PostSecret is an ongoing community mail art project, created by Frank Warren, in which people mail their secrets anonymously on a homemade postcard. Select secrets are then posted on the PostSecret website, or used for PostSecret's books or museum exhibits.
The concept of the project was that completely anonymous people decorate a postcard and portray a secret that they had never previously revealed. No restrictions are made on the content of the secret; only that it must be completely truthful and must never have been spoken before. Entries range from admissions of sexual misconduct and criminal activity to confessions of secret desires, embarrassing habits, hopes and dreams. The secrets are meant to be empowering both to the author and to those who read it. Frank Warren claims that the postcards are inspirational to those who read them, have healing powers for those who write them, give hope to people who identify with a stranger's secret, and create an anonymous community of acceptance.
PostSecret collected and displayed upwards of 2,500 original pieces of art from people across the United States and around the world between its founding on January 1, 2005 and 2007.
The site, which started as an experiment on Blogspot, was updated every Sunday with 10 new secrets, all of which share a relatively constant style, giving the artists who participate some guidelines on how their secrets should be represented. It recently began posting approximately 20 new pieces each Sunday after a week when Warren mysteriously did not post any new secrets for one week.
From June 24 to July 3, 2007, the "Comments" section of the site was enabled. While a comments feature is frequently present on blogs, it had been previously absent from the PostSecret site. Many visitors viewed the presence of a comments section as out of character for the site, which was previously distinguished as a non-judgmental space for participants to reveal personal secrets. Many visitors felt that the new section contradicted the purpose of the site, as evidenced in numerous comments criticizing a postcard in which the author claims to have fed bleach to her cat.
In October 2007, the PostSecret Community was launched (www.postsecretcommunity.com). Since its inception, more than 80,000 users have registered for the online discussion forum.
According to Youth Trends' February 2008 "Top Ten List Report" PostSecret was the 10th most popular site amongst female students in the USA, with 7% of those polled naming the site as their favorite.
In April 2011, it was announced that an app would be developed by Bonobo, and released for iPhone and Android later in the year. Launched for iPhone on 3 September 2011, it quickly reached the top-selling spot. Over 2 million secrets were shared over the next few months, but malicious entries became widespread and uncontrollable. The app was closed in late December 2011.
Warren hosts events at numerous colleges to speak about the many different secrets of today's society. An art exhibition also travels the country, showcasing many of the hundreds of thousands of secrets he has received.
In his book, My Secret, Warren talks about his experiences with encounters with people all around the world who were inspired by the postcards, and how it got many people addressing things that they would otherwise never discuss. In this book he said, "I have been inspired by the stories they have told me, stories that begin with a secret and end with a hope."
In an article for USA Today, Maria Puente wrote "Evan Imber-Black, a family therapist and author of The Secret Life of Families, says telling secrets has no meaning except in the context of family relationships. We live in a time where people have the mistaken idea that you tell a secret to the multitudes on TV — and move on," she says. "But opening a secret is just the first step. (Posting on PostSecret) might offer some measure of relief, but I'm not sure how long it lasts. When a secret opens, it usually takes time and relational work to get a new equilibrium."
Breaks from weekly Secrets
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Since its founding on January 1, 2005, the site has had new weekly Sunday Secrets with very few exceptions. On two occasions, Warren posted a personal video message rather than secrets. On two other occasions, Warren has taken a break and carried the same Secrets across a two-week period. On one Sunday, blogger problems caused a delay in the normal posting of the Secrets.
The site was not updated on the Sunday of July 1, 2007 while the address and instructions for visitors to send in their secrets was removed. Also notable was the deletion of a long-visible post, which contained contact information for Hopeline, a suicide hotline the site previously supported, and the story and picture of "Casie", a young woman who fought depression and found help through the site. When the site returned on Sunday, July 8, 2007, PostSecret was updated as normal, with the address and instructions for users wanting to mail in their secrets, as well as the Hopeline and "Casie" posts, all reinstated. The page for this week included a message from Warren explaining the recent events, confirming the comments section would stay unavailable and stating that he had needed a break from the project for a week, but that he hoped to go another 130 weeks before he took another. Sunday, August 12, 2007 constituted a break of sorts. In lieu of posting standard secrets, Warren posted the link to a video he had uploaded to YouTube entitled New PostSecret Mini-Movie, expressing his feelings about the project and promising that the next week would bring more secrets.
