‘Liking and Sharing’ the stigmatization of poverty and social welfare: Representations of poverty and welfare through Internet memes on social media

  • Kathy Dobson Carleton University
  • Irena Knezevic Carleton University
Keywords: Poverty, social welfare, memes, social media, stigmatization, viral


Internet memes play an important role in the reproduction, reinforcement and circulation of social stereotypes, including about those who live in poverty. Due to the vast reach and increasing popularity of various social media platforms, these memes can reach a potentially enormous audience; when an image goes ‘viral,’ its claims are made more powerful every time it is shared or reposted. In this paper we investigate the relationship between Internet memes and stereotypes about poverty by examining a set of memes that make claims about one particular aspect of poverty in North America – receipt of social assistance in the form of welfare cheques, medical coverage and food.

Author Biographies

Kathy Dobson, Carleton University
Kathy Dobson

Kathy is a Vanier Scholar with extensive experience as a journalist, and PhD candidate at Carleton University.

Irena Knezevic, Carleton University

Irena Knezevic

Irena is an assistant professor in communication, culture and health at Carleton University.