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Abstract

There is a limited academic scholarship that examines vulnerability in social media use for people who live in Ghana. This study examines 1) user motivation for social media use, 2) user vulnerabilities in the online environment and 3) user preparedness prior to entering the online environment. In Ghana, people rely on social media for communications to circumvent an expensive telecommunications system and interact with family and friends who have had to travel for education or business. This study uses qualitative methods to engage with Ghanaian citizens within social media platforms like WhatsApp, Viber and Imo to learn more about their reasons for using social media, as well as the concerns they have about using it. Findings indicate that participants rely on social media as a way of communicating with family and friends who have left home, as well as using it to create opportunities. However, participants are also concerned about being tricked online, and having their images or texts used inappropriately. They are also concerned about government tracking when using social media and worry about how all of these things could hurt them in the future, including embarrassment, regrets, and financial troubles. Most participants indicated that they have not had any training in using social media, but if they had they could have avoided many problems that they experienced online. Despite this, participants feel social media improves their quality of life and are encouraged to use social media because of the perceived advantages of the platforms. The paper recommends that continuous user training on appropriate use of social media could benefit and protect Ghanaian citizens.

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