“I seem to attract people who act nice at first but turn out to be unreliable, two-faced, or self-centered. I want to know how to avoid fake friends who don’t respect me.”
People have different definitions of what a fake friend is. Most commonly, a fake friend is someone who is not interested in being a good friend to you. They may hang out with you because they feel like they have no better options. In some cases, they may even be using you in some way or another. Other times, they may care about you but don’t know how to be a good friend. Hanging out with fake friends usually leaves you feeling drained of energy rather than inspired and content.
How do you tell if a friend is fake or not? It’s not always easy to spot the signs. Some toxic people are so subtle in their behavior that it might be months or even years before you realize they aren’t genuine. In this guide, you’ll learn the warning signs of a fake friend.
Here are 25 questions you can ask yourself to determine if your friend is a true or fake friend.
I once had a “friend” who would call me almost daily to discuss his ideas and problems. I tried to be a good friend by listening to and giving feedback.
On some days, I also had something on my mind that I wanted to talk about, but there was never any space for me to speak. And if I did get to talk a little, he soon changed the topic and talked about himself again.
He wasn’t really interested in me or my life. I realized that he was a bad friend because I never got anything back in that relationship.
I don’t think he was a bad person, but our relationship was one-sided.
Fake friends are not interested in you. They’re only interested in themselves. They may use you as an audience or therapist.
Do they ask you many questions about your life, opinions, and feelings? Do you get to talk about your problems? Do they support you when things are rough? These are signs of a real friend.
Do they listen if you tell them something important about you or your life? Do they remember special events and dates that are significant for you?
Some people aren’t very good at asking questions. This doesn’t mean they don’t care. However, you should still get the general impression that they want to know you on a deeper level.
I remember when one of my friends started dating a new girl. He told me she was amazing, but her behaviors sometimes troubled him.
Then he told me that his girlfriend’s best friend was a big douchebag and that she regularly hung out with some sketchy people.
That got me thinking. Why would a good person hang out with bad people like that? Sure, we all make bad choices, and it can take time to figure out what someone is really like. But when someone’s best friend is a big douchebag, and they hang out with other bad people, those are BIG WARNING SIGNS.
So, if you don’t like your friend’s other friends, that’s a red flag.
My best friend once forgot about our date, and I was left alone in the middle of town. I called him, and he was extremely embarrassed and apologetic about it. He later made up for it by making a fantastic lunch for me.
A fake friend wouldn’t have cared. They might even have been annoyed or irritated by my reaction. Real friends make mistakes, but they own up to them and apologize.
An occasional white lie is OK. For example, most of us have said, “Thank you for dinner. It was delicious!” at some point, even when the food wasn’t very good. But if someone lies often or tells big lies, this doesn’t reflect well on their character.
It’s not easy to know if someone is lying to you. However, watching them with other people can give you some clues. If they lie to others or act insincere, they might do the same to you.
How do you feel when you are with your friends? How do you feel afterward? Do they do or say anything that affects your mood negatively?
Here’s how bad friends can make you feel:
- You feel bad about yourself
- You feel there’s something wrong with you
- You feel you’re not good enough
- You feel you need to change yourself to fit in with the group
- You feel ashamed of yourself
- You feel that your friends are taking pity on you by inviting you to spend time with them
- You feel that you can’t let your real personality shine through
Real friends lift you up and make you feel good about yourself.
Good friends can give constructive criticism when you need it, but they mostly support you and ensure you know how awesome you are when you achieve something.
A fake friend, however, is likelier to act like you are in some competition. When you bring up an accomplishment, they may bring up something impressive that they did or try to downplay your achievement.
Fake friends will expect a lot from you and get angry or irritated when you disappoint them.
Real friends have reasonable expectations of you, and they are understanding of your mistakes and flaws. They understand when and why you can’t or don’t want to do something.
Fake friends overstep your boundaries and make you do and accept things you don’t want.
Real friends respect you and your boundaries. And if they accidentally go too far, they apologize when you tell them how you feel.
I’ve also written an article you might like about how to be more respected by people.
Fake friends get envious and jealous when you do well, and they will probably try to put you down in those situations or minimize your achievements. Good friends will be happy for you when you do well and will help you out if they can.
I was once at a house party where most of us knew each other, but the “leader” of our group never really seemed to like me.
He often gave me backhanded compliments and was always critical of me. At this party, he started making fun of me in front of some girls. He tried to disguise it as a “joke.”
I even tried to play along by laughing with them.
