Late last year, I realised I was feeling undervalued, used, and even disrespected by my friends, even though none of them had done anything specific to warrant those feelings. It was my own unmet expectations for constant calls, support, and appreciation that were causing this internal conflict.
However, at the time, I lacked awareness of this. So, I impulsively deleted phone numbers and decided I would not call, text, or chat with any of them. Surprisingly, most of them, unaware of all these, still reached out to check-in.
This was an enlightening experience for me because it revealed that most of my friends were genuine and cared. Additionally, I realized I was seeking the kind of attention, support, and care from friends that typically comes from a romantic partner. My unrealistic expectations made me think my friends were fake, whilst they were not.
So, don’t jump to the conclusion that your friends are fake. Instead, critically examine your friendship to see if it’s just you.
In this piece, I’ll be helping you with this analysis by drawing from different illustrations and personal experiences, and also give some advice I trust will help you tell if your friends are fake.
Who Is A Fake Friend?
It’s common knowledge moths get drawn to lightbulbs and open flames and that sometimes they get burnt (often repeatedly). We look at this and say to ourselves, “Can’t that poor insect see that the flame is bad for it?”.
But, can’t the same be said for us? Don’t we also get stuck with the wrong people, habits, and substances, yet don’t realise (or simply don’t mind) how bad it is until it has scorched us (badly and repeatedly!)? Don’t we often find ourselves choosing things and people that are not good for us?
That said, it is important to understand that fake friends are not necessarily toxic. And, friends who stopped being close aren’t necessarily fake. Sometimes, friendships wane, change, and fizzle out. And that is okay. You don’t have to keep trying to be close friends.
However, a fake friend is someone who acts like they care but doesn’t have a genuine interest in your well-being. They may not have even sought out the friendship in the first place and may have simply found themselves in your life through shared circumstances or mutual acquaintances. However, they fail to live up to the standards and ideals of a true friendship, which can include reciprocating effort, offering support, or being there for you in times of need!
From your perspective, it may feel like a betrayal, a deliberate act of exploitation or harm. However, just like moths drawn to a flame, the issue often isn’t the fake friend (likened to the flame) but your own poor discernment. You might have mistaken someone’s superficial charm (a beautiful face, a nice smile) for genuine friendship. Alternatively, personal factors like low self-esteem or loneliness might have pushed you towards someone incompatible with your needs.
This is not to say that there aren’t people who pretend to be friends with malicious intent. These individuals may intentionally put on a facade to exploit your weaknesses, much like a Venus flytrap uses its sweet scent and vibrant colours to lure unsuspecting flies before snapping shut once they land on its sticky petals.
Remember, even if it’s not your fault that you’re surrounded by fake friends, it’s still your responsibility to weed them out. And, that is exactly why you must evaluate your friendships from time to time.
But, before we talk about how you can evaluate your friendship, it is important that you first understand what fake friends might want from you.
What Do Fake Friends Want From You?
There is nothing wrong with investing your time, energy and resources to see that your friends flourish. However, fake friends often just stay friends for exactly those reasons and never really offer anything substantial in return.
Like insidious cancer cells, fake friends may appear harmless initially and may have been good to you in the past, but as time goes on they gradually transform and become harmful to you. Just as cancerous cells prioritise their growth over your well-being, the self-centred nature, or lack of genuine interest of fake friends may lead to several issues or disappointment the longer they stay with you.
Fake friends often keep, accept, or claim the title of friendship because they want;
Your social status or image:
- They may associate with you for your popularity, connections, or perceived success, boosting their own standing in social circles.
- They might enjoy bragging about your accomplishments to others, making themselves seem more impressive by association.
- On the flip side, they might enjoy having someone around who they consider less – rich, pretty, powerful, etc. – than themselves to boost their ego.
Your resources or network:
- They may be interested in using you as a stepping stone to meet new people and gain access to opportunities.
- They might see your money, skill set, knowledge, or sheer commitment as a valuable asset for their own personal or professional goals. And have no interest in helping you climb or grow.
Your emotional validation or support:
- They might be lonely or bored and simply be looking for someone to spend time with, without a genuine interest in you or your well-being.
