‘Roast Me’ is an online phenomenon on reddit started in the USA. People post photos of themselves and ask to be roasted by other users. It is promoted as being comedic, not hateful, yet the nastiest of roasts are rewarded by users voting them up and earning ‘karma’. If people don’t like the comment (or you), they can downvote your comment and you lose karma.
To post a picture asking to be roasted you need to be 16 and must be clearly holding the sign yourself. Users can post photos of anyone, as long as the person in the shot is holding a sign asking to be roasted. Photoshopped photos are rejected. 13 is the required age to participate in the subreddit and be able to roast others.
Opening a reddit account so I could check out Roast Me and find out more about it was my first move. I wanted to learn more about the rules and how the subreddit is moderated. I also wanted to gather some opinions from the larger Reddit community on Roast Me. AskReddit seemed like a good place to start. As the name suggests, it’s a subreddit specifically for asking the reddit community questions. I posted a simple question – ‘What does the community think of reddit’s Roast Me?’ I also wanted thoughts from the wider community. On Quora, (a question and answer site), I asked if people thought it was comedy or glorified bullying.
I then came back to Roast Me to have a better look around. ‘A primer to how we moderate this sub’ sounded like the right place to go. After the short blurb about the rules on posting a photo, was the comments section and my introduction to Roast Me content. This comment was posted by a moderator of the sub:-
“hat the f*** did you just f***ing say about me, you little bitch? I’ll have you know I graduated top of my class in the Navy Seals, and I’ve been involved in numerous secret raids on Al-Quaeda, and I have over 300 confirmed kills. I am trained in gorilla warfare and I’m the top sniper in the entire US armed forces. You are nothing to me but just another target. I will wipe you the f*** out with precision the likes of which has never been seen before on this Earth, mark my f***ing words.
You think you can get away with saying that shit to me over the Internet? Think again, f***er. As we speak I am contacting my secret network of spies across the USA and your IP is being traced right now so you better prepare for the storm, maggot. The storm that wipes out the pathetic little thing you call your life. You’re f***ing dead, kid.
I can be anywhere, anytime, and I can kill you in over seven hundred ways, and that’s just with my bare hands. Not only am I extensively trained in unarmed combat, but I have access to the entire arsenal of the United States Marine Corps and I will use it to its full extent to wipe your miserable ass off the face of the continent, you little shit. If only you could have known what unholy retribution your little “clever” comment was about to bring down upon you, maybe you would have held your f***ing tongue. But you couldn’t, you didn’t, and now you’re paying the price, you goddamn idiot. I will shit fury all over you and you will drown in it. You’re f***ing dead, kiddo.”
Wow! I was horrified, shocked and disgusted. What a sad representation of the human race. It made me wonder if our quest for stamping out bullying is even possible. I couldn’t see the humour in it. A moderator explained it to me: “This is a commonly known satirical copypasta, the comedy being in the vast overreaction to little or no provocation.” Because it is copypasta, easily found on Google I’m told, it’s acceptable, despite its content.
When asked how they differentiate between comedy and hate, this was the response from one of the moderators: “We work hard to combat ‘unfunny’ or simply mean roasts. The entire premise of the roasting is to do so as if you mean to make an audience laugh – you’re fat and you’re ugly don’t fly over there unless you can phrase it in a way that offers comedic value. For example, ‘you’re fat so kill yourself’ isn’t funny. However, ‘your lard could grease ever McDouble in America’ is a little better way of putting it in terms of comedy.” I think he means ‘every McDonalds’, not ‘ever McDouble’?
Copypasta or not, I cannot see any humour in the first comment. Other commenters didn’t realise it was copypasta either. One in particular who agreed it was sad, had their comment thread downvoted to the point it was collapsed. I also cannot see any humour in the ‘comedic’ way of writing “you’re fat so kill yourself.” I was told it was a generational thing, but thankfully many people, young and old, cannot see the humour either.
What does the community think of roast me? My question asked in AskReddit was taken over by the moderators, which is not allowed. Their comments were removed after I eventually thought to report them. Unfortunately they took over after only two legitimate responses, so it compromised my quest for opinions. But it did provide an insight into how the moderators think:-
“If you can’t handle strangers insulting you on the internet, it’s not the place for you. People post there because they can handle it. Hell, that’s why we have a rule there that says the people in the photo have to actually consent to being roasted with a sign, so we can be sure.
At the end of the day, everyone commenting is just another face behind a computer screen that you don’t know in real life. You can always put down your phone or walk away from your computer.”
I found this moderator’s second paragraph perfectly sums up the whole problematic and faulty thinking in regards to cyber-bullying. The justification that it’s okay because you don’t know them in real life. The thinking that they are no more than a face behind a screen. And sadly, instead of becoming kind and thoughtful humans, if they don’t like your words they can walk away. It is true, people can walk away. But that to me is just an excuse for people’s poor behaviour. Plus conveniently places blame on any hurt or upset caused on them because they didn’t walk away.
Another moderator said he thought it was actually a good experience for 16 year olds. A good way of determining if they could handle this sort of thing or not in a ‘safe physical environment’. The reasoning being that 16 year olds are adults and can drive a car. Which, yes they can, but not without a licensed adult next to them. And what about the 13 year olds who are allowed to roast others? What is the positive lesson in partaking for them? Not that I think there’s a positive in it for any age.
I was told that I should check out other similar subreddits called ‘Roast_Me’ and ‘HittableFaces’. They are apparently the hate subreddits. I did check them out – neither are hate reddits. They all state similar rules. Roast_Me actually requires its users to be 18. Comments are no more offensive on either HittableFaces or Roast_me.
I cannot understand why anyone would want to post a picture of themselves asking to be roasted in this way. But what is disappointing to see in so many of the users is that they don’t post pictures of themselves. Instead they always post pictures of others. I was looking at one profile in particular like this. One post had been rejected two days in a row. Firstly because the person in the photo wasn’t holding a sign. Secondly because in the title he stated his ‘friend’ was 15. Day three, the same photo was accepted, the age had just been changed to 16.
For such a brutal site, I don’t think anyone should be allowed to post a picture of anyone other than themselves. Just looking at some of these kids who haven’t posted their own pictures, it’s easy to see how they could be bullied into holding the sign. Against the rules, one school boy had his high school ID hanging around his neck. This was a boy who wasn’t posting the photo himself. There are so many like this, many that look underage and unhappy like the boy in my main image. Thanks to Google for the photos.
I’m relieved to say that Roast Me doesn’t seem to be big with teens in Australia. In my opinion it is glorified bullying. It is sad that young people are choosing to use such a platform where they invite such comments from strangers. Some get off fairly lightly – others cop the most horrible, hateful and insulting verbal abuse. The belief that it is okay to try and cripple others because they are behind a computer screen, needs to change.
After my experience on the site I found the moderators, who claim only thick skinned people use the site, to be very insecure about me asking basic, open-ended questions of the community. I had no idea of the reaction that would create, nor the trolling it would open me up to, not only on reddit! I closed my reddit account as all my questions and comments were downvoted, as was my website I had posted in a psychology subreddit. It discredits you having a negative rating. I had a -5 after only 6 days!
I don’t think it’s a safe environment for anyone, let alone 13 year olds. From the majority of comments over the site, it seems people are using it to vent and bully. I certainly felt bullied, and was told they would show up wherever I’m ‘spreading fallacies’. That was after only asking questions! I can cope with it, but how are kids supposed to?
One positive thing I will say is that they took up my suggestion and have provided contact numbers for mental health support services in case anyone discovers they can’t handle the comments. I feel that’s a huge win for such a site to acknowledge it’s content could be harmful, and provide these support contacts.