24 Signs to Tell Fake Friends From Real Friends

“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.”

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 that they aren’t genuine. In this guide, you’ll learn the warning signs of a fake friend.

How do you avoid fake friends?

When you get to know someone, pay close attention to what they say, what they do, and how they make you feel. True friends are consistent and honest. Do not ignore warning signs such as lying, constant complaining, and gossiping. If you notice red flags early on, rethink the friendship.

Why do I attract jealous friends?

If this is a repeating pattern in your life, you might be saying or doing things that imply you are superior to those around you. This kind of behavior can trigger competitive feelings or envy in others. When someone needs support, do you offer empathy, or do you mainly talk about your achievements?

When should you stop being friends with someone?

Genuine friendships are based on mutual trust, disclosure, and affection.[1] When a friend takes more than they give or makes you feel bad about yourself, it may be time to end the friendship. You should also consider whether you can respect your friend. If not, it’s probably best to move on.

Here are 24 signs that a friend is fake:

1. How much do they talk about themselves?

I once had a “friend” who would call me almost every day to talk about his ideas and problems. I tried to be a good friend by listening to him and giving him 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 talk. 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.

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Here’s a guide on what to do if your friends only talk about themselves.

2. How interested are they in you?

Do they ask you a lot of 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.

If you tell them something important about you or your life, do they listen? 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.

3. What type of people do they hang out with?

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 douche bag 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 douche bag, 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.

4. Do they apologize and make up for their mistakes?

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.

5. Do they lie to you or others?

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.

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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 other people or act insincere, they might do the same to you.

6. How do they make you feel about yourself?

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?

If your situation is hard to read, describe it in the comments below, and I’ll help you out!

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.

7. Are they critical of your achievements?

Good friends can give constructive criticism when you need it, but mostly they just support you and make sure you know how awesome you are when you achieve something.

8. Do they understand your limitations?

Real friends understand when and why you can’t or don’t want to do something.

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.

9. Do they respect your boundaries?

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 written about how to get more respect here.

10. Are they supportive?

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.

11. Do they stand up for you?

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.

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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 dominating people and bullies here.

12. Is there always some sort of drama going on in their life?

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 both agree with each other. They would rather have a calm discussion than throw a temper tantrum.

13. Do they help you out when you need it?

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 here about friends who ask for help but never give back.

14. Do they act differently when around others?

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.

15. Do they speak badly of you behind your back?

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.

16. Do they seem happy to see you?

When I first got to know David (the founder of SocialPro), 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 need to vent too, but it should be balanced out with positive, fun conversations.

17. Can you be yourself around them?

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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, 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.

18. Can you trust them to keep a secret?

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.

19. Do they try to one-up you?

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 they will criticize your phone.

The reason they act like this is often because they have an inferiority complex and need to prove they’re better than everyone else.

20. Do they say, “It was just a joke”?

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 excuses.

21. Have they been gaslighting you?

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 own 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.

22. Do they drop off the radar when they start dating someone new?

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.

23. Are they using you to gain access to other people?

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.

24. Do they use emotional blackmail?

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.

Have you ever had any fake or bad friends? What were the signs? Are you getting rid of friends who drag you down? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and help others in a similar situation!

P.S. If you’re still unsure about your friendship, read about the signs of a toxic friendship here.

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Viktor is a Counselor specialized in interpersonal communication and relationships. He manages Socialpro’s scientific review board. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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