Photo borrowed from here.
Ever since I was introduced to PostSecret, sitting on my best friend’s bed at university, I was totally captivated. The founder Frank Warren started a simple, safe blog where people were able to send in a secret on a postcard anonymously to his address, and he would scan twenty each week to post online. The only caveat was that the secret had to be completely truthful and only the author knew about it.
I remember going back to my room that evening and at that time, you could trawl through the archives of secrets on the blog. I spent hours on that site, gripped by what I saw. PostSecret created somewhere for people to express themselves without any judgement – comments have not been featured on the site for over a decade. The secrets encompass aspects of humanity that we’re all navigating, so I think that’s why the site is so popular: you stumble across people articulating their thoughts on inner peace, purpose, betrayal, family, envy, fear, relationships, insecurity, wealth, sexuality, embarrassment, loneliness, regret, and the idiosyncrasies that make each of us unique.
I’ve shared here before about my respect for those who talk about what the rest of us only whisper or just think about. What I’ve seen since following PostSecret is that the act of making a postcard to send in is one of the ways that people start their journey of becoming vulnerable. It’s secrets like this one below that make me realise how hard the act of writing down a secret and sending it in anonymously can be. We come face to face with the darkness, the unspoken fears, the truth we carry. When I think about my experience with secrets, the weight of what I can’t talk about creates pressure within me, and that stress inevitably rears its head in other ways. Whether we’re listening to it or not, the secret does not go away.
I’m not 100% sure, but I like to imagine that PostSecret is a pressure-release valve for people, a way to start bringing light to the darkness. In that line of thinking, the blog provides a platform to witness to others and what they are going through, and is a tool to reflect on ourselves.
Where am I in this secret?
What secret would I send in?
What if one of these secrets was sent in by someone I love, or work with, or the guy who yelled at me on my bike the other day?
How would I treat you differently if I knew you had a secret inside that would break my heart?
What Frank has enabled people to do is twofold: start the process of sharing a secret, so that some of its power over us disappears, and also to witness the weight of what people around us may carry. This world we are all navigating is strange, cruel and selfish sometimes. We’re all doing our absolute best to get by, and we don’t know the scars others carry. We will never know, because most of the time it’s not ours to know. A secret is a secret for a reason. It could be anyone. We all deserve kindness, patience and understanding.
If I ever got the chance to meet him, here’s what I would say to Frank.
I don’t know what it was that enabled you to get this project off the ground, but it now resonates with millions and millions of people each week. You can offer people that first step of bringing their secret to light, by using their hands and their creativity to share something that burns within them. The safe place you have created has shaped many, many lives for the better.
How did you know it would work? What did you think would happen?
Why does this resonate with you? What have you learned?
Who have you become since this started?
Your site makes me feel more human, more connected, more empathetic. Thank you for being totally committed to making this work, thank you for respecting the secrets, and thank you for helping to make the world a more meaningful, peaceful and lighter place.
Subscribe to Frank’s blog PostSecret at postsecret.com or anywhere you can collect feeds.