ship named toxic friendship sinking

Toxic Friends Who Fly Under the Radar: A Complete Guide

By James Razko

Toxic friends are usually considered to be people who put you down, aren’t there for you, and bring drama to your life. However, there is another kind of toxic friendship that is hard to spot and in the long run will harm you just as much or more than the usual suspect. These kind of friends are poisoning you slowly over time.

In Toxicology, this is known as chronic toxicity. So, we will call these people chronic toxic friends or CTF– yup, it’s a mouthful. Unlike a classic frenemy, a chronic toxic friend often appears harmless, and you can like being around them too. However, Like any toxic friendship, these friends should also be avoided. Learning to identify and then removing these people from your life will help you and consequently, everyone else around you, be their best selves.

If you would like to jump to the 16 signs of a toxic relationship and the two-step guide to identifying toxic friends click here

Toxic Friend-Ships are dragging you down

Like a sinking ship, toxic friends will drag you and everyone around them down. To avoid their pull to the bottom, you must boldly leap away and swim to safety. Also, like a sinking ship, some toxic friends will take you to the bottom in a heart-wrenching flash, while others will remain undetected for some time, slowly dragging you down all the while. When your (friend) ship is going down like the Titanic, you will likely know to jump overboard. However, when your (friend) ship is slowly sinking, you may consider baling water for some time to keep you both afloat. While this often seems like a good idea, this is usually a mistake. Given enough time, these nice but toxic people will sink and bring you down too.

Whatever form your toxic friendship takes you should jump away and swim to safety before it’s too late.

The 150 People Who Make You, Who You Are

Before learning how to spot toxic friends, it will do some good to understand the limitations of our social brain.

A widely accepted theory known as Dunbar’s Number suggests that we can only really know, maintain, and have meaningful relations with about 150 people. (r) Notably, these 150 people are further limited by and include old friends, colleagues, or any person you would like to reacquaint with in the future.

150 Friends in the Age of Social Media

Today, Dunbar’s Number may seem shockingly small. Likewise, your social media friend lists have probably long surpassed this mental cap. And, When looking at your friend lists It may be tempting to believe that you can have many more friends than 150. However, this would be an error.

Yes, social media does allow us to keep track of and stay in touch with a lot of people. However, most of these relationships are incredibly shallow, and likely the only thing they have in common with a friend is the fact they are on a list Titled ‘friend.’ The truth is, to maintain meaningful relationships, you still need to invest time, and we haven’t developed a technology that can give us more.

The Good and the Bad of Digital Friends

One great thing about the internet is it allows us to connect with countless people across the globe. We can and often do build relationships with people we’ve never physically met. For example, if you are really into collecting rare Pokémon cards and can’t find anyone around you who still cares about Pikachu or Charizard. Well, there is someone across the web who does. That’s cool.

Also, you can feel connected to nearly anyone with an active social media account. And if used correctly, we can apply this technology to find role-models that may not be physically accessible otherwise. No longer limited by geography, these people can fill the voids left shamans and tribal leaders of yesteryear, and the best part is, you get to choose them. That is also cool.

Keep in Mind that no matter the medium you’re using to connect with people. You still need to invest time, that doesn’t change.

In short, when adding digital friends, it’s important to remember, that for every friend we make on the internet, we lose a friend seat from the 150 possible friends in real life. That translates to fewer friends we will have to touch and smell. And while trading some friend seats for digital friends who share your interests, or to gain a few role models is a good thing, close contact shouldn’t be underrated.

If you’re considering removing and or selecting new people to update your friend list, it will be useful to understand how your friends affect you.

How Friends Impact You

We have evolved to be highly social creatures, and this legacy has wired our brain to without conscious thought, incorporate friends habits into our daily lives. And, research for some time has been backing this up. Science is showing that the people you surround yourself with will influence all aspects of your day to day life including waistline, happiness, and sense of self. (r) In no small degree, your circle of 150 friends will make you who you are.

