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The first week of college: otherwise known as the scramble to make friends. Oftentimes friendships generate out of fear of being alone. This anxiety, though, sometimes leads to befriending people you really shouldn’t. The longer you maintain a relationship, regardless of its detrimental nature, the harder it is to escape. Here are some behaviors to watch out for when qualifying someone as a real or fake friend… before it’s too late.

 

Real: Goes the Extra Mile

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It was 3 AM and I had just broken up with my boyfriend. Despite the early hour, my friend managed to pick up my call and console my sobs. As expected, her wise words soothed me to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I was shocked to see her beside my bed with a warm Starbucks Peppermint Mocha. The coffee didn’t remedy my broken heart, but it showed the distance she’d go to make me happy.

People who surpass expectations are more than acquaintances. They value you enough to put in the effort to be awesome friends. Don’t always expect a free Starbucks waiting for you in the morning, but those who go out of their way to help you are people you need in your life.

 

Fake: Doesn’t Listen

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The unwritten friendship contract commits you to being part of a support network. In a new environment with new people, you should find those you can rely on and trust. It guides and keeps you emotionally sane through the confusion of college.

If people continually demand your attention to their problems, but do not reciprocate that behavior to yours, they don’t regard you as worth their effort. They use you out of convenience; you’re their emotional garbage can. Although it isn’t always fun to listen to others’ anguish, real friends take up that responsibility willingly.

I have a ‘friend’ who always texts me for advice in the form of crying emoticons whenever she has a life crisis. Once I’ve provided my 19-year-old wisdom, I reveal my own current struggles. I usually receive, “That sucks. I’m sorry.” Better than a “kk,” I guess. Let’s just say I no longer provide essays of assistance.

 

Real: Allows You to Be Yourself

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When you arrive to college, nobody knows or cares about your high school identity. You can become the better person you always wanted. And while self-improvement is healthy, never force reinvention. If you feel the need to transform yourself from a level 80, shiny Pokémon master to a muscled jock, you don’t belong.

Friendships thrive on similar senses of humor, values and interests. Find those, and you’ve got a friend. Not everyone is compatible, and that’s okay. It’s simply impossible to get along with everyone. Next time you force conversation with a potential friend, politely ditch him to train your Pokémon for the second round of the Elite Four.

 

Fake: Uses You as a Last Resort

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Summer fun only lasts so long. People leave and the crew of fifteen dwindles down to three. That’s when my ‘close friend’ breaks her month-long silence. Suddenly, she inundates me with requests to hang out and upsetting comments that I haven’t talked to her in “sooo long.” Should I assume my weekly texts weren’t ignored and simply disappeared into thin air? Definitely not.

I know she contacts me as a last resort. Everyone else is gone and suddenly I gain significance. You aren’t the last thought on a real friend’s mind. You’re a constant part of her life.

 

Real: Enjoys Silence

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There’s one way to pass the real friendship test: feeling comfortable enough for silence. When meeting a person for the first time, we usually feel inclined to fill silence with random comments because silence is awkward.

On the other hand, when you’re with someone whom you know well, you derive satisfaction from just being in each other’s presence. I spend most of my free time sitting in silence with my roommate. She watches movies and I plant crops as a farmer in Harvest Moon. We do our separate activities, but by being beside one another, we enjoy the silence of a bright laptop screen and the tapping of my Nintendo DS.

Differentiating between real and fake friends is simple. If you feel wanted, congratulations, you have a genuine friend. If you feel neglected and used, you need to stop allowing yourself to be manipulated. It’s hard to write people off when you developed relationships with them. But in the long run, having a mutual friendship is the healthiest option.

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