It is a truth universally acknowledged that we love to feel popular.

No matter how much we like to think that we don’t care about popularity, or that we’re somehow the exception to peer pressure and social insecurity. The reality is that some time or another we will inevitably feel unwanted, left out, and generally left with a bad case of FOMO. (That’s ‘fear of missing out’ to you and I).

Indeed, while we have moments in which we feel comfortable, settled and completely safe with our friends.

It can be uncomfortable to occasionally recognise that some individuals masquerading as friends actually don’t have your best interests at heart, or are in fact toxic to your pursuits.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Fake Friend, not the ‘frenemy’ or the ‘classmate whom you occasionally bitterly compete with for top score but still exchange notes with’. No, the fake friend is a whole other kettle of fish, because they sneak up on you and you often struggle to recognise them.

Here’s 12 tips on ways to spot a two-faced individual, and protect yourself from their manipulations.

1.Reflect on whether they encourage you to be ambitious, or whether they curtail your progress.

Think back to that time when you contemplated going for that promotion at work, or when you said you’d run a 10k for charity, or save for a new car. Did they support you and make you feel ready to go on a new journey? Or, did they discourage you because of their own insecurities or unwillingness to be ambitious?

2. They let you go on a night out alone and don’t check in that you’re taken care of.

You say that you fancy a rogue night out and despite initially agreeing to join you, they bail and let you go alone. That’s a huge no-no. We owe it to each other to ensure that we are safe and responsible when drinking. They will not hold your hair while you throw up, I’m telling you that now.

3. They have never sent a ‘text me when you’re home safe’ message in their life, and it shows.

This one is particularly petty, but also unforgivable. Maybe no-one ever sent them one. I wonder why.

4. They never respond to your facebook tags, which are, I assure you, hilarious.

This shows not only that they’re inattentive, but also that they don’t humour you. If you’re feeling like you’re not on the same page in these respects, it’s probably because you aren’t.

5. They dismiss your interests and make fun of things that are interesting to you.

As soon as you don’t feel comfortable to express your own (possibly embarrassing or less traditional) interests, that’s a game changer. Friends should support you, period. We don’t have time for people to be telling us how to be and making us ashamed of who we are.

6. They always let you pay.

Like, dude, we’re all in the same financial situation, why don’t you pull your weight and at least pretend that you value our friendship as much as your money. It very transparently indicates their mindset that they’re fine with hanging out with you, but they won’t give up anything on their side, or risk anything of theirs to do so. Do we smell a fault? Yes.

7. They encourage you to do foolish things, and then are mysteriously not around to pick up the pieces after you act on their advice.

For example, breaking up with your boyfriend, starting fights, encouraging you to call your ex on a night out… Do you sense a theme of social sabotage and disrupting the harmony? Possibly, they lack their own satisfactory social life and take it out on you. Or use you as a sounding board to experiment with all the things they’d never dare to do. Either way, it’s a no from me.

8. You don’t know much about them.

Where is their hometown? What are their parents called? What type of car do they have? What are their interests – once you start asking these questions it becomes clear that yours is something of a shallow friendship, but also – who ARE they?

9. They value their significant other far and away above your relationship.

I know Dave is a real looker, but he’s also pretty gormless and their on again off again relationship was old in 2012. Now it’s just pathetic. Nonetheless, be prepared for her to….

10. Constantly bail on plans.

A bad friend is a chronic social flaker. You can excuse it a few times, life happens. But it’s clear that this friend only makes provisional plans and then cancels when they find a better alternative. Lame.

11. They let you confide in them and then use that vulnerability against you.

Spreading malicious gossip to undermine the trust you place in your friendship to random strangers or people that don’t have your interest at heart. This inequality in communication can also be seen if they rant endlessly at you about their problems. But are never around or reliable for when the tables are turned. You sense, on reflection, that the very second you leave their company they will text someone else to complain about you. Snide is probably the least explicit word to describe them.

And finally, the biggest and most gapingly obvious tell that you have an underlying fake friend in your midst:

12. They never ask how you are!

That’s the kicker, particularly when you tell them about something that’s bothering you, or a social event you’re dreading, and they are never sufficiently engaged in your life to assist, support, or validate you. In short, for all that you would do for them, they simply wouldn’t do the same in return.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but once you step back, gain perspective and recognise these toxic traits, it’s that much easier to step away. You deserve better.

This also makes you appreciate your true friends all the more, and you can treasure them knowing that yours is a relationship based on giving and receiving, and mutual respect. In short, it’s the understanding that you can rely on each other.

Go and give those friends a call, because they will be invested enough in your life to ensure that a helpful, productive and calming conversation can be had to ground you and allow you to proceed accordingly.

To all you fake friends out there – you know exactly who you are, and I can only ask: ‘why?’