EDITORIAL: Think twice before posting on Facebook

On Wednesday, The Des Moines Register published an article that focused on the online lives of some high-profile University of Iowa football players with legal problems.

The same article explored the Facebook presence of members of the ISU football team. The paper then outed two underage members of the team with an earth-shattering revelation: Some college students drink!

Starting punter Michael Brandtner, 20, and offensive lineman Doug Dedrick, also 20, both had public Facebook profiles that included photos of them with alcohol. What incriminated them has since disappeared.

We’re not going out on a limb when we say they’re not the only ones who could have been caught. In fact, we’re guessing that if we wanted, we could still find plenty of photo evidence of illegal activities online.

Fortunately, we couldn’t care less. That sentiment isn’t shared by the entire world.

We hate to be the guidance counselor, reminding students that what’s online is being read by potential employers and law enforcement officials. We hate to be the law professor conveying that you can be sued for what you put on your profile.

But apparently we never learn. So:

Students under 21: It’s unwise to have photos of you drinking on Facebook.

Athletes: It’s unwise to have photos of you doing something illegal on Facebook.

Students searching for jobs: It’s unwise to post photos of something illegal on Facebook.

Everyone else: It’s stupid to have evidence of yourself doing illegal things on Facebook.

People across the nation have gotten in trouble for what’s on their profiles. Students at Penn State were identified and prosecuted for rushing the football field because of photos on Facebook. Even at Iowa State, ISU Police used Shanda Munn’s Facebook and MySpace profiles in their investigation into Kelly Laughery’s hit-and-run death.

We’d love to return to the world without stalkerish mini-feeds, but that’s not reality anymore, and our futures could depend on our acting professionally in our online lives. It’s naive to think and act otherwise.