Opinion: Toxic friends are preventing you from taking full advantage of your college experience

Signs that you have an emotionally manipulative friend in your life

Opinion: Toxic friends are preventing you from taking full advantage of your college experience

Toxic friends are an unfortunate part of the college experience. Most friendships should be supportive, leaving a person feeling uplifted and excited for the future, but bad friendships can be draining. Being too close to people who try to keep all the attention on themselves or never accept blame for their mistakes will only take a toll on your mental and emotional health. Here are five signs to look out for when assessing if your friendships are healthy or not.  

1. Criticism

A toxic friend always brings up that you can be doing better. It goes beyond wanting you to do your best, but it can cross major boundaries. 

“I had a friend who always said things like, ‘You’re a pushover and you need to work on not letting people walk all over you,’” sophomore Esther Shapiro said. “They point out things that I have already recognized. It’s constantly ‘you are doing this’ and focusing on my flaws.”

2. “Me, me, me”

Another common trait of a toxic friend is that they only seem to want to talk about themselves. Conversations with these friends tend to be more one-sided, talking about how their day was, who they are interested in or what their plans are for the weekend. They seem to completely ignore your needs in a conversation and fail to acknowledge social cues. You may try to tell them about a problem of yours, but they will either ignore it all together or only acknowledge it long enough to bring the conversation back to themselves. 

3. The pity party

Emotionally manipulative friends constantly project the feeling that the world is against them. Either their friends cannot give them enough attention or they are always doing something wrong. They might complain that their parents were not good enough to them growing up or that society does not want them to succeed. They feel like the world is out to get them, but rather than accepting any accountability or coming up with a solution, these “friends” have an excuse for everything and never own up to their mistakes, staying in this endless cycle of self-pity.

“This person would text me every day complaining about the person they liked,” said sophomore Camille Bara. “They would never listen to my advice or do anything to change the results of their situation.”

4. Unnecessary drama

Everyone has a little drama, but with a toxic friend, drama is a driving point in their lives. To the toxic person, the stranger who asked them for directions was madly flirting with them. They swear their boss screamed at them when in reality, their boss raised their voice. They make it seem like everyone hates them and  everyone is jealous of them. 

At first, the friend’s drama could seem exciting. Their trouble is a fun distraction to the bores of homework, internships and TDR food. At some point, their stories all begin to sound the same and you find yourself drained by the theatrical nature of this friend. 

5. Are you becoming a toxic friend?

Admitting that a friend or partner could be manipulative is hard, but admitting that you are adopting the same traits is even harder. Being close to such a person is exhausting. It leaves you feeling depressed, low and oftentimes spiraling over whatever is occurring. You may find yourself recreating the same toxic traits in other relationships. It could be a lack of patience, obsessively talking about your own issues or never acknowledging those around you.

Reflecting enough to realize that you possess these traits is difficult, but knowing the signs and acknowledging your own flaws is a part of moving on. 

Mending toxic friendships

Toxic friends are not always inherently bad individuals. Some lack the self-awareness or emotional coping skills that most are taught at a young age, while others simply enjoy bringing those around them down to make themselves feel better. While every situation is different, creating firm boundaries with these individuals is the first step. This could mean setting time limits the next time they call, sitting them down for a conversation that the friendship needs to change or distancing altogether. 

On a small campus like AU where everyone is connected, it is easy to look past toxic friendships to avoid drama. On the other hand, the small student body might make it that much more difficult to separate yourself from individuals that have a negative impact on your mental and emotional health. Maybe even more commonly, an unhealthy friendship can be hard to end when the friendship brings frat party invites, a meal swipe to TDR or internship connections.

At the end of the day, the question each student must ask themselves is this: is it more important to keep a toxic friend around, or is it more important to stay true to your values and surround yourself with supportive friends? 

Relationships of all sorts have ups and downs, times where one party may need extra support. However, if a relationship as a whole is leaving you feeling drained, then more likely than not, your friendship is toxic. Take some time to reflect next time you leave a friend feeling exhausted and ask yourself if this is a relationship worth the stress and drama that it brings. 

As we prepare for spring, we must ask ourselves whether there are any friendships or relationships in our lives in need of spring cleaning. Before we buy that nice blanket to lay out on the quad for a spring picnic, keep in mind the people we want to bring.

Costa Beavin is a junior in the School of Communication and a columnist for The Eagle. 


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