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How to Spot Fake Friends

I’ve had a lot of experiences with this… Friends who I thought were really good to me, then realizing… they’re not! That’s why when a friend of mine asked me, “Hey Ryan, how do you spot fake friends?” I decided it was time for me to write out everything that I’ve learned so far!

Having supportive friends is an essential part of living a happy and fulfilled life. Unfortunately, it’s not always the case. Sometimes people call themselves our friends but are really just using us for their own benefit.

Fake or deceptive friendships can be toxic and challenging to navigate. To help you identify these types of relationships, here’s a guide on how to spot fake friends so as to protect yourself from further heartbreak and disappointment.

At some point in your life, you WILL have fake friends!
At some point in your life, you WILL have fake friends!

Recognizing Characteristics Of Fake Friends

Fake friends often lack empathy and support, betray the trust and act dishonestly, communicate inconsistently with their actions, and demonstrate self-centered behavior. Let us dive deep and find out more. 

Lack Of Empathy And Support

It’s important to be aware of how your friends treat you and what kind of behavior is acceptable in a friendship. One key sign of fake friends is an absence or lack of empathy and support.

They may not offer you any comfort during times of adversity or appear indifferent when it comes to celebrating good news with you. You might find yourself feeling unsupported and alone rather than enveloped in the warmth and encouragement that genuine friendships ought to bring.

Fake friends may toy around with your emotions instead as they are consumed by selfishness, insecurity, jealousy, and envy; this can emotionally drain other people with whom they interact on a regular basis.

Betrayal And Dishonesty

Betrayal and dishonesty in friendships can be difficult for anyone to process. These actions are hurtful, leaving the individual feeling a range of emotions from confusion to anger.

Fake friends can often exhibit betrayal and dishonesty without thought or a sense of guilt, which makes it even harder to handle than if it was among genuine friends. It is important to be able to recognize these traits so we are not taken advantage of, and our trust violated.

Signs that someone may not truly be your friend include backstabbing you, spreading lies about you, being dishonest with conversations when they think it benefits them, such as omitting vital details that make them look bad and taking credit for your accomplishments.

Inconsistent Communication And Actions

Identifying fake friendships can be difficult as it’s not always easy to see the signs. One telltale sign of a toxic friendship is when someone displays inconsistent communication and actions.

This could include being distant or ghosting without explanation, changing their opinion quickly without notice and also avoiding commitment altogether. These behavior patterns quickly become normal in unhealthy relationships and may leave you feeling confused or emotionally drained due to the lack of security within your friendship.

Sometimes people might switch suddenly from being outgoing, open, and available to seemingly disconnected, cold, and distant. This should be taken as a red flag for a potential fake friend situation that needs addressing immediately.

Some friends aren't really "fake," just not very deep or interpersonal!
Some friends aren’t really “fake,” just not very deep or interpersonal!

Self-Centered Behavior

Self-centered behavior is a common characteristic of fake friends, which can include any kind of relational aggression, such as bullying, controlling, and manipulating others.

This type of behavior indicates that the person does not have genuine feelings toward you but instead seeks to meet their own needs first. Fake friends always need attention and may act entitled in order to get what they want from you.

They also lack empathy or support for your struggles, desires, and achievements. Signs of self-centeredness can range from constantly asking questions about themselves or rarely contributing anything personal to conversations.

See also: Questions to ask your friends

Signs Of Fake Friends

There are so many signs that can help you identify if the friendship is genuine or fake. Let us look into some of the common signs that can help identify fake friends.

They Only Reach Out When They Need Something

Fake friends only reach out when they need something from us, and that is a surefire sign of an unhealthy relationship. Fake friends will use their acquaintances to get ahead or benefit themselves in some way.

These types of relationships are superficial and one-sided, offering no real emotional support. They often talk behind our backs and don’t celebrate our achievements as true friendships should.

What’s more, these fake friends disappear when we need them most—they withdraw support and abandon us during difficult times.

