The Signs of a Fake Friend Aren't Always Obvious
Sometimes it is very clear that a person doesn't have your best interests at heart, and sometimes a disingenuous person will subtly display their true feelings. It can be challenging to know whether or not one of your friends is actually a frenemy.
Maybe everything in the friendship started out okay, but then you heard that your "friend" was talking about you behind your back. Maybe you always knew that they were kind of manipulative towards other people, but you only recently noticed that they were doing it to you too. Are they a fake friend?
Unfortunately, we live in the kind of world where we'll run into these kinds of people. Don't take it personally when you encounter a fake friend. A person who is fake to you will also be fake to others. It is likely that this person doesn't have any real friends at all, and you're no exception to that.
In borderline cases, it can be hard to tell if someone is a fake friend—especially if they're trying to be fake about the fact that they're fake! Keep in mind that feeling suspicious of a person's sincerity is usually a sign that something is not right. Trust your impressions of a person and remember that you wouldn't be reading this article unless you doubted one or more of your friendships.
12 Signs of a Fake Friend
- Your friendship is conditional.
- Your friend acts differently when you're around other people.
- Fake friends will speak poorly of you when you're not around.
- Fake friends will stop talking to you when you have a disagreement.
- Fake friends disappear when someone "more interesting" shows up.
- Fake friends always seem to want something from you.
- Fake friends will stop hanging out with you if you say "no" to them.
- Fake friends never try to help you achieve your goals.
- Fake friends always bring you down.
- Fake friends don't listen to you.
- A fake friend sees your needs and wants as a nuisance.
- Fake friends don't accept you for who you are.
1. Your Friendship Is Conditional
The biggest sign that you have a fake friend is that your friendship is extremely conditional. We all have normal boundaries that we don't want people to cross, but conditions are totally different. Boundaries are healthy and they're about the kind of respect a person thinks they deserve. For instance, if you cross a boundary by punching your friend in the face, it's perfectly normal that they would want to stop being friends with you.
On the other hand, conditions are all about standards that they expect you to adhere to, even if it has nothing to do with them. For example, if someone won't be your friend unless you're wealthy, that's a condition. A conditional friendship is when your friend expects you to give them certain things, act a certain way, dress in certain clothes, make a certain amount of money, or follow some other superficial standard before they will associate with you. This kind of relationship has nothing to do with your character and everything to do with appearances. If someone requires you to be anything other than yourself in exchange for a friendship, then that's not a real friendship at all.
2. Your Friend Acts Differently When You're Around Other People
Another obvious sign of a fake friend is if the person treats you differently depending on who is around. Are they nice to you when you're alone, but give you the cold shoulder when others are around? Do they tell you that they like you in private, but keep you at arm's length in public? Even worse, is your friendship some kind of secret?
If so, not only is this extremely immature, but they're definitely not a real friend. Real friends are not ashamed of treating people with kindness, and they certainly won't be afraid to admit that they get along with you.
3. Fake Friends Will Speak Poorly of You When You're Not Around
If someone is your friend, why would they spread rumors and spout B.S. about you behind your back? You might try to rationalize that kind of behavior by assuming your friend does that to everyone, but if they're treating everyone that way, then they must not have any real friends. When you genuinely care about someone, you sing their praises to others. You don't try to make them look bad in some misguided attempt to make yourself seem better.
4. Fake Friends Will Stop Talking to You When You Have a Disagreement
Human beings can easily have differences of opinion. There's no person on this Earth who is exactly like you. Besides, wouldn't it be boring if you agreed with your friends about absolutely everything?
The real test of a friendship happens when you and your friend actually disagree on something. This is especially the case if you disagree about something that one of you passionately believes in. It's times like these when a person shows their true colors.
Does you friend see you as a human being? Or do they see you through the filter of their own opinions only? Do they see you as unworthy or less than human if you disagree with them on X, Y, or Z topic?
If your friend can't handle that you changed religions or political affiliations, they were never a real friend to begin with. They didn't like you for you; they liked you because you agreed with each other about something.
Sometimes the disagreements don't even need to be about anything important like your religion or life philosophy. Sometimes it's simply as stupid as getting into an argument about who owes whom five bucks.
5. Fake Friends Disappear When Someone "More Interesting" Shows Up
Part of being in a conditional friendship is that you never know when your "friend" is going to ditch you for somebody else. Fake friends may frequently cancel plans with you at the last minute because someone they like more became available. The problem isn't that they get along with someone else better; the problem is that they have no respect for your time and don't care about disappointing you.
If someone you know doesn't care about your feelings and ditches you as soon as you seem boring, then this is a sign that they're a fake friend. They are just using you for some company, but will jump ship when something "better" comes along.
6. Fake Friends Always Seem to Want Something From You
Do you feel that your friend only hangs around because they want something from you?