- They might lack self-esteem and seek constant reassurance and admiration from others, using you as a source of validation.
- They might rely on you to listen to their problems and offer emotional support, without reciprocating the same for you.
Your entertaining nature or warmth:
- Some fake friends might be drawn to your personality or eccentricities because they find you entertaining.
- They might simply pose as friends because you share similar interests or space and they need your support or reassurance.
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How to Assess and Evaluate Your Friendships:
Pen and paper can be a valuable tool for introspection, so consider using them for this exercise. It can help you slow down, focus on your true emotions, and organise your thoughts. Remember, there’s no rush!
Take time to consider each of your individual friendships. Be honest and introspective as you reflect on your interactions. Think back to things that have been said and done, what you’ve heard, but most importantly, how you felt in those situations.
To evaluate the health and trueness of your friendship, here are some things to consider:
Consider your Emotional well-being:
Here are some prompts to guide you:
- Do you feel good after spending time with your friends? Do they uplift you, make you laugh, and support you emotionally? Or do they leave you feeling drained, criticized, or emotionally worse?
- Can you be your authentic self around them? Do you feel comfortable expressing your true feelings and opinions without fear of judgment?
- Do they respect your boundaries and emotional needs?
Consider your friend’s level of reciprocity and effort:
Here are some prompts to guide you:
- Do you feel the effort is balanced in the friendship? Do both of you initiate plans, reach out, and put in equal effort to maintain the connection? Is the energy matched?!
- Do they reciprocate your support and kindness? Are they there for you when you need them, and do they offer help and assistance in return?
- Do you think they are prioritising other people or things above you? Do you think their behaviour is justified – do you think it reflects that they respect and value you?
Consider how compatible you two are and if there are shared values:
Here are some prompts to guide you:
- Do you share similar values and interests? While complete agreement isn’t necessary, having some common ground is crucial.
- Do your values align? This doesn’t mean identical values, but do they generally align with your core beliefs and principles?
- Do you respect and appreciate each other’s differences? Or do you fight all the time?
Consider how you both communicate and resolve conflict:
Here are some prompts to guide you:
- Do you feel comfortable communicating openly and honestly with your friends? Can you express your concerns and feelings without fear of being judged or dismissed?
- Do you handle conflict constructively and respectfully? Can you work through disagreements without resorting to anger, manipulation, blame, violence, or destruction?
Consider how they impact your personal growth and development:
Here are some prompts to guide you:
- Do your friends challenge and encourage you to grow? Do they support your goals and aspirations?
- Do you feel you can learn and develop as a person around them?
- Do you feel like you can be yourself and express your individuality without them trying to change you?
Remember, evaluation is a continuous process. Your friendships may evolve, so it’s important to regularly check in with yourself and your needs.
And, trust your gut instinct. If after this assessment, the friendship feels unhealthy, it probably is.
How To Spot A Fake Friend
True friends are like a tall and sturdy oak tree – unwavering in their support, offering shade in times of need, and able to provide a better view when our circumstances cloud our judgment. But fake friends are like parasitic vines, draining energy and offering nothing in return.
You can tell a friend is fake if you notice;
They show up only when the times are good or they have something to benefit from:
Thanks to my parents and siblings, I’ve never really found myself in any serious predicament where I’ve observed friends deserting me. However, I’ve witnessed a friend’s friends desert her, and it was so annoying that it even left me frightened and reluctant to question if my own friends might do the same to me. I guess we’ll never find out.
During my time at university, some individuals only started trying to stick close to me when exams were approaching. They would attempt to be friends, but I often saw through the BS and distanced myself from them early on. Such people are not worth forming genuine friendships with.
True friends should be there when things are good and when all hell is breaking loose. If friends disappear at the first sign of inconvenience, embarrassment, or danger, perhaps they are false friends, and it’s time to reassess things.
The following are telltale signs of a fake friend;
They love talking only about themselves:
Ever been in a conversation with someone who always talks about themselves? Perhaps it’s about their wins or their problems. Whichever the case, it can be draining. It should be refreshing talking with real friends – and that is often achieved when you both learn to pass the ball – when you ask each other about yourselves and genuinely listen.
