well right?

    What would you make of long distance friends who meet up, and the guy is nervous about her? And also texting female friends?

  • LeoLionEye

    I agree with this for the most part and actually like it. I have been in the friend zone before a few times and what you said resonated with me. You are right that the best way around the friend zone is just being straight forward right away, for both parties actually. If you are interested let them know right away, if you aren't then state you are just friends. One of the worst time for me is when I stated my interest to a friend who friend zoned me, she rejected me but left it very opened end actually saying "who know maybe some day in the future I will feel the same" that kept me after her for years until I finally smartened up.

    I also like how you stated that sometimes men become friends with a girl then develop feelings when puts this whole thing into motion. That is how I fall in love, I have to be friends with a girl before I have feelings for her or desire to be with her. I actually think this is for the better though. Since if it was because of physical attraction first I would be entering a relationship based on just being attracted to her. From there it is working on being compatible with her and what we have in common. If I am her friend first I can tell if we have stuff in common and are compatible before hand and if we are it just makes her more attractive to me, as for physical attraction, well this would just make her more attractive to me. So I would much more build a relationship based on liking someone most as a person over liking someone most based on their looks.

    You also pointed out how when you figure out you been friend zoned can be a horrible time for guys, that is very true and something I don't think most women even think about, and where most of the negativity comes from. Really I'm willing to agree that it could be one of the worst situations, relationship wise, a man can be in. I compare it to ending a relationship. Really being friend zoned changes a guy. It crushes your self esteem and confidence. For me it made me less trustworthy of women and more reluctant to show them my feelings. It makes you question yourself endlessly and look down upon yourself, especially since it's rejection from someone you feel close to and clearly thought liked you, not saying she doesn't just not in that way. It is from this and how people act that I think the negativity of friend zoning comes from. The guy feels hurt and in return and knowing or unknowingly hurts the girl back. You learn and get stronger though.

  • Blonde401

    If I like someone, they will know straight away. I make no bones about who I fancy/crush/dig. I'm very obvious in my flirtations. If a guy doesn't get flirted with by me, I never fancied him. He's not in a friend zone, I don't believe that exists and I do believe men and women can just be friends. But there's nothing worse than being friends with someone for a while and them suddenly tell you they liked you since they met you. Awkward because I feel I made myself clear from day one that I only see them as a friend. Great take though!

    Like 2 People
    • Thanks for the compliment and thanks for the opinion! You should note that what constitutes flirting varies significantly from person to person. Some girls really don't make it clear at all and guys can't really apply the same rules to everyone they meet. They can get better at reading signs/signals, but ultimately that hazy friend/more-than-friend zone will probably always exist as long as platonic relationships do.

    • Blonde401

      I do know what you mean but my guy friends have seen me flirt before, they know exactly how I flirt. I'm such a goof it's impossible not to tell when I'm giving the signals. But I also think it's not necessarily girls not making it obvious, it can be guys not reading the signs as well as they could. Lots of girls play it a lot cooler than me.

    • Yes of course, flirting from my more direct female friends is pretty hard to miss haha, however, guys are never really taught how to read signals and the signals from really academic or shy girls are so minute and subtle that it's not surprising that guys miss them. Anyway, I think that you're right that guys need to learn how to read these signals better, but learning to do that is not trivial, especially given the variability in girls.

  • aficionado

    I appreciate your deep analysis. But in the end, it all boils down to looks. I mean... women only friendzone male friends whom they don't find 'physically attractive', or if she thinks he is 'lesser than her' in terms of looks. If he is attractive, she will at least give him a chance, to date for a while and see if it works.

    I'm sure that most women, and a lot of men too will deny this. But it's a man's looks which determine whether he gets to date his female friend, or ends up in the friendzone.

    Like 2 People
    • Hello and thank you for your opinion! I've been rejected many times in my life and I don't think it was because of looks. I was a bit awkward in my younger days and connecting with people was a problem. Anyway, I don't really know how attractive I am (no one answered my 'how do I look' question hahaha) but I would say that I'm at least not ugly, but I've been rejected by girls who I didn't feel would be considered more attractive than me. It would be interesting to hear female opinions on this though...

    • aficionado

      I can understand. I have been in a similar situation, on more than on occasion. I began liking them gradually. I never befriended them with the intention of dating them later on.