See also: Most likely to questions for friends

They Talk Behind Your Back

Fake friends can be incredibly destructive when they talk behind your back. Such behavior degrades the trust between two people, and while it may seem harmless to them, it can have a detrimental effect on your emotional well-being.

It not only hurts to hear negative things being said about you, but it can damage your reputation in the long run.

One way to spot someone talking bad about you behind your back is by paying attention to how often they bring up difficulties that seemed solved or forgotten about beforehand – as if intentionally rekindling an old wound simply for gossip fodder.

Expert advice: Studies have shown that more friendships/relationships can often lead to more stress. They aren’t actually going to decrease your stress or anxiety.

Fake friends happen a lot more in girls
Fake friends happen a lot more in girls

They Don’t Celebrate Your Achievements

Fake friends can often be identified by their unwillingness to honor or celebrate your successes. Instead of taking pleasure in watching you succeed, fake friends may belittle your achievements and try to diminish them in some way.

It could look like an active effort to bring attention away from your accomplishments or a refusal to acknowledge them at all. This type of behavior is damaging because it reduces one’s self-esteem and does not encourage healthy relationships that foster growth.

Related: Important life lessons to learn

They Don’t Prioritize Your Well-Being

Having friends in our lives can bring a lot of joy and fulfillment. However, for those with fake or toxic friends, it can be their downfall. Fake friends often have a lack of empathy and loyalty, which ultimately results in them not prioritizing their well-being.

These types of friendships are characterized by one-sidedness and unaffectionate behavior within the relationship. For example, they may agree to hang out during happy times but disappear when they need emotional or practical support.

This betrayal can cause feelings of guilt, confusion, and loneliness, further damaging any sense of self-worth.

They’re Only There In Good Times

Fake friends are those who only stay around in the good times, happily accepting your gifts, presence, and support. However, when life takes a turn for the worse or you need their help to weather the storm, these friends can quickly disappear like an angel in disguise.

Recognizing that someone is using you as “emotional convenience” when needed and/or ignoring you during difficult times should alert you to this red flag signifying that person may not necessarily have your best interest at heart.

Having a friend like that can be damaging for a relationship as it leeches energy from your mental health and well-being. For that reason, it is important to take steps to protect yourself from these types of relationships.

Expert advice: Friendships and the degree of how many we have certainly lead to more social status, which can lead to more “wealth.” But it doesn’t always lead to more happiness.

Dealing With Fake Friends

By understanding the signs and characteristics of fake friends, we can take effective measures to effectively address the issue, set boundaries, and create more meaningful friendships.

Recognize And Acknowledge The Signs

It is important to be able to recognize and acknowledge the signs of fake friends in order to protect yourself from their manipulative or bullying behavior. Fake friends often lack empathy, fail to support you, are inconsistent in communicating with you, and make everything about themselves.

They take credit for your successes and forget all about you during difficult times. Other warning signs may include if they only reach out when they need something from you or talk behind your back, either negatively commenting on your life decisions or boasting that they know inside information other people don’t.

Not celebrating moments of significance, such as special occasions in a friend’s life, and not respecting personal boundaries even after being asked multiple times can also be an indication that someone isn’t actually a good friend.

Recognizing these signs early on and proactively acknowledging them will enable us to set clear boundaries with our ‘friends’ and prepare ourselves emotionally for any potential betrayal by having realistic expectations of their behavior towards us, which will ultimately save us heartache in the long run.

Expert advice: The role of friendships and loneliness is a complex one. Often, we think more friends will make us feel “less lonely,” when that’s not actually always the case!

Confront The Issue Assertively

For those experiencing fake friend behavior, the first step is to recognize it and acknowledge that something needs to be done about it. This can be challenging as people often try to rationalize the behavior or avoid addressing the issue.

In order for positive change to occur, a strong sense of self-worth and assertiveness is needed in order for one to confront their situation confidently and responsibly.

The most effective way of confronting fake friends is through direct communication and honest dialogue. Utilizing ‘I’ statements instead of blaming language helps focus on resolving the issue without escalating into conflict.

