7 Big Signs You Have A Toxic 'Mirage Friend'

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two friends in sunglasses smiling laughing
Self

Hello. My name is Rebecca, and I am a mirage friend.

What is a "mirage friend," you ask?

Allow me to tell you about these flaky, (possibly) toxic friends and the rude behavior their social anxiety disorder leads them to subject you to. Because frankly, I love telling people things.

A mirage friend is the kind of person you make plans with, but then cancels at the last minute, usually with an overused excuse — "Sorry, got caught up at work" or "Forgot I had to babysit tonight! I suck!"

I know, it's awful. Inexcusable, really. If I missed your party, I'm sorry. I have no excuse. If I said I would definitely come over to your place this weekend and didn't, I know. I'm the worst.

It's not that I don't like you, and it's not that I don't want to spend time with you. It's nothing personal, honestly. It's just the way I'm wired.

Because, like I said, I'm a mirage friend, and just like the form of an oasis spotted off in the distance by a man who is dying of thirst, I'm more likely than not to vanish right at the moment you were should I would finally come through, leaving you somewhat confused and a more than a little bit hurt.

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For those of you who are still confused, a mirage friend is the buddy in your life who is always excited and happy to see you... when they bother to show up at all.

Someone who is known not only for their winning personality, but for their uncanny proclivity for flaking out on plans with you at least fifty percent of the time.

According to an article in Cosmopolitan, "Dr. Katherine Hawley, Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews, Scotland explains that these types of friends 'sometimes feel free to treat close friends and family worse than not-so-close friends — [they] rely on close friends to forgive [them], to understand, to move on without feeling resentful.'"

You've probably called this friend a bunch of other names over the years, and no one could blame you for it.

You probably think of this friend as being unreliable, and you probably think this friend doesn't feel any real attachment to or empathy for you. You may even think of them as too fickle or insecure to admit that they just don't like you.

Shockingly, none of these things are likely true.

When you have a mirage friend, or if you are one, friends mean just as much as they do to other people. You're simply not wired to engage with them socially the way that the rest of the world expects you to.

If you think one of your pals is a "mirage friend" (or that you might even be one yourself), these 7 signs indicate a toxic friend who is nothing but an illusion.

1. They constantly cancel plans.

This is really the big-button sign that you're dealing with a mirage friend.

Every time the two of you make plans, you feel 90 percent sure that they will either cancel or reschedule the day, or even mere moments, before they're expected to get together with you.

They actually do want to hang out with you. They just can't help themselves.

Chances are you stand about 1/8 of a chance of seeing them any given time the two of you make plans, but for reasons that have absolutely nothing at all to with their thoughts or feelings about you in particular.

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2. They treat close friends worse than they do others.

When you're a mirage friend, you treat your closest friends and family members worse than you treat, say, casual acquaintances or co-workers.

A mirage friend is likely to go to happy hour with work colleagues but skip out on their bestie's housewarming party.

Why? Because they know that their bond with close friends and family is strong enough that it can survive this kind of social faux pas.

3. They rely on your bottomless well of forgiveness.

The kindness of strangers is literally what keeps them going.

While the social mirage friend might not act like they care about their relationships, the people in their lives do mean the world to them. They just don't do a good job of upholding their end of the deal.

It goes to follow that a mirage friend is more likely to spurn close friends because they know the depth of those relationships means the friend in question will always forgive them for their bad behavior.

Lame, right? But also (and I say this as a mirage friend), totally true! At this stage in my life, I just sort of depend on my closest friends to know who am I and how I operate, and not to take my flakiness as a reflection of my feeling's for them.

4. They self-identify as anxious.

Mirage friends can be divided into two categories: people who have anxiety, and people who just don't care. I shall now tackle the first one.

When you have social anxiety, following through on social commitments is a daunting, exhausting task.

The socially anxious long to connect with others, but find social gatherings exceptionally draining and stressful. They want to see you, but they prefer doing it during one-on-one time. It's just how us socially anxious folks are wired!

RELATED: 4 Hurtful Signs Your Friend Doesn't Respect You

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5. They are aloof.

The second type of mirage friend isn't socially anxious — they are terminally cool.

You know the type. That one friend you have who lets nothing and no one get to her.

She's always relaxed. She's always chill. And you have no idea if she actually even cares about being around you, because she doesn't seem to care much about anything. She shows up when she wants to, and even if she doesn't you're happy to be her friend either way.

The aloof friend is a mirage friend to the utter max.

6. They are impulsive.

Both types of mirage friends operate in the moment. They totally meant it when they said they would come out with you for your birthday, but that was two weeks ago.

If the aloof type wakes up not wanting to go to your party, they just aren't going to go. Not because of you, but because they straight-up don't feel like it.

Meanwhile, the socially anxious type will hem and haw and then finally pull the trigger on not going at the very last minute because they just can't handle the pressure of it all.

Neither is the type of person who plans to flake out. Flaking out just happens.

7. They are getting better, not worse.

The way we, the mirage friends in your life, live is geared toward us becoming more responsible as we get older, not less so.

To that end, the older your mirage friend gets, the more likely it is that they will either reform on their own (to a degree) or become more receptive to having a conversation with you about how their mirage-like ways are hurting your feelings and doing damage to your friendship.

Until then, bear with us. We do, honestly, love you.

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Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer and the Senior Editor of Pop Culture at Newsweek with a passion for lifestyle, geek news, and true crime.