Fake friends are people who pretend to care about you but don’t actually have your best interests at heart.

Also known as false friends or fair-weather friends, they tend to act like friends only when it benefits them.

Genuine friends can be a valuable source of emotional and practical support. In fact, research shows us that having good friends is linked to lower stress and better mental and physical health.

However, it can be tough to rely on a fake friend, because they may not show much support, empathy, or loyalty when you truly need it. “When you need something, they’re suddenly not that into it.

In this article, we explore the signs, causes, impact, and types of fake friends. We also ask the expert for some tips on how to deal with a fake friend.

How Can You Tell Who’s a Fake Friend?

These are some of the signs of a fake friend:

  • Inconsistency: Fake friends tend to be around when they need something, but not when you need something.  They may disappear or make excuses during your time of need.
  • One-sidedness: Your relationship with them may feel one-sided. For example, your conversations with them might revolve only around them, their life, and their opinions. They may not show much interest in what’s going on with you.
  • Unreliability: They may be unreliable and rarely keep their promises to you. You may find it difficult to count on them for anything. For instance, they may make plans with you and stand you up. Or, they may promise to help you with something and flake out at the last minute, leaving you stranded.
  • Betrayal: The person may not be loyal to you. They may share your confidences with others, talk badly about you behind your back, or even spread rumors about you.
  • Disrespect: They may dismiss, belittle, ridicule, or humiliate you in front of other people.
  • Hurtful behavior: They may negate you by saying or doing things that hurt you, but claim they were trying to help you. For instance, they may say: “You look bad in that outfit. I’m only being honest and trying to help you.”
  • Jealousy: They may feel threatened by your successes and accomplishments. Instead of celebrating your achievements, they may try to downplay them or compete with you.
  • Conditional friendship: Their friendship is often contingent on what they can gain from you, whether it’s social status, material possessions, monetary gain, or other types of benefits. Once they achieve their goal, their interest diminishes.
  • Manipulation: They might use guilt, manipulation, or emotional blackmail to get what they want from you.
  • Ignored boundaries: They may consistently overstep or disregard your boundaries, whether it’s your personal space, privacy, or emotional limits.

Fake friends take far more than they give, while promising they’re true friends. They may tell you how much they care, but they’re only really there for the fun parts of being a friend.

What Causes Someone to Be a Fake Friend?

These are some of the factors that might cause someone to be a fake friend:

  • Self-centeredness: A self-centered person who is primarily focused on their own needs and desires might use someone to fulfill their own goals without a thought for the other person’s well-being. Some people are brought up to think only of themselves.
  • Insecurity: People who struggle with low self-esteem or feelings of inadequacy might use fake friendships as a way to boost their own self-worth. They may seek attention and validation from others to feel better about themselves.
  • Narcissism: Someone with narcissistic tendencies may be a fake friend.  Narcissists tend to have an inflated sense of self, a marked lack of empathy for others, and a willingness to use others to achieve their goals.
  • Psychopathy: People with psychopathic tendencies may also be fake friends. Psychopathy is characterized by a lack of empathy, manipulative behavior, and a disregard for the rights and feelings of others.
  • Childhood trauma: Difficult experiences in childhood can also play a role. The person could have had a rough time as a child and never outgrown a survival mindset.

Regardless of the reason why the person is the way they are, it’s not your job to let yourself be used.

These Are the Different Types of Fake Friends

These are some of the types of fake friends:

