More and more I have come to understand that there are people in the world that are fake. I didn’t really understand this concept when I was younger, and I even feel I was vulnerable enough in my understanding of myself to be a fake person at times.
How can we define a “fake” person? If we really wanted a definition that truly represents the idea embodied here, I would suggest,”False Friend” or “Facade Relationship” or some combination wherein. It’s basically a person in your life that fakes having an understanding intimate relationship with you. In my opinion, this kind of person may have huge disagreements with you on values, principles, or opinions, but either agrees with you directly or ignores your disagreeable opinion to preserve homeostasis of your acquaintance. Calming and pleasant interaction is better then actual intimacy, conversation, and dialogue. For sake of this post, I will continue to use “Faker” or “Fake People/Persons” as my terminology, despite how limiting that may be.
My theory is that people act “Fake” by constructing empty but positive relationships with others, either out of necessity or for malicious self-interest – that is, to gain information, gain attention, save face, or to avoid actual investment in a friendship.
Fake People really get on my nerves. Something I really have tried to do in my own life is be true to who I am – especially if that means I have to stand up for my opposing opinion, or be seen as “eccentric” from what the majority of people believe. Fakeness, in my opinion, is equivalent to a severe cognitive dissonance and ultimately a denial of truth in yourself, and when I encounter fakeness I have a combination of annoyance and pity for someone acting differently then their inner monologue would have them be. Often times, my own tendency to be “me” has ruffed feathers too; I sometimes ask probing questions and talk about “uncomfortable” topics (religion, politics, why I can’t stand how much Americans care about sports over politics, etc.). I usually don’t have a problem talking about these things despite the public baggage they carry, since these are ideas I have thought about for some time, and concluded I feel strongly enough about them to stand with them. With Fake People, you often don’t get onto topics that rock the boat, and oftentimes get a grinning idiot who agrees or is silent while you explain your point of view.
I can’t stand this, but I do understand sometimes why it occurs. Relationships don’t form without some disagreement, some debate, and some laughter at another person’s expense. If we all blindly agreed with each other, there’s be no landmarks in our interactions, no shared oral history or how we got to know each other and respect each other varying points of view. Basically, a calm ocean is boring and forgettable – and there’s no value in a relationship that has no history or concerted effort from both parties to continue.
While all this sounds really nebulous and abstract, I made a point to iron out the creases of my theory and define a few characteristics that I feel outline fakeness. Now taken directly, these sound like very critical opinions of a seemingly endless spectrum of human meaning and behavior. I don’t wish to say,”These rules define fake people in your life 100% of the time,” but, I do feel they are a valuable starting point to being aware of other’s intent and actions. I am an optimist, and give others the benefit of the doubt; however, if I begin to see these characteristics appear multiple times over they are usually appearing for a reason.
Please, feel free to disagree or comment below on what you think about this, and we can begin a turbulent (but valuable!) dialogue of our own!
One thing that stands out to me as major indication of authenticity is what is done vs. what is said. Fake People who will make promises or commitments, with no real intention of actually following through with them. The payoff is they say they will help, provide, benefit you in some way and get a positive reaction from you in that moment. They never see the negative side of this, because they never act. When confronted with their lack of action or follow through, they usually try anything they can to appease you, promise more things they won’t deliver on, or have an excuse of some kind.
As with all of this, some people (authentic, genuine people) will have circumstances that ruin their plans – you can tell if they are genuine by how they react to plans being foiled. Genuine Friends will work twice as hard to follow through on what they promised if something goes wrong. A faker will flake out, as they don’t really have any kind of investment in having a relationship with you.
Relationships with others are give and take; you provide information and then hear information. We do this to gain insight from others, try out new ideas we have, share our opinions, and sometimes just to feel connection in the world. With false friends, this dynamic is one sided. Fake people suck up all your information, your vulnerable stories, your ideas, and sometimes even your deepest secrets and fears; however, offer nothing of the like in return. They may provide you with minimal insights into their life, or small morsels of intimacy, but it is not on the same level that you give to them.
They are not vulnerable! A fake person will not open up to you, because doing so could possibly reveal unhappy or uncomfortable truths or breaches in calm. If they truly opened up to you, there could be conflict, disagreement, or unpleasantness – the Kryptonite to the Faker’s Superficiality. Giving up information is not their goal anyways; most likely, they are taking what information you have to disseminate as gossip to others or simply trying to get on your good side by hearing you out. They may already have another in their life; a true friendship, where they have these needs of intimacy met.
As with intergalactic black holes, there is not much that can be done, except avoiding their gravitational pull by staying out of their orbit.
