PostSecret provides a haven for anonymous secrets submitted from around the world
Those who believe organizations like the CIA or FBI hold a majority of the world’s secrets probably haven’t heard of Frank Warren.
Warren is the founder of PostSecret, an ongoing online project in which participants anonymously mail their secrets to Warren on one side of a postcard for posting on his website.
The project began in 2004 and has since become the largest advertisement-free blog in the world, with the visitor count close to 800 million people.
“I might be one guy, but I speak for a million-plus secret keepers,” Warren says over the phone from Texas. “When I started the project, I didn’t really know why I was starting it or what I was starting, but I realized that I had tapped into something filled with mystery and wonder that I’m trying to figure out to this day.”
PostSecret started out with what Warren calls “postcard pranks,” where he would hand out postcards to strangers on the streets of Washington, D.C.
“I was a suburban father, husband and a small business owner for 20 years, but my job was pretty boring. So on the weekend, I would go out and pursue these little postcard larks,” he says.
The postcards were self-addressed with simple instructions to jot down a secret and mail it to Warren’s home address. After he recieved them, Warren scanned the postcards and posted them on the web.
“The first week I got about 100 visitors to the website. The next week, a thousand.”
The project grew organically with secrets pouring in from all over the world and in different languages that Warren would try to translate. Eventually, the project became bigger than him alone and morphed into various artistic endeavours.
“This little lark, or prank, turned into six best-selling books, the most visited ad-free blog in the world, there’s a PostSecret play, an art exhibit that just left the Smithsonian, a PostSecret app … It really resonated with people,” he says.
Warren posts a collection of chosen secrets on the website every Saturday night. The emotional range of the secrets he receives is far-reaching and can be based on any aspect of life. After 14 years, he has noticed familiar trends and topics from the postcards.
“There are ones that are hilarious, hopeful, sexual, painful and hidden acts of kindness,” he says. “One common theme I see is a secret about finding the one person that you don’t have to keep secrets from. I see that written different ways on dozens of postcards every week.”
He is mailed thousands of postcards everyday but only posts around 30 secrets each week. Warren’s selection process is quite exceptional.
“I select secrets that really resonate with me because they either share a secret that is really unique or maybe it’s a common secret that is expressed in a novel way,” Warren says. “I want to pick secrets that touch on every human emotion.”
He also weaves certain secrets together that play off each other or share a dialogue to find a unifying theme. He can be thought of as a painter melding together various colours to make one shade.
“Or like a film editor bringing together various scenes from strangers’ lives to tell our story,” he says.
Warren says the PostSecret Live event is easily his favourite aspect of the project.
During the multimedia presentation, Warren shares some of his most treasured postcard secrets, talks about the origin of the project, shares his own secrets and invites audience members to share their own secrets with the room.
“It’s the highest manifestation of the project,” Warren says. “Secrets are the currency of intimacy and we will be sharing our secrets and stories. Hopefully, the best part of the night will not be when I’m talking, but when the audience is sharing their secrets with no filters.”
Sat., Feb. 3 (7:30 pm)
PostSecret Live w/ Frank Warren