We Need a PBS for Social Media

This article was in the ‘opinion’ section of nytimes.com, but I thought it was interesting. All social media outlets have the same basic model: Create a product that maximizes attention and gets users hooked, then collect as much data from possible from then in order to sell it. The author of the article, Mark Coatney argues that social media is toxic to children, racial relations, and essentially society itself. The pressure to impose regulations and breaking up big companies.

Coatney suggests that the problem can’t be solved by current for-profit media outlets and that we need to create non profit outlet that aims to create a less toxic environment online. 50 years ago when Lydon B. Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act, which allowed a portion of funds in order to create public television and radio that would be “responsive to the interests of people”. Why can’t this be done for social media? After all, the definition of “media” has changed a lot in the last 50 years.

The non profit social media application would be explicitly non commercial among other things, and it would collect minimal data from the user.

“An account on a public media platform would be tied to a real-world, local identity, like a driver’s license or library card. Anonymity online has real benefits, and a user name doesn’t have to be your real name” (Coatney, 2019).

There are certainly downfalls to Coatley’s idea, but he makes a great point throughout the article. Despite the massive amount of people that have existing social media accounts on for profit platforms, people might be happier and feel less stress and anxiety on a pbs-like social media platform.


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