This could be anything, really:
- Access to your social circle
- Career opportunities
- Free rides to places
- Free stuff
- Relief from boredom
- Relief from loneliness
While these are all things that you can give to a friend simply because you like them, if they are hanging out with you because of these things, then that's a problem.
If someone is "friends" with you for any reason besides the fact that you are who you are, that's a tell-tale sign of a fake friend.
7. Fake Friends Will Stop Hanging Out With You If You Say "No" to Them
Of course everyone wants to get their way all the time, but you can't always get exactly what you want. Sometimes we have to make compromises when we're interacting with other people. This doesn't mean you have to change your beliefs about life or anything. It just means friends should be generous about smaller things and practice compromising. For example, if you want to see a movie together, but can't agree on what to watch, real friends are flexible enough to come up with an alternate solution.
If, however, your friend is totally inflexible and is never willing to give up small desires for the sake of the greater friendship, then they are not a very good friend. Fake friends tend to disappear the moment you say no or introduce an agenda that doesn't align with theirs.
8. Fake Friends Never Try to Help You Achieve Your Goals
By "goals," I don't necessarily mean some grand desire of making a million dollars or graduating from an Ivy League school. It really comes down to the everyday stuff. A goal can be as small and mundane as wanting to go to the store to get some popcorn, or as huge as wanting to travel the world.
Does your friend always nudge you a little in the direction of what you want because they know you'll be happier that way? Do they try to make it easier for you to do the things you want, or do they just stand by the sidelines and watch? Worse, do they drag you away from your goals? Good friends can keep you on track and will usually try to help you in small ways, even if they can't do much. They turn into problem solvers for the people around them, and they will certainly do anything they can to avoid being the source of problems.
For example, if one of your goals is to find a good romantic partner, does your friend offer you books on relationships, introduce you to new people, or give you advice based on their experience? Or does your friend ignore what you're doing, change the subject, and even discourage you?
9. Fake Friends Always Bring You Down
This should go without saying, but if your friend insults you or belittles you on the regular, they're probably not a very good friend. It's true that sometimes people grow up with the bad habit of relentlessly teasing people about their insecurities, but if they're genuinely abusive, then obviously they're a fake friend.
The same is true if they bring you down by always dumping their negative feelings on you. If all they ever do is vent about their problems when they're around you, you're probably being used as an emotional punching bag.
10. Fake Friends Don't Listen to You
One major sign of a fake friend is that they are extremely egocentric. Everything is about them, so naturally they will only be slightly interested in what you're saying. Do you ever get the feeling that your friend just doesn't listen? Do they tap away on their phone while you're talking, do they change the subject, or do they just seem bored until you start talking about something directly related to them?
Another way that you can tell that someone doesn't care about what you have to say is if they never reference something that you said in the past. They rarely say things like, "I made these cookies without peanuts because I remember you mentioned you were allergic," or "Let's go see that zombie movie because I remember you said you like horror."
This is different from someone who is just forgetful every once in awhile. A fake friend never absorbs what you said in the first place, so they have no way of remembering. More importantly, they just don't care, so they will rarely if ever mention things that you told them in the past.
A real friend listens to what you say. They make note of the important stuff without even thinking about it, and they'll naturally bring it up later when it's relevant. This should be effortless for a real friend because they should actually care about you. You also won't have to fight to be heard or to keep them from changing the subject constantly.
11. A Fake Friend Sees Your Needs and Wants as a Nuisance
Does your friend guilt trip you or seem hesitant every time you want something? Do they dismiss your needs and treat them as secondary to their own? Does it always seem like the things you want are optional and unnecessary, but the things that your friend wants are always justified?
Fake friends don't take your needs seriously. Since your needs are not critical to their agenda, fulfilling them is at most a "payment" that they have to make to get what they want from you. Ideally, they would never address your needs or wants at all, since they are mostly a nuisance. For a real friend, fulfilling the needs and wants of both people in the relationship is part of the fun. Giving and receiving are equally important.
12. Fake Friends Don't Accept You For Who You Are
Finally, one of the most obvious signs of a fake friend is if this "friend" treats you differently when you change something about yourself. This really just means that the person doesn't accept you for who you are deep inside, they only accept you if you fit in with what they think you should be to them.
A real friend will stick by you if you get rejected from your first choice of university, if you choose an embarrassing career, if you get married to the wrong person, or if you get divorced after decades (or minutes) of marriage. Real friends will continue to be your friends without judgement, because your path is your own and you need to be who you are. If you made a major life change and they don't approve to the point that they've started ignoring you, consider it a bullet dodged.
Are You a Fake Friend?
While it's important to assess your friends' actions to determine whether or not they're good companions, it is also important to honestly reflect on your own actions. Sometimes we can think of ourselves as good people without sincerely examining how we treat others. It's important to have genuine friends and to be a good friend too. This Bustle article covers a number of ways to recognize and correct our own toxic behaviors.
