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Fake Friends: 26 Signs to Tell Apart People Who are Fake from the Good Ones

It’s hard when you realize someone you thought was your friend turns out to be a fake one. So, it’s important to spot the signs of friends who are fake. 

fake friends

Friends who are fake—everyone’s got one, and they’re as genuine as a three-dollar bill. The real question is, how do you spot fake people before they cost you more than a hefty emotional tax? It’s an issue that’s all too common but rarely discussed with the gravity it deserves.

Knowing how to identify a counterfeit friend can save you not just time, but also the emotional energy you might otherwise invest in a one-sided relationship. It’s not just about trust; it’s about emotional well-being.

Speaking of emotional well-being, ever heard of Social Comparison Theory? Basically, it’s a psychological concept that says we humans love to evaluate ourselves based on how we stack up to the people around us.

So if you’re keeping company with fake friends, guess what? You’re setting yourself up for some grade-A, self-inflicted emotional turmoil.

But don’t worry, we’ve got your back. We’re about to go on a psychological deep-dive to unmask those deceiving pals.

[Read: Am I a bad person? The truthful questions you need to ask yourself]

The Psychology Behind Fake Friends

Before we dive into the unmistakable signs of a fake friend *c’mon, admit it—you probably already have someone in mind*, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of what fuels fake people.

Understanding the psychological underpinnings of fake friends can arm you with the awareness needed to spot them, manage them, or kick them to the curb.

1. The Dark Triad: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy

First up in our psychological rogues’ gallery is the Dark Triad. Sounds like a villainous group from a comic book, doesn’t it? [Read: Dark triad personality: What it is and 25 signs & ways to deal with them]

But sorry, these characters are all too real. Studies have shown that individuals with these traits often engage in manipulative and exploitative behavior—essentially the bread and butter of a fake friend. Here’s a quick rundown:

Narcissism: Think of narcissists as the selfie-obsessed individuals of the friendship world. They love themselves so much that there’s little room to care for anyone else.

Your achievements? Barely a blip on their radar unless it makes them look good too. [Read: 73 red flag narcissism signs & traits of a narcissist to read them like a book]

Machiavellianism: These are your puppet masters, the friends who treat social situations like a chess game, always strategizing to use people for their own gains.

They have the gift of the gab but rarely mean what they say.

Psychopathy: Unlike movie portrayals, real-life psychopaths aren’t necessarily violent, but they do lack empathy and remorse.

These are the “friends” who’ll throw you under the bus without a second thought and won’t lose any sleep over it.

2. The Fuel of Fakeness: Insecurity

Now, let’s delve into something almost all of us can relate to: insecurity. While it’s perfectly normal to have insecurities *yes, even Beyoncé has bad days*, some people use their insecurity as a launchpad for fakeness.

According to psychological concepts like Attachment Styles, people with insecure attachments might:

a. Cling on to friendships out of fear of being alone (Anxious Attachment).

b. Keep everyone at arm’s length, afraid to get too close (Avoidant Attachment).

c. Use friendships as a way to validate their own worth, even if it means being fake (Disorganized Attachment).

The Subtle and Glaring Signs of a Fake Friend

Alright, now that we’ve waded through the psychological muck, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get practical.

You’re probably eager to know the signs of a fake friend, because let’s face it, ain’t nobody got time for fake people. So here’s the lowdown of the friendship apocalypse, if you will:

1. They’re Quicksand

We all love a supportive friend, but what about the ones whose support feels more like quicksand than solid ground?

You know the type—they’re all ears when you can help them network or if your successes make them look good.

But the moment you need emotional support? Crickets. It’s like trying to hold a conversation with a brick wall—unresponsive and cold.

2. The Human LinkedIn Profile

Ah yes, the Social Capitalist, forever working the room, even if it’s just a Zoom call with close pals. These fake friends see every social interaction as a networking opportunity, and if they can climb the social ladder by stepping on you, they won’t think twice.

You’re not a friend, you’re a rung on their never-ending quest to the top. Being a good friend is not about mutual growth, it’s about ‘What can you do for me?’ with these folks.

