Skip to Content

What does roast mean in social media?

The term “roast” has become quite popular on social media in recent years. A roast refers to the act of mocking or humorously criticizing someone, often for comedic effect. Roasts can occur in various social settings, but are especially common on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. Users will “roast” celebrities, influencers, friends, or public figures by pointing out their flaws or making fun of things they do or say. While roasts may seem harsh on the surface, they are generally meant to be humorous and lighthearted in tone. Understanding the meaning and context of roasts can help social media users identify and properly interpret this trend when they encounter it online.

What Is the Definition of “Roast” in a Social Media Context?

In most dictionaries, the verb “to roast” is defined as cooking something over an open flame or in an oven. However, the definition has evolved and taken on a new informal meaning on social media platforms. On sites like Twitter and Instagram, a roast refers to mocking or humorously criticizing someone. Roasts often point out someone’s embarrassing flaws or mistakes in a comedic way. They can target celebrities, influencers, or even ordinary social media users. The tone is meant to be funny and sarcastic, not sincerely cruel or mean-spirited. The implication behind a roast is that the target should be able to take the joke and laugh at themselves. Prominent celebrities like Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian have been the subject of high-profile roasts on social media. But roasts can also happen between friends as good-natured teasing. When used appropriately, roasts add humor and become part of the culture and banter on social platforms.

Where Did the Term “Roast” Originate?

Roasting has long been a tradition in American comedy. Back in the 1960s, the New York Friars’ Club would hold celebrity roasts, where comedians would take turns poking fun at a star like Muhammad Ali or Bob Hope. These raunchy events served as early predecessors to today’s Comedy Central Roasts. The friendly insults were designed to honor and entertain the guest of honor. Dean Martin also hosted televised Celebrity Roasts in the 1970s featuring the era’s most famous stars. These programs introduced roasting to a wider American audience. While actual roasts still exist, the term is now more commonly used online. Social media has made roasting accessible to everyday people, not just professional comedians. Before Twitter or Facebook, you had to be a huge celebrity to be publicly roasted. But now anyone can be the target of a viral roast, whether they have 10 followers or 10 million. The modern social media roast carries on the spirit of humorous insults from those early Friars’ Club and Dean Martin roasts.

Examples of Roasts on Social Media

Roasts are ubiquitous on social platforms today. Here are just a few examples of roasts that went viral in recent years:

  • In 2015, Instagram user @sassyblackgirlll posted a meme making fun of Nicki Minaj’s provocative photo poses: “Did it hurt when you fell from the petty tree and hit every branch on the way down?” The roast highlighted the absurdity of Minaj’s styling in a humorous way.
  • A Twitter user roasted Kim Kardashian in 2019 after she posted photos posing inside her fridge, writing: “Girl we know you don’t even eat.” The tweet mocked how out-of-touch the celebrity’s posts can seem.
  • In 2020, TikTok users roasted celebrity couple Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith for oversharing about their relationship, creating memes and clips mocking them as out of touch.

These examples demonstrate how roasts poke fun at a target in a relatable, funny way that resonates with the social media audience. The best roasts often reflect issues or criticisms that people already think about a celebrity but wouldn’t say directly.

Why Do People Roast on Social Media?

There are a few key reasons roasting has become so popular online:

  • Entertainment: Well-crafted roasts are simply funny and entertaining for social media users. Roasts give people a chance to flex their comedic muscles.
  • Relatability: Users feel connected through laughing together at a celebrity’s or influencer’s silly mistakes and over-the-top behavior.
  • Feeling of comeuppance: Roasting scrutinizes those in power or positions of influence. People enjoy seeing big stars get taken down a notch.
  • Boredom: Roasts fill spare time and provide distraction or mindless entertainment for bored social media users.

In a media landscape saturated with polished celebrity images, roasts help humanize famous figures. The best roasts walk a fine line between funny and cruel. Social media users roast as a way to bond over finding flaws in popular culture.

Are All Roasts Good Natured?

While roasts are generally lighthearted, the tone can vary. Certain roasts cross the line from funny to offensive. There are inherent risks with mocking others online for humor.

Potential issues include:

  • Going too far with cruel jokes or touchy subject matter
  • Perpetuating harmful stereotypes about appearance, race, gender, etc.
  • Roasting non-public figures without their consent
  • Cyberbullying under the guise of humor

Roasts work best when the target is in on the joke. Public figures typically have teams to vet social media roasts in advance. But everyday people may be caught off guard. Social media users should carefully consider context before roasting someone online. Funny jokes that reference sensitive issues like disability, trauma, or race often backfire. While roasts can be harmless entertainment, they can easily cross into offensive territory.

Are Roasts Legal?

Roasts typically fall under fair use free speech protections in the United States when they:

  • Target public figures
  • Use humor, parody, or satire
  • Don’t include threats, hate speech, or direct insults
  • Aren’t outright defamatory or dangerously false

Viral memes that poke gentle fun at Kim Kardashian likely qualify as legal roasts. But roasts targeting private citizens with cruel personal attacks could potentially cross legal lines. Context like malicious intent and whether harm was directly caused by alleged defamation comes into play. In general, as long as a roast avoids specific threats or dangerous misinformation, sticks to humor, and focuses on public figures, it should be protected speech. However, high-profile celebrities sometimes do pursue legal action if a roast is too crude or offensive. Social media users should carefully consider their target and tone to avoid potential defamation issues when roasting online.

Best Practices for Roasting on Social Media

Here are some tips to roast responsibly on social platforms:

  • Obtain consent if roasting someone you know personally
  • Avoid jokes about trauma, disability, appearance, race, gender, etc.
  • Focus roasts on public figures who have platforms to defend themselves
  • Use humor and absurdism instead of outright insults
  • Consider whether a roast could be interpreted as cyberbullying
  • Make sure the target would find the joke funny themselves
  • Avoid profanity, threats, hate speech, and clear defamation

With the right target, thoughtful jokes, and tasteful boundaries, roasting can be a fun way to bond over humor online. Users should be mindful of context to avoid taking roasts too far.


In summary, a “roast” on social media refers to mocking or criticizing someone in a humorous way. Roasts target public figures like celebrities for entertainment and relatability. While roasts can be harmless fun, they also risk going too far and crossing into offensive or damaging territory. Social media users should thoughtfully consider context before publicly roasting others online. With tactful jokes focused on those with platforms to defend themselves, roasts can provide comedic relief and social bonding for the online community. But roasters must walk a fine line to avoid their jokes causing real harm. Understanding the background and nuances of roasts allows social media users to enjoy this online humor trend safely and responsibly.