      Only difference between you and me is, I never confessed to them because I knew I would be friendzoned anyway. Those girls never showed any signs of liking me, and I'm sure that it had to do with my looks. I didn't have any other 'flaws', so I'm pretty sure it had something to do with my looks.

    • stegocanop

      Just because you like a guy as a friend doesn't mean he would make a good boyfriend, it's not only about looks. For example, I have a friend who is an interesting person all around, smart and funny, and I am very glad we're friends. But he is also immature and needs a girl who will basically act like his mom, and that's not what I'm looking for. Then there's also chemistry. You can like someone's personality and think they're attractive, but you just won't feel that spark for some reason. If it was all about looks, finding a date would be much easier.

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  • GreatnessPersonified

    "The friendzone is today almost certainly the most exhaustively discussed of the relationship woes."

    There is no relationship, that's why it's a FRIEND zone.

    in my opinion, relationship are like having a job.
    If you don't have enough experience to get hired (have a gf), you got to volunteer (have a female friend).
    Once, you get the experience, you can either apply to the job or look for a new one.

    Like 2 People
  • spuitkaas

    I only read part of this take, because it's so damn long.
    In my opinion, I think if you become friends with a girl first with as plan to kind of force yourself into a relationship with her is kind of nasty. You totally mislead the girl and the risk of rejection is quite high. If you become friends with a girl and later on develop feelings, then that can happen. Confess and see how to go further. If you want to date a girl, you have to be clear about that. Because the main difference between talking to a friend or someone you've got interest in is flirting. Maybe some guys are not too good at flirting or the girl takes it wrongly then you have to make sure your intentions still come through. That's how life is.

    Like 1 Person
    • Thank you for your opinion and I apologize about the length lol... I don't disagree with anything you have just said, however, it isn't really what my take is addressing specifically. What I'm saying is that this direct approach has real consequences and considering that most guys are never really taught how to approach women from a sexual point of view (my parents grew up in a time/country that more closely resembled the hypothetical world I described) it isn't really as simple as 'these guys are misleading girls." Maybe that is the end result, however, that isn't what they were intending to do, which is the point of this take.

    • spuitkaas

      I apologize for being too lazy to read all that.
      Ofcourse approaching is hard and nobody really tells you how to flirt or anything, but you know, that's life. Nobody told you it was going to be easy. Flirting kinda comes from within I think and approaching will always be nerve-wracking. I can tell simce I've approached guys as well.
      I think you can begin with just being friendly and slowly start to flirt so it won't be on the spot too much and you can built your confidence and see if the girl might be interested etc.

  • SakuraChii

    Thank you for stating in the beginning that this happens to women too. I think that's what you were trying to do in the parenthesis? I still don't agree with the concept of the 'friendzone' but I do agree that it can hurt.

  • Silver119

    At the end of the day both guys and girls friendzone the opposite/same sex. it's nothing personal, it just happens. The guys or girls that complain about it are bitter generally with no real reason.

    Now, if a someone was leading another on and then dropped the "just friends" crap then yes, I can see the reason for being bitter. but other than that they should just move on and stop whinging.

    Also I never read the take. Just sharing my opinion

  • genericname85

    dude! this is exactly it. specially the part with the intentions bobbing around, where you try to convince yourself that you don´t want to be with her anyway and in the next secont, you think she´s the love of your life... it´s so freaking stupid.

  • Kira88

    Great take and really well written. The only issue I have with the friendzone debate is that guys think girls only go for bad boys. They apparently do stuff for us, like have conversations and provide compliments and that's supposed to be a demonstration of being a good guy. Then when rejection hit they turn into the nasty guy, guys who aren't that invested in someone unofficial are the most attractive because they won't get upset if you reject them. The 'good guys' cry, attack and insult because their ego has taken a knock and while I get that, they still want to be around in case we come to our senses. The only issue I have with the friendzone is the concept that friendship is a commodity that relys on the eventual creation of a relationship.

  • Rloco

    The friend zone exists because of the guy. I admit this. If I'm not able to express my feelings right away and just enjoy my time hanging out with her it's not her fault. I've had many female friends and some that I've liked. They never knew because I felt my feelings would not be reciprocated. I wasn't in the friend zone I just had friends. If I would have asked her out and then we were friends that's all it would be. Right now I have female friends that I would date if they liked me. That just shows that we are compatible personality wise. Not that I'm on the friend zone.