Consequently, our friends are like carefully placed dominos stacked around us. One falling domino can initiate a cascade of events affecting every other person in its way. For example, a 32-year study found that your chances of becoming obese will increase by 57% if you have a close friend who becomes obese. (r) Likewise, research suggests that your happiness depends on the people who surrounded you. (r) And, according to this same research, it’s not that people are associating with like-minded people either. Happiness really does spread from one friend to another like falling dominoes. And, the closer you are to that friend, the more likely you will be to fall over with them.

Given that close contact with friends will lead to inevitable changes in your life, you should be choosy when selecting and letting go of friends. And if a friend has developed an unfortunate habit, perhaps it’s time to let them go. And when choosing new friends, make sure they have habits you want to have.

Accepting and understanding that your social network will have huge impacts on your life is crucial to your wellbeing. To do this, you must learn to spot toxic friends and remove them from your life before they bring you down with them.

Chronic Toxic Friends and Sushi Grade Tuna.

Often we have friends who we like and appear benign, but there are toxic. These kind of toxic friends are poisoning us slowly with their bad habits. They are like delicious sushi grade tuna. Eat enough tuna, and the mercury content will poison you. And like the tuna, it can be easy to want to overlook this poison because we like them. However, with enough contact, you will eventually feel its toxic effects, and like heavy metal poisoning, you may have trouble identifying the source.

To live your best life and be who you want to be, you will want to avoid friends with bad habits, or at least (like tuna) consume them in moderation.

Listicle: 16 signs of a toxic friend.

16 signs you have a toxic friend.

Signs you have a chronically toxic friend (like sushi grade tuna):

  1. Doesn’t inspire you
  2. Lacks motivation
  3. Unhealthy Eating
  4. Doesn’t exercise
  5. Drinks to much
  6. Awkward or negative body language
  7. Trouble making friends
  8. Doesn’t meet deadlines or keep appointments

Signs of a frenemy

  1. Generally negative
  2. Brings drama
  3. Treats you bad
  4. Always talks about themselves
  5. Is jealous of you and others
  6. Needy
  7. Hypocritical
  8. Lies

Two Easy Steps to Identifying any Toxic Friendship

  1. First, determine what is important to you. For example, What are your core ethics and what kind of person do you want to be; who is your ideal self. Answering these questions should take you some time as most of us don’t do this often. I recommend writing your answers down.
  2. Second, evaluate “the crowd” that surrounds you. Are they in line with your ethics. Do they represent the kind of person you wish to be? Are they pushing you toward your desired self or away from it. If they are driving you away, they are the wrong crowd. Find friends who inspire you to be your best you.

Updating your real life friend list

When adding Friends, Seek people who inspire you and who have habits you would like to have. Be selective and don’t accept any person into it. Each person you add has the potential to uplift you or drag you down.

A simple rule of thumb should be that you admire your friends. If you select friends based on this rule, chances are they will help you be a better you. They will give you good habits and encourage you to be your best self. As a result, you will live longer and be more fulfilled.

How to go Go of a Friend

If your friend is in frenemy category, just cut off the relationship, without explanation. If you attempt to give this person a reason, they will likely lash out and try to convince you, you are wrong. For this reason, it’s best not to say anything. Stop answering texts, emails, and phone calls. Treat this with the seriousness, run away and save yourself.

If you have a chronic toxic friend and you suspect they will lash out, use the method above. However if you have considered them to be a good friend and believe they are a nice person, the best policy is, to be honest with them. Tell them that you are looking to better yourself and nicely explain why they are no good for you in this moment of your life. Try to make this more about you and less about them, because it is about you. Being honest may be hard, but in the end, it will help you and might help them too.


Ultimately The “crowd” you hang out with will influence all aspects of your life. For example, If your friends overeat, smoke or have bad habits, you probably will too. Cut toxic friends out of your life like a cancerous tumor. On the other hand, if your friends are up to great things, they will inspire you to be better, and their good habits will rub off on you. Seek to admire all of your friends.

You are the sum of your friends. Be picky when choosing them. It’s not snobbery. It’s self-preservation.

Compliment this read with: Book Summary, Atomic Habits by James Clear.