  • The fair-weather friend: Fair-weather friends are there when times are good but are nowhere to be found when things are tough.
  • The opportunist: Opportunists are always looking for what they can get out of the relationship. They’ll be around when they need something from you, but they’ll disappear when you need help or support.
  • The flatterer: Flatterers shower you with compliments and praise, but their intentions are not genuine. They use flattery to manipulate you into doing things for them.
  • The competitor: Competitors view your accomplishments as a threat to themselves. They downplay your achievements, undermine your efforts, or try to one-up you to maintain a sense of superiority.
  • The gossip: Gossips are people who thrive on drama and rumors. They might spread lies or personal business about you, which can harm your reputation and relationships.
  • The user: Users exploit your kindness and generosity. They take advantage of your resources, whether it’s money, possessions, or favors, without genuine gratitude or reciprocation.
  • The validation seeker: Validation seekers need your attention, validation, and praise to boost their self-esteem. They don’t care about your well-being.
  • The energy vampire: Energy vampires prey on your energy, leaving you physically and emotionally drained.
  • The drama magnet: Drama magnets thrive on chaos and conflict. They create unnecessary drama in your life or involve you in their issues for their own entertainment.
  • The manipulator: Manipulators use guilt and manipulation to control you and get what they want.
  • The gaslighter: Gaslighters lie, deny things, and confuse you until you don’t know what’s real anymore.

How Fake Friendships Can Take a Toll on Us

Deceptive relationships can develop through no fault of your own. However, having a fake friend can affect you emotionally.

These are some of the emotions you may experience as a result of having a fake friend:

  • Disappointment: You may often find yourself feeling disappointed and let down when they don’t show up for you or do what they said they would.
  • Betrayal: You may find yourself feeling upset and betrayed if you find out they’ve been talking behind your back, sharing your personal information with others, or spreading rumors about you.
  • Anger and hurt: You may find yourself feeling angry and hurt by their comments and actions.
  • Self-doubt: Fake friends might gaslight you and make you doubt yourself until you can barely tell what’s real and what isn’t.
  • Low self-esteem: Fake friendships can cause you to question your worth and negatively impact your self-esteem.
  • Cynicism: Experiencing a fake friendship can make you cynical about the authenticity of other relationships. You might become wary of getting close to people and have difficulty believing in the sincerity of their intentions. You might struggle to open up and let others in for fear of being hurt again.
  • Trauma: Depending on how the relationship plays out, you might find yourself feeling traumatized. The emotional scars can linger long after the relationship has ended.

How to Deal With Fake Friends

Finding out someone is a fake friend is not easy. However, these are some strategies that can help you deal with them:

  • Trust your instincts: Listen to your gut. If something feels off about the friendship, don’t dismiss your intuition.
  • Let them know what you need:  Letting them know what you need from them. Give them a chance to show up for you. Don’t get your hopes up but pay attention to their words and actions.
  • Tell them what’s bothering you: If they fail to show up for you, confronting them and telling you what’s bothering you about their behavior is recommended. Be prepared for defensiveness or denial.
  • Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries with the person. Don’t help them or lend them anything unless things change.
  • Limit contact: Be willing to let them go if they disrespect you again. Understand that it’s OK to prioritize your happiness and well-being.
  • Seek support: Talk to trusted friends or family members about your feelings. If you’re having trouble coping with the impact of their actions, reach out to a mental healthcare provider for support.
  • Practice self-care: Practice self-care and do things you enjoy. Focus on things that make you feel good about yourself and your life.
  • Nurture supportive relationships: Nurture the relationships that bring you joy and happiness. Spend time with friends who genuinely care about you and show up for you.

How to Build Authentic Friendships

These are some strategies that can help you build authentic friendships:

  • Be yourself: Authentic friendships are based on genuine connections. Be true to yourself and let people get to know the real you.
  • Look for people with similar values: Connect with people who share your core values and beliefs. This forms a strong foundation for friendship.
  • Give it time:  let friendship build slowly. Don’t rush the process. Instead, allow the relationship to evolve naturally. Patterns of behavior usually emerge over time.
  • Make sure it’s a two-way street: Genuine friendships involve give-and-take. Make sure you’re not the only one contributing to the relationship.
  • Prioritize quality over quantity: Focus on building a few meaningful friendships based on trust and mutual support, rather than trying to amass a large number of acquaintances.
  • Be mindful of red flags: Look out for red flags such as excessive flattery, gossiping, manipulation, or consistently taking advantage of your kindness.