Glen Rock residents weigh in on social media


Photo Credit: Glen Rockers Facebook Page

Glen Rock High School Alum, John Lorenz, posted in Glen Rockers last November about freedom of expression as a teenager.

by Lilia Wood, Editor-in-Chief

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The Glen Rockers Facebook group is a virtual public forum for current and former Glen Rock residents to discuss topics of interest. The group has 3,112 members, which is more than one-fourth of Glen Rock’s current population. The age ranges from current high school students to senior citizens who are active on social media.

The users post in the group to promote local businesses, ask for recommendations, share photos of the town or for other purposes. The posts often turn into gossip that spreads throughout the rest of the town.

“I think the intention of the group is great. It does have a lot of benefits to our town and social media is always a great form of communication,” Jake Aboyoun, senior at Glen Rock High School, said. “However, I think the way people use the group is a little ridiculous. While some of the posts, comments, and arguments are pretty funny, they are just downright unnecessary.”

During the recent town elections, the newly elected mayor of Glen Rock, Mr. Bruce Packer, used Glen Rockers as a campaign strategy to share his thoughts and ideas on how to improve the town. His hope was that the community would learn about who he was and what his plans were.

Pictures of political lawn signs in front of borough hall and rumors about the candidates were posted with constant feedback from the rest of the community, which stirred controversy. Most responses were aggressive and offensive rather than informative.

“Personally, I thought that a lot of it was over the top unnecessary, but I respect the rights of people to post, and I exercised my right to ignore some of it,” Nanci Valente, Glen Rock resident for 17 years, said.

“I think they were interesting but many people were nasty,” Julie Maxwell Allen, a Glen Rock native, said.

For most local elections, the town only has about 30 percent of registered voters cast votes, but this election brought about 41% in Glen Rock. The comments in Glen Rockers reminded the community to vote whether the residents agreed with the posts or not.

The newly-elected mayor recently decided to not post in Glen Rockers anymore, but rather he has restricted all of his future posts to his own page to make it more convenient for people to find his posts.

Yet even after the election, Glen Rockers has continued to be a hub of conversation and controversy.

“The page also serves to highlight issues that are on people’s minds. It provides a forum for people to share their views and potentially debate their views,” Packer said. “As is true on all widely used social media sites, tensions do sometimes enter the picture.”

The description of the group explains the rules of the group and how to become a member. The explanation says that “this group requests comments to be civil,” but residents often have a loose interpretation of its meaning.

“Its power and efficacy is solely dependent on those who use it,” Valente said. “I’ve seen thousands of dollars raised for a family in need, and I’ve seen reputations of good citizens attacked by lies.  Overall, I think the ability of people to communicate in real-time about issues and events has been more positive than negative.”

For some, Glen Rockers helps in their fight for life.  

A 6-year-old Glen Rock boy, Dylan Canfield, has been fighting a battle with leukemia. Through the Glen Rockers group, a 5K and Kid Fun Run called “Superhero Dylan” was advertised to sponsor Canfield and his family. A Gofundme page for Canfield was also publicized in the group and more than $35,500 has been donated.

High school students, who are also in the Facebook group, are often watching the conversations that take place in the Closed Group, even if they don’t participate.  

“We can see everything they say about us and, half the time, the younger kids seem to be the ones who know what is actually going on,” Aboyoun said.

Some adults have considered the effects that the conversations have on younger readers.  

“I think, personally, it mainly is a bad experience with the fights and the name calling. There are positives but, as influences, the negativity rings louder,” Allen said.

Prior to New Year’s Eve, there was a conversation about teenagers using the Uber car service as transportation. It was said that using the taxi-like service is “setting up a different lifestyle to our already cellphone addicted spoiled kids.” Others, though, opined that it is a useful tool for young adults especially to avoid driving under the influence.

Adults, who were making assumptions about where, how, and why students wanted to call and pay for Ubers, enraged students who held other beliefs. According to students, they believed it was a choice that they had the right to make without being judged on social media by others.

Mayor Packer encourages students to learn from these conversations rather than solely emulating them.

“I think our students are intelligent enough to see certain behaviors that do not appeal to them and strive to not follow them and see other people that present themselves well and see that as a better path,” Packer said. “I know that there are cases where the behavior of the parents is somewhat embarrassing not only to other parents but to the kids.”

High school students are taught about the safety of social media and what to post online, yet they often watch adults criticize each other over the Internet.

“We have a right and responsibility to post with respect and kids can observe first hand the impact that different types of comments have on their family and community members,” Valente said.

To be added to the Facebook group, a member or one of the three administrators must approve the applicant. Some residents believe that the Facebook page should limit what people can say by censoring the posts. Others believe that censorship violates first amendment rights.

“I could support blocking people whose comments or posts don’t meet the criteria that the moderators have established, but, other than that, I would hesitate to ask moderators to censor,” Valente said.

“I like the group and I think the moderators do an excellent job of keeping on top of it. Everybody has a right to have their say and we can only hope that they are able to do it respectfully and intelligently,” Packer said.

High school students often only post in the group if they are promoting school event or are looking for part time jobs.

“The only types of posts I have contributed to the group were to publicize our shows here at school. This, in fact, is a big help to our ticket sales,” Aboyoun said.

There is also another Glen Rock Facebook group called “Glen Rock, NJ” that is also used as a platform to post information about the town.

One of the newest members of Glen Rockers is The Glen Echo, which publicized its Facebook page.