Within every human there are thoughts, there are stories, and there are insights. Every individual possesses them in the far reaches of his or her heart. When they are not shared with anyone, they are known as secrets. Imagine, there are people walking this earth at this very moment in time, keeping some of those secrets so bottled up inside, that it clogs the very flow of their emotions preventing them from forming genuine intimate bonds with others. Then there are those who travel through life with a burning secret, but feel they have no one to share it with who will not judge them.
Frank Warren had an experiment, and it involved secrets. He passed out self-addressed postcards in Washington DC with the following instructions posted on one side that read: “You are invited to anonymously contribute a secret to a group art project. Your secret can be a regret, fear, betrayal, desire, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything – as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before. Be brief. Be legible. Be creative.” Over a short period of time, he received hundreds of postcards; then he was flooded with hundreds of thousands of these cards containing anonymous secrets. He published an ample amount on his blog PostSecret.com and eventually released five PostSecret books as well.
The secrets published in both the PostSecret blog and books are found to be funny, candid and oftentimes touching. There is something quite unique about the secrets sent to Frank Warren; they are as raw as human emotion can get — most likely due to their anonymity. There may also be another reason as to why Americans have become so enamored with PostSecret in this digital age: social media may be isolating people, which may prompt them to keep their secrets rather than free them. This statement is in part influenced by the results of a recent study from Western Illinois University who published findings about Facebook users. This study showed these users to be developing narcissistic behaviors and shallow friendships through their social media practices. Since more friendships are being forged faster on social media rather than in person, it would be safe to surmise that fewer intimate friendships are being developed because time is easily consumed by updating and checking one’s status on their social media profiles. In other words, with this digital age and social media venues, people have become less connected on an intimate level. Perhaps this is why PostSecret is so popular, because it relies on aggregating thoughts via traditional mail in the form of a postcard.
PostSecret is not meant to replace a therapist but it is, rather, a project that simply holds space for people to share their deepest secrets — like the schoolteacher who admits to disliking children, or the gentlemen who admits to not always washing his hands after using the restroom, and even the women admitting to sexual abuse or eating disorders. PostSecret simply holds a space for all these people to free themselves from the burden of their secrets, and perhaps may help them on the road to healing some of the more serious issues. Whatever the reason for their participation in PostSecret, one thing is completely clear: we all have secrets to tell and we would all like to have the opportunity to share them in safe environments without fear of judgment. Perhaps people across the entire United States would benefit from learning how to hold space for individuals to express themselves. In this manner, most of the secrets burdening individuals could eventually dissolve into post-secrets themselves; creating opportunities to develop more intimate friendships in this digital age and social media world. However, until such a time exists, one may be comforted to know that if there is no one else to share a secret with, there is always the option to send a postcard directly to Frank Warren without the risk of being judged.