Warren took another break Sunday, December 28, 2008.
On October 11, 2009, he took a break posting a video and apology saying that he was busy touring, and urging readers to buy the book PostSecret Confessions on Life, Death and God.
On Sunday, September 16, 2007, the traditional PostSecret blog was gone. In its place was a new blog belonging to someone named "Nicole". It was suddenly and mistakenly shut down, as Blogger thought the PostSecret blog was a "spam blog". The error was fixed and Warren's site was put back up with the secrets from September 9. A few hours later, just minutes before noon EST, the website was pulled down again, this time displaying a Blogger error message. Shortly after noon EST, with the site having been restored, Warren posted an explanation. Not long thereafter, that day's secrets were posted as normal.
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On February 24, 2008, Warren posted multiple e-mail comments from viewers that attacked various secrets posted that week—notably one from a parent insulting a teacher, one from a call operator insulting a relative of a soldier, and one from a would-be mother insulting a woman desperate not to get pregnant. This revitalized previous discussions on whether or not commenting should be allowed at all on the secrets. While it was noted that sometimes such actions lead to others passing judgment on the posters without granting them the opportunity to defend themselves, no action was taken, and the blog continued as normal the next week.
The PostSecret app was released for iOS devices on 3 September 2011. Included in over two million submissions were some indecent, threatening, and abusive ones. During the month of December, volunteer moderators were unable to keep up, despite working 24/7. Frank was contacted by users, Apple, law enforcement and the FBI. The app was removed from the App Store on the 28th December. On 1 January 2012, a formal announcement on the PostSecret website said that the app would not be returning due to its inherent inability to solve the problem of abusive submissions.
On Saturday, August 31, 2013, the weekly update of Sunday Secrets contained as its first secret a Google map of a geographic area with the words, "I said she dumped me, but, really, I dumped her (body)," accompanied by a red arrow. The disturbing nature of this secret created a firestorm in social media. Reddit users were able to pinpoint the location shown as Jackson Park in Chicago, and after phone calls, the Chicago Police Department sent officers to explore the area. They found nothing, leading people to speculate if this secret was in fact a hoax. Homicide detectives are currently investigating. http://my.chicagotribune.com/#section/544/article/p2p-77242709/
http://postsecretarchive.com/ is a searchable database that allows users to search all previous PostSecret posts by date or by keyword.
Additionally, due to Google Reader's RSS caching, one can go back through previous secrets by subscribing to the PostSecret feed using Google Reader.
Also, the postsecret community on Livejournal enables you to scroll back through previous journal entries to view older posts from postsecret's Sunday Secrets collection. This can only be done by searching directly through postsecret's Livejournal page, and only allows you to view the last 4 entries, as viewing of any posts older than this has been disabled.
On Sunday, July 27, 2008, the website provided the previous week's secrets at the bottom of the new updated page under the heading "Last Week's Secrets." Warren will usually keep last week's secrets up for only a few hours or days.
Public attention and other media
The blown up poster-size PostSecrets, along with thousands of regular size PostSecrets, were then featured in an exhibition with the Washington Project for the Arts.
In the seventh annual Weblog Awards, the PostSecret website received Weblog of the Year for 2007.
Lyxzen Suicide shot a set for Suicide Girls entitled "Post Secret" which featured her creating post cards that were seemingly supposed to be sent in to Post Secret while undressing.
In an episode of CSI: NY, titled "Dead Inside," the murder victim was linked to a website called "SecretsU," where viewers mail in the deepest, darkest secret and turn it into art. This episode paid homage to PostSecret.
