Social media users keep talking about how former U.S. first daughter Malia Obama needs new friends.

Pictures of Malia at parties or drinking alcohol keep leaking to the media and many are convinced one of her friends are responsible.

Some of her private social moments that managed to leak to the press include the picture of her standing ‘too close’ to a bong, then another where she attended a party with people playing beer pong and then the video of her captured smoking at the Lollapalooza festival. Most recently, Malia’s private Facebook messages found their way to those of us whom she was not addressing.

And which 'paparazzi' knew she would be out and about at a private pool drinking rosé. Yes, she has months to go before she is of a legal age to drink alcohol but who can say that they themselves waited until their appropriate birthdays?

READ MORE: I met some of my best friends on the internet 

Sure we don’t know how Malia’s personal life ends up being news, but if we can entertain for a second that we were in her shoes and someone in our social circle was betraying our friendship – how would we know?

When friendships end sometime there could've been tell-tale signs we could have acted on to minimise harm. But how do you know if you are in a toxic friendship?

We spoke to relationship counsellor Shelley Lewin about the importance of friendships and how to spot bad ones. As human beings, Shelley says we all need to have trusting relationships and we have a desire to connect so that we mean something to someone.

READ MORE: 7 stylish friendship duos like Sarah Langa and Melody Molale's that make us double tap twice on Instagram 

She says: “Connection is all about giving and receiving attention, acceptance and approval. Those are the three ingredients for connection and healthy relationships.”

She shares some behaviours to pay attention to that may give you a clue that your friend may not be a true friend.

Red flag #1

If your ‘friend’ is only nice to you when they want something and unkind when they don’t get it – this, according to Shelley, is toxic.

She says, “A true friend pays you attention, is accepting and offers approval of who you are.”

Red flag #2

According to Shelley, if you don’t feel free to be your true self when you are with your ‘friend’ then that’s a clue that the relationship may be questionable. “If you find yourself pretending to be someone you are not in order to gain their attention/approval/ acceptance, it is not a healthy relationship,” says Shelley. 

We also asked around and these are some red flags from real life experiences:

Red flag #3

Some friends have ghosting patterns, they just drop off the face of the Earth to spend time with their romantic partner or their other friends then expect to continue as normal when they pop your life every few weeks or months. Being left by a friend, like any other loved one, can be heartbreaking – especially when they are absent when you need them the most. 

READ MORE: It's time to have that awkward conversation with your friend who's a different race to you

Red flag #4

Friends who either downplay your milestones or just don’t comment at all when you do well, yet they have “advice” when things aren’t so good.

I end up only sharing achievements I’m excited about with my sisters because I know they’ll be genuinely happy for me. As a genuine friend, I shouldn’t have to feel the need to keep mum about my wins while I celebrate you wholeheartedly. The sky is infinite, so if we’re all reaching for the stars, best believe there’s space for all us to be there – comfortably so. Essentially, envy is a trait I have the least tolerance for, especially in friendships – it’s a very ugly emotion.
The biggest red flag I ignored for the longest time was how my friend never complimented me or congratulated my small wins. Even though I always celebrated her achievements like they were my own.

Red flag #5

Friends that gossip about you and don't keep your secrets private are no friends at all.

My ex friend would also gossip about me and couldn’t keep a secret. This girl would never defend or stand up for me in any situation. I realise now, she was secretly happy whenever I went through terrible experiences.

Shelley says if you don’t like how a friend is behaving, you should let them know.

"When someone is inconsistent and you never quite know what to expect  they are unpredictable and you sometimes get the mean version of them and sometimes the nice version, it is important to let them know that their behaviour is unacceptable. We need to teach people how to treat us," she adds.

Have you been in a toxic friendship and would like to share your story with us? Chat to us here.

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