Everyday, except Sunday, Frank Warren goes out to his mailbox two or three times to check for the mail. In a typical suburban community, a mailwoman named Kathy wraps rubber bands around each stack of postcards to look like a gift. She delivers nearly 150 postcards daily to the home of Warren himself, who collects anonymous secrets from strangers or “artists,” as they are often called, to share as part of an online community.
A few years ago in 2004, Warren, a home-based businessman, walked the streets of Washington D.C. in hopes of collecting secrets from strangers for an art project called “Artomatic”. Warren took 3,000 postcards that were blank on one side and had his address on the other side, and proceeded to personally distribute them to individuals. He asked the strangers he approached to anonymously design a postcard with an original secret that was truthful and had never been revealed before. He received odd looks and brush-offs, but some 100 cards with secrets came back to him in the mail.
The first secret Warren read from a stranger read, ‘I’m a white guy, but I like black girls.’ This secret, along with roughly 100 additional secrets, was displayed at “Artomatic,” an event which Warren assumed would spell the end of his receiving secrets. However, the secret-sharing spread by word-of-mouth and Warren soon obtained postcards from people outside of the D.C. area.
Since the launch of PostSecret.com in 2005, it is not uncommon or peculiar for people to openly share their secrets with Warren. He believes people feel a deep sense of relief when they read others’ confessions and know that they are not alone, which essentially motivates them to send their own.
“My favorite part of the project besides reading the secrets is traveling to campuses to talk with college students. There’s just something about the fact that what reads on a stranger’s postcard is one of their own, intimate confessions,” said Warren.
In his second year on the web, Warren has been posting approximately 20 never-before-seen secrets each Sunday on the website. Very recently, Warren was in the NYC area for the release of his fourth book of secrets, entitled A Lifetime of Secrets.
“It’s comforting to see that other people have secrets and you’re not the only one,” said Therese Stark, 19, a New York University sophomore at the book signing. “I like the ones that relate to students. If you’re in college, you just relate to it automatically.”
People from all backgrounds, ages, religions, sexual orientations and geographical areas across the world have begun to relate to one another, not just students. Postcards have come from Iraq, New Zealand and Hong Kong, to name a few. The majority of secrets come from South America and Canada.
PostSecret.com has won several awards including Best American Weblog and Best Weblog of the Year from the Annual Weblog Awards, but Warren’s award for Raising Awareness from the National Mental Health Association often goes without recognition. A number of secrets sent in have been on thoughts of suicide or inclinations to actually go through with the act. The prevention of suicide is a cause so important to Warren that he lists the contact website and hotline 1-800-SUICIDE on PostSecret.com. Warren often speaks on the issue of suicide at college campuses nationwide.
In 2005, the band All-American Rejects asked Warren if they could use some of the secrets on PostSecret for their music video, “Dirty Little Secret.” Warren would only oblige if the producers donated $2,000 to 1-800-SUICIDE instead of paying him. The All-American Rejects did donate to the hotline and several blown-up secrets appeared as the background of the video. Also featured were people holding secrets.”Everyday I’m reminded of people’s secrets, every hour of every day,” said Warren. “I feel haunted by secrets, but it’s a good thing.”
Although many people send their secrets to Warren, some are strictly supporters of the blog website. Earlier this year, e-mail comments were added to the bottom of each postcard.
Recently, the PostSecret Community was also launched, allowing blog users to become even more active within the website. It features video secrets, PostSecret chats with Warren, recent news and secret voices, where one can listen to or record secrets aloud. PostSecretFrance was also launched this month.
“There’s a line to be drawn regarding whether it’s pointless or not,” said Leopold Myrie, 25, a St. John’s University Communications Alumnus speaking about PostSecret.com. “It’s a form of voyeurism, it’s not for everyone.”
Myrie attended the Barnes & Noble event with his girlfriend Kiva LaTouche. Neither of them has sent secrets to the PostSecret Project. The couple claimed there are no secrets between them.
“Human beings are naturally inclined to disclose information,” said LaTouche, 24, a Florida State University graduate with a Masters in Media/Communication Studies.
“But I feel it should be used more for developing insights about human nature.”This month alone PostSecret.com reached the one-millionth viewer mark. It is the largest advertisement-free blog on the web and is sure to remain that way for years to come.
“I think every person does have secrets, secrets that could break your heart,” said Warren. “If we could realize that about humans, there would be more understanding and peace in the world.”