Authenticity of a relationship is challenged easily by retention; fake friends will not remember or recall the most detailed or important facts about you. This highlights one of the weak points of someone posing as a friend; it’s hard to fake interest and investment in a relationship. Glaring signs of in-authenticity spring forward after you get past the common small talk questions of,”How is work going?” or “What have you been up to?”. The dates, names, and details of your life when you arrive at that point later in the conversation shouldn’t have to be rehashed 4 times over in the last 4 meetings you have had with someone who truly knows and is invested in your life.
Along with the burden of memory that shows how true a person is as a friend, comes the deeper emotional understanding they tie to those events. Inappropriate responses to stories, anecdotes, or life occurrences should be sure signs that they aren’t reading you and are reading the words instead. Seeing as this is very vague, an example that comes to mind is explaining you have quit a job. As you begin to explain you left the job, but the job was actually a terrible workplace environment and your boss was horrible, so the quitting was a positive experience, but your companion reacts with the standard,”Oh no, I am sorry to hear that” they may not really understand, or care to understand what you are going through.
Some people don’t know how to handle a fake person when it is encountered; it can be very confusing to meet someone that on all appearances is sugary sweet, but doesn’t fallow through on their niceties, promises, or turns out to be talking maliciously behind your back. But… the surface (talking to them day to day) seems so calm and happy?
This pleasantness blanket is the tiring show that must always go on. We see this best today exemplified in social media, where curated accounts portray a powerful image of a user’s own perfect life, whatever perfection they envision for themselves. In the real world, perfection makes itself known through the editing out of negative interactions, sad occurrences, or anything resembling real human struggle. The neighbors, or the coworker that was just fired are completely worthy of gossip and ridicule, but while telling their own story it’s important to leave out anything that might break the facade. If a fake person is somewhat aware of what they present as a cheap show, they may sprinkle in a morsel of self doubt or emotion…”I agree, work sucks” a grab at populist outreach through feigned humility.
When all else fails, focus on discussing the weather.
My understanding of why some people don’t dive into a relationship and instead decide to “be fake”, may be out of necessity. The only two acceptable instances that come to mind are workplace relationships and distant family interactions. If there is someone you work with, who you just don’t get along with or agree with, confronting that person would be problematic for your employment. In this instance, staying fake for sake of keeping your workplace rosy makes some amount of sense.
The second option in which I would find it acceptable to be fake involves distant relatives or family. If I have a racist uncle I really can’t stand to listen to rant about minorities, it may be hard to confront this issue and risk being ostracized by the family.
Subsequently, I may be the rare opinion on this, but I believe families should be open and honest with each other, and fakeness within families can be excessively toxic and damaging over time, which I will explain more in the last bullet point. Take an example here, of Family 1: a family with brutal directness which bluntly discusses issues with each other, sometimes causing strife and conflict. This conflict goes in cycles though, where a problem bubbles under the surface until it reaches a breaking point, and voices are heard directly with no pleasantry garnish. As offensive as others may perceive Family 1, conflict builds shared experience and ultimately intimacy between those involved; wounds are cut open and then heal because they are voiced. In contrast, imagine if you will Family 2: riddled with false connection and superficial discussion or no in depth discussion. This second family will never hear problems and they will never be expressed to maintain a happy environment; and that vacuum of truth could easily derail Family 2 when real crisis and calamities occur. Any connection within an emotionally distant family is superficial and weak.
We can’t avoid conflict forever, and conflict between family should not be seen as an ultimately negative and avoidable monster. The strongest relationships weather storms instead of avoiding them.
Probably the most important characteristic about fake people, are how they degrade and damage your relationships with others. As someone who has been tricked by these false acquaintances and seen others confused when they encounter the same, I can attest to the hurt it causes. Usually, when a genuine person interacts with a fake one, the fake person continues on their way unfazed while the genuine person is adorned with thoughts of self doubt and self hate. “Why didn’t they follow through on their promise? Do they not like me? Was it something I said?” This is the beautiful flaw of people who pour their effort and time into others and receive no return on investment. Having been burned, I still believe it is worth it to be this “naive” person with hopes of others putting in as much as you, but not everyone that has been burned recovers for this.
If someone is putting on a facade for any other reason, I believe it to be malicious, unproductive, and unacceptable. A person that takes delight in keeping others at arm’s length emotionally only hurts themselves in the long run. Empathy and compassion are a muscle that must be exercised, and refusing to let others in only weakens your own ability to love and accept others. As an added detriment, going through life setting up false relationships drains your own life of value and worth. One of the greatest things that defines the human experience is our unique ability to share it with each other, and in so, gain the knowledge of hundreds of thousands of others around us. In this way, our ability to connect with others effectively and communicate gives us all additional years of experience, understanding, and appreciation for the world in which we exist. To turn our backs on the gift of others is both arrogant and wasteful.
So now, I humbly ask you, to disagree with me.