It also conveys to your fake friend that their actions have affected you negatively rather than presenting an accusation externally. This will help him to understand the issue at hand and also help him to realize and take steps to improve the relationship. 

Set Clear Boundaries

Setting and enforcing boundaries is one of the most important steps in dealing with a fake friend. Boundaries show respect for yourself and others, allow you to have control over your own behavior, and establish healthy relationships.

When someone ignores or disrespects your boundaries without cause, it might be a sign that they are not acting in good faith or don’t care about building an authentic connection.

Setting boundaries is key in any kind of relationship – it helps protect our privacy, shows respect for ourselves and others, and allows us to practice self-care. We must be aware not only of what we can give but also of when to say enough is enough so that we don’t get stuck in relationships or situations which may do more harm than good.

Surround Yourself With Positive And Supportive People

Connecting with the right people is key to having a healthy and meaningful life. Friends who are positive, encouraging and supportive can make a huge difference in terms of one’s well-being and overall outlook on life.

Being around such acquaintances often also helps to shield from toxic relationships, manipulation, negativity, and jealousy, which generally surrounds fake friends.

Having a supportive network of friends is an essential part of well-being. To find such people, it may be beneficial to seek out places where those with similar interests congregate and invest time in developing trust within the relationships formed. When done right, this will bring tremendous rewards that can help us through difficult times or celebrate our successes!

Focus On Building And Maintaining Genuine Friendships

In a world where social media and digital connections have become the norm, it’s increasingly important to be able to identify unhealthy relationships. Unfortunately, many of us find ourselves in situations surrounded by fake friends that are only there for superficial reasons or when they need something from us.

The key to genuine friendship is mutual trust and support – always make sure you can confide in your better half without fear of judgment or betrayal. Never leave out small details about your life because those too could impact if someone cares sincerely about you, not just what would benefit them.

Building relationships and strong networks require open communication. Don’t be afraid to express your thoughts, even if it takes time to feel comfortable doing so! Taking part in activities with positive people is a great way to form meaningful connections that will last over the long term.

Practice Self-Care

Taking care of oneself emotionally, mentally, and physically is essential when dealing with fake friends. It can seem easier to head in the other direction, but taking an active approach to self-care can help you stay strong, focused, and better able to navigate and manage these types of relationships.

More importantly, by taking charge of your emotional well-being, you will be more equipped to recognize a toxic relationship from one that offers mutual support and has long-term potential.

Reduce Contact Or Cut Ties

Cutting off toxic people, also known as fake friends, is difficult but necessary for maintaining good mental health and fostering genuine connections with others. Fake friends will leave you feeling emotionally drained and exhausted due to their constant lack of empathy and respect for your well-being or interests.

It’s important to take action by recognizing and acknowledging the signs of a potential fake friend before getting involved in a potentially unhealthy dynamic. Assess how often this person reaches out without wanting something from you or talks about topics that revolve around themselves rather than engaging in meaningful conversations with you.

If it seems like this person isn’t worth developing further trust in, then it could be time to reduce contact or even cut ties altogether instead of submitting yourself to the emotional fatigue that comes with dealing with such relationships.


Spotting fake friends can be difficult, but it is important to recognize their qualities and protect yourself from toxicity in relationships. 

It is important to identify first before confronting the issue assertively while setting clear boundaries between you two and, if necessary, even cutting relationship ties altogether.

Instead, you need to focus on building genuine friendships by surrounding yourself with positive people who offer meaningful support, as well as practicing self-care during this process.

Fact checked:
Board reviewed by Marianne Tomlinson, LCSW (Couples and Family Therapy). Content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Learn more.

About the author

Ryan Sanderson (LCSW) Ryan is a game and relationship enthusiast who enjoys all things quizzes, games, fun, love, relationships, and family. He's a licensed social worker and helps families, couples, and children in need. He's spoken about love and relationships on Salon.com, Forbes, and Mirror, to name a few.

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