The internet can be a fairly hateful place, so would you ever actively put yourself up to be insulted by strangers online?
That’s exactly what users of the popular ‘Roast Me’ Reddit thread do, inviting users to “roast” them with their meanest comments and insults. The subreddit has more than 100,000 subscribers and many more posters, with almost a hundred people preparing for a roast every day.
Users are required to take a picture of themselves holding a sign saying “roast me” to indicate they are willingly volunteering, post it online, and prepare for the barrage of insults and abuse. Some claim to have been dared by friends; others are doing it ‘just for fun’.
Accompanying each photo is a tagline with some personal information or a plea from the poster. “Make me feel terrible please”, “Just got dumped; do your absolute worst” and “Make me more insecure than I already am” are just some of the taglines present.
Once invited, 'Roasters' certainly don't hold back. Their comments include, "You could put a second face on that forehead", "You'll never have sex in a position where someone can see your face" and "My gut says you're a female but I honestly can't tell" — and those are some of the more tasteful responses.
Hateful comments online are usually labelled as bullying, but the "Roast Me" guidelines claim "it's a comedy subreddit, not a hate subreddit." Joke or not, why on Earth would people willingly do it?
According to Blue Horizons psychologist Dr Yuliya Richard, people could be using it as a coping mechanism.
"We experience strong emotions such as anger and shame when we are insulted. Most people would avoid or at least not ask to be insulted, however, in some cases people use humour to help them to deal with an unfortunate situation — a major disappointment or relationship breakdown," she says.