Back in the analog days, when friends were pretty much limited to people we actually knew IRL, hardly anyone’s friend count reached up into the thousands. Now, though, when “friends” is a term for anyone we’ve had even the most momentary, casual interaction with on Snapchat, Instagram, Discord, or Facebook — well, we’re all more popular than ever! So how come it doesn’t exactly feel that way? In fact, a 2019 poll by YouGov found that 27 percent of millennials feel they really don’t have any close friends, and 3 out of 10 report feeling lonely most of the time.
Whether social media is helping us to connect or disconnect, one thing’s for certain: a true friend is hard to find. But how can you tell which, if any, of your friends are real “keepers?” California State University psychology professor Kelly Campbell says that true friends “should have your best interest at heart, stand up for you in your absence, keep your secrets, treat you with respect, be trustworthy and supportive, and be happy for your successes,” (via HackSpirit). If your nearest and not-so-dearest fall short in these areas, then what you have is a “toxic friendship” you’re probably better off without.
Fake friends put you down
While your real friends see and appreciate all of your wonderful qualities, fake friends either won’t see them at all or may feel jealous and wish to drag you down to their level. A Conscious Rethink tells us that these put-downs may take the form of the not-so-gentle teasing of backhanded compliments — “Those jeans don’t make you look quite as fat as the cargo pants you wore yesterday” — or of the dreaded humble brag — “You’re so lucky you get to stay home on New Year’s Eve. I’d like nothing more than a quiet night in, but I have sooo many party invitations and I don’t want to let anyone down.”
Umm, yeah, thanks. In the latter instance, a real friend would either invite you along or stay in and split a bottle of champagne with you.
Fake friends are only around when they want to be
Fake friends tend to drop in and out of your life in a seemingly random fashion, but if you look at the pattern, it’s not really as random as all that. You’re sick in bed with the flu, or maybe just feeling a little down and lonely? Fake friend nowhere in sight.
You get a promotion at work and a bigger paycheck? Guess who’s on hand to help you celebrate? (As long as you’re buying, that is.) This is the type of friend who, if you’re the one trying to get in touch, is quite likely not to bother returning your calls or texts for days, weeks, or even months. If this “friend” contacts you, though, you can be pretty sure you’re about to be hit up for a donation or asked for a favor of some sort.
Fake friends only want to talk about themselves
If you’ve got a friend whose biography you can recite by heart, but you’re pretty sure they’d be hard put to name your favorite color or even know how you take your coffee… yup, fake friend alert. Fake friends tend to see you as an audience — since everybody knows, after all, that they’re the only ones whose lives are of any interest, why would they ever want to hear anything about you?
And should you ever have a problem, your empathy-impaired “friend” will only see this in terms of how it will affect them: “What do you mean, your mother’s funeral is going to prevent you from helping me move into my new apartment?” Heads up — Live Bold & Bloom describes this type of treatment at the hands of a self-absorbed friend as straight-up emotional abuse.
Fake friends say it's their way — or the highway
Fake friends only want to hear one opinion: their own. They brook no opposition, since all they really want are yes-men and women, or a mirror to reflect back to them exactly what they’ve already predetermined to be true. Should you disagree, expect your “friend” to argue relentlessly in an attempt to win you over to the “right” side — and, if you won’t be convinced, you may consider yourself no longer a friend.
You may also consider yourself to have had a lucky escape, since, as Hack Spirit describes it, a friendship where your opinions aren’t respected is “bad for your emotional and mental well-being.” If the friendship makes you feel bad about yourself, what’s the point?
How to deal with fake friends
Is any of this ringing a bell? An alarm bell, perhaps? If you suspect you may be dealing with a fake friend, you may need to try to limit the amount of time you spend with them, or at least the level of engagement you have.
Lower your expectations — you’re only going to be frustrated and disappointed if you expect that your friendly gestures will ever be appreciated, much less reciprocated. Try not to feel too bad about this, though. Remember, it’s not you, it’s them. In fact, it’s probably best if you can just end the friendship. Let them be someone else’s crappy friend while you go on to make the real friends you deserve.
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