I didn’t notice how mean he was until later, when one of my other friends told me that the situation made him uncomfortable. He said he didn’t think it was OK for the “leader” to behave like that. My friend then talked to our leader about it.
The fact that he stood up for me meant a lot. Even though nobody dared to say anything immediately, I could tell by my friend’s reaction that he was a true friend. It also made me see that our “leader” wasn’t a real friend.
Read more about how to deal with friends who don’t respect you.
Ever heard someone say, “I don’t like drama,” yet they seem to be surrounded by it? There’s a good chance they are the source of the problem.
If you are losing respect for a friend, this could be why. It’s hard to respect someone who keeps making trouble for themselves.
Fake friends are often dramatic. For example, they may announce that they are breaking up with a friend or partner but then change their mind. They tend to cause arguments and misunderstandings wherever they go. They also make a big deal of small things and don’t own up to their mistakes.
Real friends try to solve your differences and find a middle ground where you agree. They would rather have a calm discussion than throw a temper tantrum.
Fake friends often ask you for help. In time, they might ask you for bigger and bigger favors. Their requests are often borderline unreasonable, but you never get anything back.
Nobody can be expected to help you with everything, but real friends are ready to help you when you truly need it.
You can read more about friends who ask for help but never give back.
Are they mean when you are alone but act nice to you in front of other people? Or maybe it’s the other way around: they’re nice in a one-on-one conversation but mean toward you when you socialize as part of a group.
Fake friends act differently depending on who is around. This behavior is unacceptable. Real friends are consistent, not two-faced.
Fake friends talk shit and gossip about others with you. That’s a sign that they might gossip about you behind your back when you aren’t around to hear it.
Real friends mostly say good things about others and good things about you.
When I first got to know David (the founder of SocialSelf), I remember how he always greeted me with a big smile and a hug. I instantly felt great around him and wanted to spend more time with him.
When someone makes you feel good around them, that’s a sign they’re also a good person and a good friend.
Fake friends are often in a bad mood. They are irritable and like to vent a lot. Real friends also need to vent, but it should be balanced with positive, fun conversations.
Can you relax and be yourself around your friend? Or do you have to put on a mask and fake it to fit in? If you can’t be authentic around them, it might be time to stop keeping in touch with them.
Real friends allow you to be yourself because they accept you and like you for who you are. Fake friends don’t. If you need to fake interests or pretend to be someone else to make the friendship work, it’s not a true friendship.
Fake friends will tell your secrets to others because they don’t really care about you or respect your privacy.
Real friends can be trusted with your secrets. If someone has betrayed your trust more than once (and not apologized!), it might be time to rethink your relationship.
Fake friends will try to one-up you. For example, if you tell them you got a new phone, they will claim their phone is better or criticize your phone.
They act like this because they have an inferiority complex and must prove they’re better than everyone else.
Have you ever told someone you got offended or hurt, and they defended themselves with the classic line, “I was just joking” or, “You’re too sensitive, you should learn to take a joke”?
That means they’re not acknowledging their bad behavior, and they’re not apologizing. These are both signs of a bad friend. A good friend will not (regularly) brush your feelings off like that. They will try to make amends instead of making excuses.
People who gaslight you are one of the worst types of fake friends because they can make you feel crazy.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where someone tries to make you question your judgment. Here’s an example:
One day, Abby is using her boyfriend’s laptop. She sees some flirtatious messages between her boyfriend and her friend Sophie. Abby worries that they might be secretly seeing each other.
She confronts Sophie. Sophie denies that she has been flirting with Abby’s boyfriend. She tells Abby, “How could you possibly think I’d do that to you? You know I’m your best friend!”
This makes Abby confused. After all, why would Sophie lie? Abby starts to think, “Maybe I’m being paranoid here? Am I one of those overprotective girlfriends?”
Gaslighting is unacceptable in any relationship, whether romantic or platonic. It signals a complete lack of respect. Avoid people who manipulate you like this.
Fake friends will ignore you when they meet a new boyfriend or girlfriend. They may suddenly reappear when the relationship goes wrong and they want advice, or when it ends and they need someone to give them emotional support. Real friends make time for you even when they are caught up in an exciting new relationship.
Sometimes, fake friends try to get close to you because they want to take advantage of your connections.
For example, a fake friend might only act nice to you because they want to date one of your other friends or because you know someone who could help them land a new job.
Watch out for a friend who directly asks for introductions when you haven’t known them for very long. It’s normal to network with your friend’s friends, but be on guard if they seem more interested in meeting your social circle than spending time with you.