And that is not friendship; it’s opportunism. [Read: Is a friend using you? 40 signs & bold ways to confront & handle them]

3. They’re an Emotional Vampire

Let’s be real. We’ve all encountered friends who suck the energy out of a room faster than a Dyson in a dust storm.

Olivia Rodrigo put it perfectly in her song when she sang, “Bloodsucker, famefucker, bleedin’ me dry, like a goddamn vampire.” Emotional reciprocity? Never heard of her.

You could be having the worst day of your life, but they’ll still find a way to make it about their hangnail. Classic sign of a fake friend right there. [Read: Energy vampires – What makes one and 19 signs to spot them ASAP]

4. Meet the Croissant Friend

Why croissant, you ask? Because they’re flakey to the core. Plans with them are about as reliable as a paper umbrella in a thunderstorm.

They commit to hanging out but bail at the last minute with a vaguely apologetic text. It’s like playing friendship roulette—you never know when they’ll show up or cancel, leaving you to question why you keep rolling the dice. [Read: Flaky friend: what it means, 30 reasons why they flake & signs to ditch them]

5. They’re Often Envious of You

You achieve something amazing, and while others are cheering you on, this friend is as sour as a forgotten grape.

The reason? They’re envious of you, of course. Instead of being happy for your success, they subtly undermine it.

Friends who are fake have an uncanny ability to flip your wins into their pity party.

6. Talks About Others Behind Their Backs

Let’s be crystal clear: if they’re gossiping to you, they’re probably gossiping about you.

These fake people can’t keep secrets, and they love stirring the pot. They trade information like it’s currency, and your personal life might be up for auction next. [Read: Envious friends – 18 signs of envy and what makes them feel it]

7. The Guilt-Tripper

Some friends who are fake have a PhD in Guilt Tripping. Miss one coffee date, and you’re met with a sob story worthy of a soap opera.

Their emotional manipulation tactics are refined and honed to perfection, making you question your own sanity. [Read: 10 guiltfree ways to handle guilt trippers in your life]

8. The Underminer

Do you have a friend who always highlights your flaws while downplaying your achievements? Ding, ding, ding! You’ve got yourself a fake friend.

They revel in making you feel inferior, taking any opportunity to belittle your achievements and magnify your flaws.

9. The Master of Passive-Aggression

This type of fake friend serves up insults wrapped in a thin veneer of politeness. They have a passive-aggressive remark for every occasion, turning even the most straightforward conversations into a linguistic minefield.

Lines you might hear from them could include:

“You’re so brave to wear that outfit. I could never pull it off!”

“I wish I could be as laid-back as you about deadlines. It must be so relaxing!”

“You always have the most interesting viewpoints. They really make people think…a lot.”

“Oh, you’re hosting the get-together? Your place is so…cozy.” [Read: Backhanded compliments and the best ways to give it back to them]

10. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

One day they’re laughing with you, the next day they’re laughing at you. This sign of a fake friend takes unpredictability to the next level.

You’re always tiptoeing around their mood swings, never knowing which version of them you’ll encounter next.

11. The Dream Crusher

Fake friends excel in crushing your dreams with a sledgehammer of doubt. They don’t like to see you succeed, and so, they talk you out of good ideas like it’s their job.

If your friend is a constant naysayer, it might be time to say nay to their negativity.

12. Never Defends You

You know who you won’t see when you’re going through a tough time? This friend. Signs of a fake friend include standing back when you’re under attack.

Their silence in your time of need is deafening and speaks volumes about their loyalty—or lack thereof. [Read: 45 signs you have a bad friend and need to get rid of them immediately]

13. The Sorry-Not-Sorry Friend

If apologies were a game, these fake people would lose spectacularly. They’re masters of the non-apology apology, where they say the words but somehow make it your fault.

They don’t understand the word “sorry,” because they’ve never felt it.

14. Hates Being Called Out

Fake people get defensive—quickly. If you point out their wrongdoings, you become the subject of their next gossip session.

Instead of addressing their mistakes, they redirect the focus onto you, showing their true colors.

15. The Oathbreaker

Consider their promises as unreliable as a weather forecast for a month from today.

