“I judge people by the way they do their eyebrows.” This is just one of the secrets that has been anonymously submitted to Frank Warren and become a contribution to his art project known as PostSecret, a website that publishes anonymous secrets submitted by individuals from around the world.
Frank Warren first started PostSecret after he bought three Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s “Little Prince” postcards in Paris. He envisioned the postcards in a dream he had that night and tried to recreate them in the morning. Those three postcards would end up being the first work of a trilogy of postcards that would consume his life and set him on an unimaginable journey.
In January 2004, Mr. Warren began the “reluctant oracle” project, in which he released a new work to be discovered serendipitously every Sunday in local, national, and international newspapers
The last message ever found in the “reluctant oracle” was “you will find your answers in the secrets of strangers.” A week later, PostSecret started.
After Warren began this project, he slowly accumulated stacks and stacks of secrets that had been mailed to his house and eventually decided to publish the first PostSecret book, “PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives” in 2005. That was followed by “MySecret,” “The Secret Lives of Men and Women,” “A Lifetime of Secrets,” “PostSecret: Confessions of Life, Death, and God,” and most recently, “The World of PostSecret.” Each work contained hundreds of secrets that have been sent to Mr. Warren, scanned, and published.
Not only has Warren established a community where people feel safe to share their darkest secrets, but he has also promoted wellness resources such as suicide hotlines and support for those who self-harm or have eating disorders.
Although anonymously mailing in secrets can be liberating and cathartic for fans of the PostSecret, it has not been without problems. On one of the weekly updates of Sunday Secrets in 2013, there was a secret with a picture of a geographic area on Google map with the words, “I said she dumped me, but, really, I dumped her (body).” There additionally was a red arrow pointing to a location on the map. The reaction that this disturbing secret produced caused a police investigation. Users that read the secret were able to identify the location as Jackson Park in Chicago. After homicide detectives investigated, the Chicago police decided that the secret was just a hoax.
The rise of social media in the early 2000s influenced the creation of the PostSecret app. Through this app, people were able to anonymously send in secrets directly from their phones. However, many users ended up abusing this privilege and sent in threatening and indecent secrets. This led to the app’s closure and PostSecret Universe eventually returned at the beginning of 2015.
Despite the presence of social media, Warren still goes on PostSecret tours in cities all over America and he even travels internationally to perform shows explaining his project and displaying the secrets as well. In fact, his TED Talk ranks as one of the most downloaded talks.
“Secrets can take many forms. They can be shocking or silly or soulful. They can connect us with our deepest humanity or with people we’ll never meet again,” states Frank in his TED Talk.
When some of the secrets were shown to SAS students, Damion Gillespie, a senior, claimed that “some secrets are relatable, but some of them make me feel sad or feel bad for the person who wrote it.” Despite this, he said, “It’s cool because I can see into how they feel.”
That captures the purpose of PostSecret: sharing personal secrets in order to feel more connected to other people with similar thoughts or expose people to new feelings they’ve never experienced.
The community that Frank Warren has built from a single art project is quite amazing. PostSecret continues to be a thriving community where people all over the world can learn to let go and finally be free.
Check out some of the secrets below!