  • sketchy

    I think your definition of the friend-zone as: "Having feelings for a female friend, who doesn't feel the same way", while not inaccurate, is probably the broadest possible definition.

    Under that definition, in the vast majority of cases, I don't think there is a problem - obviously it doesn't feel very nice, but a guy would accept it, and would not feel mistreated or feel any resentment towards the woman.

    The problems arise when he has clearly become more than just a friend, but is still less than a boyfriend - he is essentially a "boyfriend without benefits". He tends to all her emotional needs in exactly the same way that a boyfriend would, but receives none of the expected benefits, such as sex (for which she may even have a separate "friend with benefits"), commitment or romance.

  • Tanuron

    Huh, by that definition I never been in the friendzone, never really thought about it really that it meant just having feelings for someone who dosent return them, although that should be obvious perhaps, but still. Personally always thought the whole friendzone thing is kinda silly. I'm kinda even more interested how you really stay in a "friendzone" cause no doubt can sometimes be helpful, lol. Anyway good take :). Think regardless labels aren't always the wisest to throw around anyway, not for themselves or others. Like how people can reinforce this reality or idea they have about themselves that they always get stuck in the "freindzone" and unawarly start to sabotage themselves and make it so too.

  • lonerider

    It was totally spot on buddy. The least biased mytake on friendzone i ever read.

  • damnwinter

    That's smart and objective :) To add a little something from a woman's point of view, of course this may not always be the case, but no one ever wonders what it feels like to be on the other side of the friendzone. If it makes anyone feel better, it sucks to be in this place too. Mostly, you suddenly lose your friend (sometimes, your best friend) and you've done nothing to deserve it. All you've done was not managing to feel that kind of attraction towards them and not sleeping with them. From 'the other side there are usually feelings too. And it hurts really bad.

  • BackAgain

    "Their intention usually wasn't to deceive the woman"

    See that's how I always feel and that betrayal pisses me off!!
    Well if the feelings were mutual I guess I wouldn't feel so hurt.

    Then again I never know if we were Friends and he later caught feelings or if he decided to go the friend route. The former is understandable because it just happens unexpectedly... It's happened to me before but I didn't confess since I could tell I wasn't his type.

    Now I'll be honest with a few guys I found physically attractive I tried to get to know him as a friend first so I wouldn't like him solely off looks but it never worked out. Plus I made it obvious that I liked him but my intentions of dating was NOT clear.

    All I'm saying is it's fine to be friends as long as there weren't any ulterior motives initially because that's not a true friend

  • mrrapperguy

    I can get on board with this definition, but most complaints of the friendzone usually wreak of arrogance, the idea of "I deserve it". truth be told there are no magic steps, for some people the direct approach works, for others the friendship route works. It's not a judgement on the male if a female doesn't see him that way, and it's not her fault for seeing him that way. At the same time, putting a female on a pedestal is the reason these hurt so much, if you can conquer the idea of "i'm just a guy and she's just a girl" then the friendzone won't hurt so much.

  • Bluemax

    Interesting. More to say. Stay tuned.

    • Bluemax

      Many women feel betrayed when a friend of theirs tells them he has feelings for them. In many cases the guy WAS flirting with her, from his perspective, but he was oblivious as to how ineffectual it was. In other cases the guy was just too shy. I personally don't know anyone who buys into the sex vending machines theory. Not saying they don't exist, but to me this suggests that they are an exceedingly rare but loud minority. I also believe that many people misinterpret sadness and hurt for feelings of entitlement.

      I wrote my own takes on rejections and the friend zone. Perhaps you'd like to take a look at them, researcherguy.

    • Thanks for your opinion, I read some of your myTakes and they seem really well written. This myTake really isn't about 'friendzoning' (rejection) at all, but rather about a subtle societal problem that I've noticed in which men are sometimes lead into these long friendships and ultimately get hurt (because the correct course of action is not obvious these days). I'm not blaming women here and as you said, most guys really don't have that whole 'vending machine' mentality, that's really stupid and those guys are exceedingly rare.

      There's a lot of misinformation about the 'friendzone,' contradictory advice and confusing expectations and I think this is why this concept, which seems really stupid, seems pervasive today.

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