Warning: Radioactive Relationships

You know that awful feeling when you utter an overly friendly “hey!” to a friend in the hall and they look you up and down and keep walking. Not even an awkward, closed-mouth, soft smile was given in reply. You think to yourself, There is no way to recover, you might as well melt into the floor. Everyone just watched you get rejected; there goes your reputation. This unbearably uncomfortable situation may be one of the first red flags that you are in a toxic relationship with a fake friend.

Fake friends can often be two-faced and tend to act differently behind your back.
Katherine Haidvogel
Fake friends can often be two-faced and tend to act differently behind your back.

Now, just because someone didn’t say “hi” to you a couple times doesn’t make them an awful person or a fake friend by any means. I just mean that, this specific situation, if reoccurring, may be one example of someone ignoring you or separating themselves from your acquaintance. Especially as environments change (for example, going into a new grade or joining a new activity) and people try to adjust, they can end up changing themselves and changing the crowd they want to be associated with. This can lead to cutting people out.

To say that differently, high school can be crawling with fake friends. A fake friend is often called a “fair-weather friend,” someone who only wants to be friends with you when it’s convenient for them. Other fake friend symptoms are only wanting to be with you when no one else is around to see, only talking to you when they need something, being unreliable when you really need them and making you feel generally uncomfortable and unwanted.

Fake friends lower self-esteem and cause unneeded drama and stress. That’s why it is important to recognize and properly deal with these toxic relationships. So, here are some more specific signs of a fake friend: you’re in a group setting and they don’t speak to you, but when you are just one-on-one, everything is fine; you hesitate before telling them something you don’t want repeated; you feel the constant need to impress them; when you ask to hang out, they make you feel like you’re inconveniencing them. Now you are going down the deep, dark hole of overthinking every single thing you have done in the past dozen years, trying to figure out why they all of a sudden hate you. Stop.

Choose people who choose you. Sounds simple. Should be simple. But it isn’t always.

In the high school social ladder, (almost) everyone is desperate to climb up a step. This causes people to end up stepping on their old friends as they try to make new-and-improved ones. (Let me digress for a second to clear something up: there is nothing wrong with making new friends at all. But you just need to be careful that you aren’t blindly ditching old friends or making them feel insufficient by openly communicating with them). In reaction to being stepped on, people may desperately try to cling onto the friend who has been treating them so poorly.

So, if you are reading this now and a name is popping into your head, whether that be your name or someone else’s, remember that — and I hate to sound like your mom — it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter who your friends are or how many of them you have. All that matters is that they make you feel good and that you make them feel good as well.

If you find yourself feeling worse after being around a friend, then grab your gas mask and run away from their toxic vibes. I recall a cheesy, but actually accurate, line from some American Girl “growing up” book that said something like, “You should feel happy after being around a true friend. If yo

u don’t, they aren’t a true friend.” A relationship that negatively affects both people (remember, it takes two to tango) is a toxic relationship; it needs to be terminated or cured.

If you feel that you are not in a symbiotic (I’m busting out these freshman biology vocab words here, guys) relationship where both of you are lifting each other up to become better and happier people, then it’s time to think about solutions. First, think to yourself, is it worth it? If they have made it clear that they don’t want you…why should you want them? Whether your answer is positive or negative for various reasons, before you act on anything, have a conversation with them, in person, please. It is vital to make sure that you both are on the same page about where your friendship stands. And who knows? This little conversation could set things back on the right path now that you each are more aware of how your actions affect each other.

The bottom line is that the burden a fake friend can put on you can be overwhelming. You shouldn’t have to carry a bundle of insecurities and stress around the people who you should feel most comfortable with. So please, choose people who choose you.