If a friend’s sense of self-importance is overshadowing any interest in your life, perhaps you need to rethink things.
They offer conditional support (at best):
I strive to be there for my friends. I’ve found myself in situations where I had to borrow money from siblings just to assist a friend in need. Additionally, I’ve witnessed friends who have gone out of their way to pull strings just to help me out of a tough spot. However, I’ve also encountered “friends” who won’t spare you a biscuit unless you promise something in return.
Even though reciprocity is a significant aspect of friendship, it doesn’t mean that the sheets must always be balanced. A friend who offers help with strings attached, expecting something in return, is not a true friend. They should extend help because they can, and should not feel betrayed if a friend they helped in the past doesn’t have the means to assist them when they are in need. It’s not a transaction.
They harm and sabotage you in different ways:
Forgiveness plays a significant role in friendship. For instance, when I misplaced my friend’s phone or when a trusted friend lost the money I had entrusted to them. Those were mistakes, and overlooking and forgiving is necessary in those instances to keep the friendship going.
However, it’s a different story, when someone deliberately takes actions to set you back or derail you, such as concealing crucial updates, committing certain “mistakes” repeatedly, or saying things to tarnish your reputation!
They are jealous and always try to compete with you:
Real friends always want to see their friends succeed and do not care if that would put their friends ahead of them. They willingly share opportunities, insights, tips, and resources just to see you win.
Many of my good friends have the habit of referring me to clients who need writing services, even when they are writers themselves. On my end, I also find resources, help them edit their work, and refer them when I find opportunities that are better suited for them.
But, a fake friend feels threatened by your successes, seeking to dim your light instead of celebrating it. Like a lion guarding its territory, they perceive your achievements as a challenge to their own.
How Do You Respond To Fake Friends?
One of my favourite quotes about friendship comes from Mitch Hedberg: “My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them.” At first glance, the statement amuses us by shedding light on the absurdity of tending to something that lacks life. We don’t usually water artificial plants, so the notion of someone doing so and then neglecting it is inherently humorous.
Yet, beyond the laughter, there’s a profound message within the quote. It highlights the significance of authenticity and sincerity in relationships. Just as watering fake plants involves pretence, many actions in our superficial connections are akin to such pretence.
In truth, if you have fake friends (comparable to fake plants), chances are your interactions with them lack authenticity. Your calls, hangouts, and conversations may feel forced or lacking in genuine enthusiasm (comparable to pretending to be watering).
The solution is simple: stop trying (i.e. pretending). Let that fake friend know you are no longer interested in the relationship (through your actions, and if necessary, your words)
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, even though many of my friends turned out to be genuine, I had to adjust my expectations and the amount of care and attention I gave to them. Those few who haven’t reached out until now, well, I don’t bother. I stopped being the friend who called every 3 to 6 months to remind them of my existence.
Your situation might be different. It might be how they keep borrowing money, asking for favours, or some other thing without ever reciprocating or caring how it might be affecting you!
Fake friends disappear when treated as such.
Conclusion: Quality Is Better Than Quantity When It Comes To Friends
You could garner a thousand likes from your “social media friends” and still feel extremely lonely. However, you may not even possess a social media account and yet feel blessed to have one trusted friend.
“Friendship is like wine; it gets better as it grows older.”
When it comes to friendship, quality trumps quantity.
So, ditch the fake friends and focus on the real.
Did you enjoy this piece or have some questions? Please let us know in the comments section.
Below are some other content you might find interesting;
- 23 Things Toxic Friends Do, and How To Cut Them Off
- Boundaries In Friendships: Why and How To Set Up and Enforce Healthy Boundaries.
- Sharing Secrets With Friends: Why, When, and How To Share Sensitive Information.
- 31 Ways To Strengthen Your Friendships (With Examples)
- See Finish: 7 Tips To Counter Contempt Through Familiarity And Maintain Respect In Your Relationships
I enjoy writing long-form SEO content for self-help and personal development blogs. I can also do simple graphics design and copywriting. I’m an author, coach, logician, introvert, and storyteller. I love simplicity.