Is it Okay to Help a Stranger on Instagram?

Published: August 01, 2015
Dear TeenHealthFX,

So yesterday on instagram I saw this 13 year old boy posting pictures of his calves and thighs and saying how people bullied him for being "fat". I was kind of shocked because he was actually very thin, and the way he talked seemed like he had body dismorphia--and i used to have that, so my heart just kind of melted and I started saying stuff to help him. Like stuff that had helped me get better. He also had anorexia he said. Just a few minutes ago he took a picture of his new thigh gap saying he was so surprised he actually had one because he's "so obese". He saw I was trying to help him so he direct messaged me a full body pic with the caption, " see? I can get rid of my fat ugly thighs." His thighs were perfect. He was thin and I told him if he went to my school girls would fight over him (true) and that maybe he just didn't luck out on his school and that's why people were bullying him. He thought that was funny and made some sense kind of. I just wanted to ask, is it okay to help a stranger on Instagram? he's a friend of my friend so he's not a complete stranger, but I asked my mom and she said it was bad. He's not lying about his age. I just wanted to help because I knew what he is going through. I sent him an article and he said he read it and stuff makes more sense. Why is this bad?

Dear Is it Okay to Help a Stranger on Instagram?,

Here is a little background on Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) for all our readers. The DSM-V defines BDD as a preoccupation with an imagined defect or an exaggerated distortion of a minimal or minor defect in physical appearance. The perceived appearance flaws can be about breast size, muscle size, facial flaws, hair, complexion, and more. To be considered a mental disorder, the preoccupation must cause the person significant distress or be associated with some kind of impairment in the person’s social, personal, or school/work life.


Distortions of body image can also occur with eating disorders, such as Anorexia Nervosa. Eating disorders are classified differently than BDD. A person who is concerned with appearance issues around weight that are connected to an eating disorder would not be diagnosed with BDD.


While every interaction on the internet has the potential to be “bad,” some common sense precautions can go a long way to avoiding potential dangerous situations. It seems like your mother might be reacting to the format in which the situation occurred rather than the deed itself. The fear is that you may be talking to someone who is not what they portrayed themselves to be. This is why it is critical that you do not give out any personal information, identifying information or agree to meet up with anyone you encountered online. Most teenagers are aware of the dangers of online predators but don’t have a clear understanding how manipulative they can be. They are experts at getting the other person to let their guard down and using information on the net, to gain the other person’s trust.


It must be deflating to do something that you felt was a good endeavor only to be told it wasn’t a good idea. Your actions show that you are a caring person and really wanted to help another person because you understood what he/she was struggling with. Your intentions and motivation were all in the right place and that says a lot about you. Since you are aware of this boy through friends, then you probably did not think it was a big deal to reach out to him. This is where you have to be careful. There is risk is that you will take on too much responsibility for his illness. Since he knows this gets your attention, you could be bombarded and overwhelmed with his issues, to the point it has a negative effect on you.


It is sad that you have to be cautious of someone, even though you have tried to help them. It is just a byproduct of the anonymity of the internet and its far reach. Most likely there is no underlying malice in your story but you can never be sure. That is why a keen awareness of internet safety is so important.





Signed: TeenHealthFX