Fake friends try to get something from you by manipulating your emotions. This is called emotional blackmail.
For example, let’s say your friend wants to borrow your car one weekend. Unfortunately, they are a bad driver who has been in more than one accident. You aren’t comfortable lending them your car, and you politely tell them why. Your friend says, “If you were a real friend, you’d give me a chance.”
In this case, your friend would be emotionally blackmailing you by trying to make you feel guilty for saying “No.” Real friends don’t behave this way. When they hear “No,” they respect it.
25. Are they only around when things go well?
Does your friend seem happy to hang out when it’s a party or special event but disappear when you’re struggling or going through a hard time? A good friend will stick with you through good times and bad.
If you’ve assessed your friendship and find it lacking, what should you do about it? That depends on several factors, such as:
- How long you’ve been friends (and how much of that time was good)
- How important the friendship is to you
- How many good things are in the friendship compared to the bad
- Whether you feel your friend is well-meaning or not
Here are some things you can do if you find yourself with a friend you feel is not a real friend.
1. Assert yourself
Are you waiting for your friends to show you that they care, or are you taking initiative in your friendship?
For example, do you share things about your life or wait for your friends to ask? Do you try to organize activities that are important to you?
Changing dynamics in a friendship can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. You can start to speak up and express your needs, feelings, and interests. Sometimes, it only takes one person working on themselves in a relationship for things to start changing for the better.
You might find the following guide useful: what to do when your friends only talk about themselves.
2. Work on boundaries
People often find themselves doing more than they’re comfortable with and then feeling resentful when others don’t do the same.
For example, you may make an effort to pick up your phone and listen whenever your friend needs to vent, no matter what you’re doing at the time. Then, if you call them and they say they’re too busy to talk, you feel angry and upset that they’re not a true friend like you.
The solution here isn’t necessarily to stop being friends. Setting boundaries can help you feel more balanced in your friendships. You may decide to request that your friend ask if you’re in a good headspace before bringing up difficult topics or turn off your phone after a certain time at night.
Read our in-depth guide on setting boundaries for more on this important topic.
3. Bring up the issues that are bothering you
If you’re not sure if your friend cares about your friendship or not, you can try to talk to them about the things that bother you and see how they react. They may be unaware that they are acting in hurtful ways and are open to working on it.
We have a guide that can help you tell a friend they hurt you.
4. Decide how much you want to invest
Your friend may be great in many ways, keeping you on the fence about whether they’re a true friend or not. One possible explanation is that you have different expectations from friendship.
If you find yourself in a friendship that feels one-sided, ask yourself what you’re getting by giving more than you receive. You may decide that you would feel better in the friendship by spending less time together or reframing the way you see the relationship.
5. Distance yourself
If asserting yourself, setting boundaries, and communicating with your friend doesn’t work, making your fake friends less of a priority in your life is the next step. Stop reaching out to them. Instead, get comfortable spending time by yourself, and start working on making new friends.
How can you distance yourself if your fake friend keeps inviting you out? Read our article: how to tell someone you don’t want to hang out.
6. Reach out to new people
If you feel lonely, you’re more likely to feel dependent on someone, even if they’re not a good friend. By making more friends, you’ll be able to look at your friendships more objectively. It will then be easier to walk away from friendships that aren’t making you feel good.
We have several guides on making friends in specific situations (in high school, if you’re over 50, if you have social anxiety…), so have a look around.
7. Consider seeking professional support
Being surrounded by bad friends can be extremely draining and tough to deal with on your own. Just one bad friend can be too much to deal with on your own. A therapist can help you gain more clarity and also support you through any emotional fallout when dealing with bad, fake friends.
Seeing a therapist can be particularly helpful if you’ve found yourself with more than one fake friend during your life. A therapist can help you learn to assert your needs to create more fulfilling relationships. Your therapist can also help you recognize signs early on that a person isn’t capable of being a good friend.
We recommend BetterHelp for online therapy, since they offer unlimited messaging and a weekly session, and are cheaper than going to a therapist's office.
Their plans start at $64 per week. If you use this link, you get 20% off your first month at BetterHelp + a $50 coupon valid for any SocialSelf course: Click here to learn more about BetterHelp.
(To receive your $50 SocialSelf coupon, sign up with our link. Then, email BetterHelp’s order confirmation to us to receive your personal code. You can use this code for any of our courses.)
If you’re still unsure about your friendship, you might like to read this article about the signs of a toxic friendship.