Critical Communications: A Retrospective Look at the Use of Social Media among American Sierra Leoneans during the Ebola Outbreak

Abimbola Onigbanjo Williams, Jennifer Warren, Lauren Kurlander, Mafudia Suaray


This study explores perceptions of the role of social media in facilitating communication and information sharing between Sierra Leoneans in Sierra Leone and the United States during the Ebola outbreak. Using the model of identity-congruent communication as the conceptual framework, a series of focus groups revealed four major themes: social media source of information, topics of communicated information, implementation of communication strategies, and consequences of inaccurate or incomplete information. The use of WhatsApp was reported as the main source of communication with family and friends in Sierra Leone during the outbreak. Participants felt they received up-to-date information on deaths, outbreak updates, and conspiracy theory updates from the Ebola outbreak. Discussions on inaccurate and misleading information on Ebola prevention was common and fueled fear and created distrust in interpersonal relationships.


Communication, Ebola, Sierra Leone, Social Media, United States

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