What's the Difference Between a Real Friend and a Fake Friend?
Lots of people who have gone broke or lost their good health will tell you that they found out who their "real friends" were after their misfortune. Fake friends don't stick around when you have nothing left except for yourself. It's because they didn't want you; they wanted something you had.
In that sense, whether someone is a real or fake friend has little to do with how well you get along with them or how long you've known the person. Many times people who you might not even consider to be that close to you can come out of nowhere and help you in times of crisis, while someone who you've known your whole life can abandon you.
This is because what makes a real friend or a fake friend has less to do with your friendship and more to do with a person's character. A person who is fake will be a fake friend to everyone. A person who is kind, generous, and trustworthy will be that way even to strangers.
When someone you know goes on and on about how they won't be nice or respectful to someone unless they've "earned" it, be careful around them. Be especially suspicious if they expect some kind of loyalty from you simply because they associate with you. This person could easily be a fake friend.
Good friends are good to everyone. When you are a good person, it truly shows.
Is there some kind of foolproof universal test for a fake friend that you can use before you get to know someone, though? Unfortunately not really; you'll just have to figure that out on your own over time. (Or you could post this article on Facebook and see if it makes them realize they're a fake friend! Probably not, though.)
Your Experiences With Fake Friends
Questions & Answers
Question: What if nobody else wants to be my friend?
Answer: It's better to be alone than to hang out with a bunch of fakers.
Question: Is my friend fake if they bully me in public?
Answer: Yeah, that doesn't sound like a friend to me.
Question: How do I find a real friend who would actually respect me and listen to my problems?
Answer: Well, often, "the universe" gives us what we tolerate, what we think we deserve. So the key I think is to have higher standards for who we allow in our lives--and if this means being alone sometimes, then it means being alone.
Question: I told someone something about my friend, but it wasn’t rude, it was just a bit personal. Does that count as being fake?
Answer: It's not about being fake or not being fake. If someone tells you something personal, it's not a good idea to gossip about it to someone else. If your friend finds out when word gets around, they'll probably think twice before trusting you again.
Question: How can I find a fake friend early in the relationship?
Answer: A good strategy is to just say no to their unreasonable requests. Call them out on bad behavior. Don't be too accommodating. Before long, they'll disappear on their own.
Question: My friend and I stopped talking because she's always with her other friend. Every time we pass in the hall she acts like she doesn't see me. Is she a fake friend, and should I stop being friends with her?
Answer: It sounds like she already stopped being friends with you, so yes.
Question: Is my friend fake if she speaks poorly about me when I'm not around?
Answer: Probably. More importantly, she's a bad friend. Actually, she doesn't even sound like a friend at all if she's talking badly about you behind your back.
Question: What do I do when my friend doesn't want to hang with me because he was with someone else?
Answer: Nothing. Let him hang out with who he wants, and then you can also hang out with whoever you want.
Question: If I open up about something, but they walk away awkwardly, does that count them as fake? Afterward, I'd walk over to them; they'd walk away from me, glance over at me, whisper to others and sit on the other side of the room.
Answer: Don't worry too much about the label "fake," just stay away from someone like that. They sound like a jerk.
Question: Why are all the wrong people attracted to me?
Answer: It's time to look within. Only you can answer that for yourself, young grasshopper.
Question: Could I wear a T-shirt at fifty-four that says: "If no one loves you, then love yourself, excessively."?
Answer: Regardless of your age, wear whatever the heck you want.
Question: What do I do if my fake friend is a sister?
Answer: Yes, that can happen sometimes and it sucks. It's important, even with family, to set boundaries and enforce them.
Question: What should I do if my friend denied the fact that she hasn't paid her debts to me?
Answer: Well, if someone lies to you and doesn't pay you back, then you probably want to steer clear of them.
Question: I was a fake friend, and I feel terrible and wretched. The friend is doing way better now. How can I be a better person knowing I was fake?
Answer: Even just being aware of this is good. It's the first step towards change. The best way to start is to look within. What is it that was missing from your life that made you feel like you needed to selfishly use other people to get your needs met? What made you unable to form a friendship of mutual give and take?
Find some quiet time every day for introspection. Perhaps talking to someone else about it--even a therapist--can help, too.
Question: Why is it that I introduce my friends to other friends so we can all be friends, they make plans without me? I noticed that they never bring their other friends around, and just keep them to themselves.
Answer: There could be a number of reasons why they excluded you, but they're probably not important reasons. It's just time to find some new friends.
Question: I keep meeting new people that want to take advantage of my kind nature. How can I give them the message quickly I don't tolerate "users"?
Answer: You can still be a kind person and also have boundaries. You need to enforce those boundaries consistently--and if someone crosses the line, be ready to tell them "no."
Users leave when you tell them "no." So it's a problem that kind of takes care of itself. Real friends will stick around even after to enforce boundaries.
© 2017 Jorge Vamos