Facebook provides a platform for West Milford voices in the midst of increasing political division

The rise in use and popularity of social media in recent years has allowed West Milford residents to communicate freely with one another, allowing them to share opinions and discuss current events. The multitude of changes brought on by this year’s many difficulties has sparked a lively debate on many social media platforms; Facebook specifically. The website allows users to confer about the topics that are most important to them. Recently, these topics have been heavily focused on politics, Covid-19 restrictions, and protests. 

On a local level, West Milford Residents are concerned first about events around town, the things that affect them most directly —  requests for cleaning services, restaurant recommendations, and grievances against cable companies are three common posts in WM specific forums. Although the broader national issues aren’t necessarily at the forefront of WM residents’ minds, the effects of these issues are ones that encompass the nation as a whole, including West Milford.  As global and national tensions rise, and these issues begin to affect more people, many have been vocal regarding their own thoughts and feelings. 

In an effort to make their voices heard, members of the Facebook groups “West Milford Residents Open Discussions” and “West Milford Friends” decided to reach out personally and share their own ideas on these hot-button topics. 

One issue that has certainly affected everybody is the Coronavirus pandemic, and the restrictions that have been put in place due to it. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has been under fire recently due to his perceived indecision regarding these limitations. The main argument against these harsh restrictions is that keeping the state closed is a strain on the economy. One resident explains, “Governor Murphy initially kept the curve down and was truly on point with his restrictions. As the months went by, there was a huge mistake that hurt small businesses. To say you will open restaurants, and then at the last minute change it, puts a huge amount of financial loss on the New Jersey community.” Closures due to Covid-19 have been a major hindrance to the success of small businesses, and many have gone under without any profit being made. They reiterate that, while they believe Murphy’s intentions were good, the results he was expecting weren’t realistic. “We know our current way of life is not sustainable. It’s impossible to say we have to go to herd health in politics. The truth is the virus is not leaving. We need to return to life and understand that we can only deal with the issues as they arise. There will be no cure and the vaccine is too far off to keep people from financial ruin,” they elaborate. The belief that the virus is far from over and that we need to return to normalcy is a popular one, and people around the world are questioning the sustainability of this isolated lifestyle.

Another resident sees the issue from a different angle, writing, “Corona restrictions… I’m still all for them and wish more people in this town would stop making it political and listen to science instead of the President’s nonsense.  Particularly with the colder weather approaching, when things will be more closed up, people won’t be able to dine outside, etc. If we don’t continue to be diligent with what needs to be done now, it’s only going to prolong the restrictions and hurt our local economy further. Too many people feel like they are exempt from the virus and the rules… I’m tired of hearing ignorant people say that they are over the virus.” While both residents in this discussion agree that the limitations have been harmful to the economy, there are two very different proposed solutions to this issue at play. One is to reopen New Jersey and the economy, and the other is to maintain restrictions in order to keep Coronavirus case numbers down before reopening. People appear to generally have one of these opinions, although, in such uncertain times, many have found it difficult to formulate a solid plan of action.

The discussion on school reopening has become increasingly more relevant in recent weeks. Parents and teachers alike are concerned over where students will be completing their education. At home? In-person? The decision has been left up in the air, and choices have slowly been made through a series of Board of Education meetings, the content of which has been closely monitored and criticized by the families of West Milford High School students. Similarly to Coronavirus, the issue of school reopening is one that seemingly necessitates an opinion from all involved. A resident shares his/her thoughts, “I have decided to homeschool my children. My children did not do well with virtual learning.” One of the most pressing concerns of parents is that students are experiencing the best education possible; with the switch to distance learning this past March, many believed that this education was compromised, and chose to look into alternative options for their children. She continues, “I understand that the schools are doing what is safe for everyone. It was just not the best learning environment.” A number of students have taken issue with educational changes decided by the state and district as of late. Completing their education from home has proven to be a major challenge to many; though other responses say otherwise. 

Some students thrive in this new environment and had few issues with school closures. A West Milford mother voices her appreciation for the new system. “Luckily my kids do fine with it, and I made career changes years ago so that I can work from home as much as needed.  I’m impressed with the amazing job that our teachers have done in evolving to an entirely new way of teaching.” She feels, as some others do, that this was ultimately the safer choice for the district to make. Decisions made by the state and district will be continually relevant as the months pass. North Jersey schools that have already closed in-person learning due to confirmed Covid cases include Passaic Valley, Mahwah, Dumont, and Lodi, among others.

In a world with increasing social, political, and environmental concerns, social media has become a useful tool to educate and discuss. Though some of these sites have become somewhat hostile and malicious, they provide spaces for humans to discuss and share their own experiences in an attempt to broaden the perspectives of others. As West Milford residents, it’s more important than ever to be educated on these issues before they affect us. It’s vital to ponder these questions: How do these issues affect you, and what can you do about it?