Fake friends have a habit of breaking promises so often that you wonder why they make them in the first place. [Read: 24 truthful signs your friend doesn’t care about you or respect you at all]

16. The Devil’s Advocate Who’s Always In Session

This friend loves to play devil’s advocate so much, you’d think they have a law degree from the University of Contrary Opinions.

“You liked that movie? Ugh, it was terrible. You hate olives? What’s wrong with you, they’re amazing!” Whether it’s your taste in music or your political stance, they seem to contradict you just for the fun of it—or maybe to keep themselves at the center of attention.

Sure, a healthy debate never hurt anyone, but with this friend, it’s less debate and more “I’ll take the opposite view, no matter what.”

It’s like you’re living in a perpetual episode of “Crossfire,” but without the ratings.

How to Deal with Fake Friends

So you’ve identified the fakes among your friend group and understood their impact on your life. The next step is crafting a game plan to handle these imposters. From setting boundaries to making authentic connections, let’s explore effective strategies for dealing with fake friends and building a more genuine social circle.

1. Cha-Cha Your Way to Emotional Safety

First off, you need to set emotional and psychological boundaries. Think of it as setting up a VIP section in your life, and fake friends are definitely not on the list.

Decide what you’re willing to tolerate and express those boundaries clearly. Remember, a fence doesn’t keep everyone out; it just ensures that the right people come in. [Read: 23 secrets to set personal boundaries & guide others to respect them]

2. Speak Your Truth, Sans Drama

Before you go all Rambo on them, consider the principles of Nonviolent Communication. Approach the situation with “I” statements, like, “I feel hurt when you cancel plans last minute.”

This way, you lay down your cards without flipping the table.

3. Use The Experience to Pinpoint Your Real Friends

The good news is that by having an experience with a fake friend, you’ll hold your genuine friends closer. This type of experience teaches you what is real and what isn’t. [Read: Codependent friendships – The bad signs and why it’s unhealthy for you]

4. Avoid Revenge

It’s easy to want revenge. You’ll feel hurt and humiliated and probably angry too. Remember, revenge won’t change anything, nor will it make you feel any better either.

Don’t go around posting cryptic things on your social media posts, clearly aimed at them, and don’t pass messages between mutual friends. Hold your head up high and simply let it go over your head.

5. Know That Fake Friends Affect Everyone at Some Point

Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed because you allowed a fake friend into your life. Know that this is a problem everyone faces at some point.

You’re an open and friendly person, so it stands to reason that there’s going to be the odd bad apple that slips through the net. But, now you know the signs of a fake friend, you can use that information to stop anyone from affecting you in this way again.

6. To Keep or Cut Off?

Sunk Cost Fallacy is necessary here—holding onto something just because you’ve invested time and energy into it.

When it comes to friends who are fake, ask yourself: Is this friendship enriching my life or depleting it? Sometimes, putting distance is the healthier option. No one needs expired milk in their fridge, right? [Read: Cut people out of your life: Why it’s hard, 35 signs & steps to unfriend them]

7. Get Your Friend-ventory Sorted

Here’s where Social Identity Theory comes in. We form friendships based on shared experiences and values. So, be intentional about who you spend time with. Participate in activities that align with your interests and values. You’re more likely to make authentic friends who are vibing on your frequency.

8. Seek Out Real Friends *Yes, They Exist!*

In friendship, as in life, you get what you give. This is the essence of Reciprocity. Authentic friendships are a two-way street, where both parties invest time, effort, and emotional currency.

Seek out friends who bring out the best in you and vice versa. [Read: True friendship: 37 real friend traits & what it takes to be a good, loyal one]

Be The Kind of Friend You Wish to Have

It might be a hard pill to swallow, realizing that a friend you’ve trusted turns out to be fake. But knowledge is power, and now you’re armed with the tools to make better judgments about who deserves a seat at your friendship table.

Remember, relationships are a two-way street; they require both giving and taking in equal measure. The bottom line? Be the kind of friend you wish to have. Because in the end, authenticity attracts authenticity.

[Read: 34 signs to know how and when to end a friendship that’s toxic and hurting you]

Our hope is that these insights equip you to navigate the often confusing landscape of friendships, enabling you to spot friends who are fake before they become emotional drainers.

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Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...