A candid photo essay by a student newspaper on campus drug and alcohol use at the University of Minnesota may be giving its participants lessons in the consequences of social media messaging.

Concerns are being raised about the exploitation of students and how anonymous they truly are, living in an “Instagram” world.

From College Media Matters

The Minnesota Daily provoked some arched eyebrows, at least a few guffawed social media reactions and one administrative email for a candid photo spread published last week as part of a report on student drug use and drinking in campus dorms.

The report itself is mostly innocuous, a by-the-numbers rundown of cited infractions over the past five years in University of Minnesota residence halls. Unsurprisingly, the largest chunk of documented dorm-related bad behavior is linked to alcohol and illegal drug use.

…The Daily worked to keep the sniffing-snorting-boozing-smoking students’ identities secret through anonymity in the final article and close-up photos revealing no faces or much background. Although the school’s PR director reached out to the Daily after the photos appeared, at least at this point there has been no word of fallout for the students or the paper (the latter in part for walking the tricky tightrope of reporting in residence halls).

What do you think? Excellent glimpse at real-world student activity? Great reporting enabling a stats story to be brought to life at least a bit? A wonderful dialogue-starter on campus, underscoring the paper’s usefulness?

Or is it dabbling in exploitation, taking advantage of students who may be anonymous on spec but now have breadcrumbs out there by which they can be identified (and maybe even punished)? Separately, what about the decision to post the photos on Instagram, separate from the main slideshow on the Daily website and without a lot of context? As you can see in the comment [pictured above] and via the Romenesko tipster, at least a few people were confused and maybe even a bit disturbed by the randomness of such images appearing under the Daily brand.