What Happens in Facebook Doesn’t Stay in Facebook


I’ve mentioned more than once that young people who play behind the Facebook walls should proceed (and post) with caution, since things said in the faux-safety of that place of a thousand friends can come back to haunt you.  Here’s an object lesson on that topic.

Meet Lucas Caparelli, until recently a running back for my alma mater, Wake Forest.  Lucas is described by college sports site Scout as having break away speed and vision. “Gritty player that just loves to compete. Athleticism and competitive drive could carry him far at the next level.”  The Deacons were thrilled to sign Lucas, who was also recruited by Maryland, Pitt, Virginia and Virginia Tech, among others.

Lucas arrived at Wake Forest at the beginning of the golden era of WFU football under the guidance of wonder-coach Jim Grobe.  The Demon Deacons won the Atlantic Coast Conference and played in the Orange Bowl last year and won nine games including the Meineke Car Care Bowl this year.  Things are good for WFU football (they are not so good for WFU basketball, but that’s a topic for another day).

Lucas has, or had, a Facebook page.  At some point, he apparently wrote on his Facebook page, that he was going to “blow up the campus.”  He also wrote, according to published reports, a post in Facebook’s trademark third person saying “for those left standing he will have an Uzi locked and loaded in his bag.”  After another student saw the Facebook posting and, quite correctly, notified authorities, Lucas got a visit from the police.  While the police did not find any weapons in his bags or dorm room, Lucas has been dismissed from the football team and suspended, at least for now, from the university.

Here’s a lengthy discussion about the matter, including some current WFU students, at ACCBoards.Com.  Here’s a related post on the Old Gold & Blog, a Wake Forest sports blog.

One of the local television stations spoke with Caparelli (here’s a video with portions of that conversation).  He admitted he did a stupid thing.  He apologized, and said he “never thought it was going to snowball into this.”  But that’s the thing.  In this post 9-11, post Virginia Tech world, no right-thinking school, employer or friend (the real or Facebook kind) can afford to take chances.  Threatening things written must be taken at face value, regardless of the intent or state of mind of the writer.  There are no do-overs anymore.  Thanks to technology, easy capital and cheap storage, things that may be intended as one-off rants, jokes or juvenile nonsense are captured, archived, indexed and, often, distributed.

College kids behaving stupidly is nothing new.  When I was at Wake Forest, a guy drunkenly told me he was going to kill me because a few of us intercepted his pizza delivery, paid for it and ate it (that was our “on demand” hack of the Domino’s delivery system).  I didn’t really think he was going to kill me, but his words when spoken sounded as serious as they were slurred.  Imagine how they would have looked in writing.  During that same period, we used to joke that phones should have breathalyzers on them so we couldn’t come home after too many beers, call our girlfriends (or prospective girlfriends) and mumble out what we heard as suave and the girls heard as stupid.  Thank goodness the internet didn’t exist back then.

By all accounts, it doesn’t look like Caparelli planned to commit any actual acts of violence.  It may very well have been a stupid joke, a poorly thought-out response to some dissatisfaction with school, or just misguided late night ramblings.  But regardless of his true intent, this event will likely affect him for the rest of his life, to one degree or another.  Hopefully, he’ll learn from it.  If Jim Grobe recruited him, chances are he’s a good kid.  But his life just got harder than it would have otherwise been.

In a few years when he applies for a job, this unfortunate event will almost certainly come up, particularly if his prospective employer does a background check.  And if somehow it doesn’t, he’ll have to choose between disclosing it and risking the reaction or living in fear of Google.

The obvious moral of this story is to write every post as if everyone you ever know will see it.

Because the chances are pretty good that they will.