Warren speaks on college campuses, informing audiences about and promoting the PostSecret Project.
To date Warren has published five books, compiled of submitted secrets, including some which were never posted on the website.
- PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives (December 1, 2005) (ISBN 0-06-089919-0)
- My Secret: A PostSecret Book (October 24, 2006) (ISBN 0-06-119668-1)
- The Secret Lives of Men and Women: A PostSecret Book (January 9, 2007) (ISBN 0-06-119875-7)
- A Lifetime of Secrets: A PostSecret Book (October 9, 2007) (ISBN 0-06-123860-0)
- Confessions on Life, Death, & God (October 6, 2009) (ISBN 0-06-185933-8)
Warren has stated that he includes a secret of his own in each of the PostSecret books. His "secret" is not anonymous like most; rather, Warren signs his. For example: "Sometimes when we think we are keeping a secret, that secret is actually keeping us. -Frank"
With permission from Warren, a French version of PostSecret was launched in October 2007 under the name "PostSecretFrance".
In February 2008, an official German version was started, called "PostSecret auf Deutsch".
In April 2010 a Portuguese version was launched as "PostSecretPT".
"Los Secretos Dominicales" is a Spanish version of the original PostSecret.
A Chinese version, under the name "PostSecretChina", is also available, but is not officially affiliated with PostSecret.
On 23 January 2010, "PostSecretUK" was launched by celebrity gossip blogger Christopher Couture, becoming the first spin-off to introduce email submissions. Like the Chinese version, it is not officially affiliated with PostSecret, but full credit is given to Warren and the original PostSecret.
"Post Secret Kazakhstan", a trilingual (Russian, Kazakh, and English) project was launched in January 2011 by a Peace Corps volunteer inspired by Frank Warren's original. It also has no official affiliation.
The Norwegian page "Norske Hemmeligheter" was inspired by Warren but made their own version of the secrets. Secrets are sent through the webpage but illustrated by the two illustrators behind the page.
There is also a "Postsecret Korea", though there is no reference to credit or endorsement of Warren.
The 1973 book Variable Piece 4: Secrets by the conceptual artist Douglas Huebler (one of many works in his Variable Piece series) was a compilation of nearly 1800 secrets written down by random people.
- 1725359,00.html First Annual Blog Index from Time
- Warren, F. (2006). My Secret. New York City: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
- Will Frank Warren Spill His Secrets? Bring Your Questions for the “PostSecret” Guy from Freakonomics Blog (hosted by New York Times)
- "Student Noses Buried in Facebooks". eMarketer.com. 2008-02-26. Retrieved 2008-02-25.
- Post Secret Founder Trying to Save Lives from BusinessWeek
- Image of a PostSecret with a Tweet
- "Introducing the Official PostSecret App". 2011-04-26. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
- PostSecret (December 30, 2011), "We removed the App from the Apple store earlier this week. More information coming this Sunday on the PostSecret Blog.", @postsecret Twitter
- Warren, Frank (2006). My Secret. New York, New York: HarperCollins.
- Puente, Maria (March 14, 2006). "Blogger gives dark secrets the first-class treatment". USA Today (USA Today). Retrieved 3/11/11.
- "The PostSecret Mini-Movie". Youtube.com. 2007-08-02. Retrieved 2012-01-04.
- postsecret.blogspot.com, August 12, 2007
- PostSecret (December 22, 2011), "RT @beshka33: "There were some seriously sickening pics on the postsecret app last night." >> (reply) We are trying to work on this.", @postsecret Twitter
- Meyers, Michelle. "PostSecret shuts down iphone app due to abusive posts". CNet. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
- "The PostSecret iPhone App is Now Closed". 2012-01-01. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
- "More 'PostSecrets' Revealed, in Book Form". National Public Radio. 2005-12-10. Retrieved 2011-12-16.
- "Frank Warren: Half a million secrets (Talk)". TED. FEB 2012.
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