It’s obviously funny to be a meme

Viewing, sharing, & creating memes for political entertainment & observation


  • Bingbing Zhang Pennsylvania State University
  • Sherice Gearhart Texas Tech University


political memes, uses & gratifications, political entertainment, political observation


Memes are cultural units that transmit among online users. Appearing as jokes, memes are a popular form of expression and appear to serve a greater role in the formation and spread of public opinion, changing the way citizens engage with politics. Driven by uses and gratifications theory, this work examines users’ motivations for viewing, sharing, and creating political memes. A nationwide survey (N = 1,000) of Facebook users identified unique gratifications obtained from political meme use. Results show the uses of politically-related memes are nuanced behaviors strategically done to fulfill needs for political entertainment and observation. Specifically, individuals with high political trust, who think of themselves as being humorous, and those who frequently share or create memes used them to observe politics in action. Alternatively, those who prefer to observe humorous circumstances and frequently share and view memes, without engaging in creation, used politically-related memes for entertainment. Practical and theoretical implications regarding use of memes for engagement and effects are discussed.


Author Biographies

Bingbing Zhang, Pennsylvania State University

Bingbing Zhang (M.A., Texas Tech University) currently is a doctoral student in Mass Communications at the Pennsylvania State University. Her research interests focus on media effects regarding how media messaes impact individuals’ beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. Using quantitative method, she looks at how humor and entertaining narratives impact people’s processing of information.

Sherice Gearhart, Texas Tech University

Sherice Gearhart (Ph.D., Texas Tech University) is an assistant professor in the Department of Public Relations in the College of Media and Communication at Texas Tech University. Her research interests include how audiences use media to form and express opinions, especially in online contexts.


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