Sarah and I hung out with Frank Warren last night at B&N, along with many others (Frank is pictured above speaking to the crowd). For those who don’t know, Frank Warren began the PostSecret website a few years ago, after he began the project by handing out 3,000 postcards to random people on the street, asking them to “share their secrets.” What he’s created is a bit of an international phenomenon, not to mention with a huge cult following. He receives 100-200 postcards every day and his third book, The Secret Lives of Men and Women, is #11 on the New York Times Bestseller List. And we’re addicted too – we both look forward to checking out the new secrets every Sunday.
Warren shared some of the beginnings of PostSecret, in addition to reflecting on the whole project. He’s not sure why it has become as popular as it has. Are we simply a voyeuristic culture and do we just like knowing other people’s shit? Or is there something more powerful about the PostSecret project? Warren has received hundreds and thousands of emails from people who have contributed to the project or been moved by it. Some have ended relationships because of PostSecret – others have begun new relationships. One woman designed a postcard to send in, but when she was finished, she was so disgusted with her secret that she began to take steps that very day to help her deal with her problems.
Some probably do seek absolution – others grace. But more than that, PostSecret plays into our culture’s desire for authenticity, which is becoming more and more apparent.
Warren loves PostSecret because it has become, in his words, a community art project. Regular people can create these artistic expressions of themselves which are displayed on the web, in books and in a traveling art exhibition.
Warren also referred to the website as a conversation project. While he receives thousands every week – he only puts up 20 new secrets, but he chooses them to hopefully give a good sampling of the type of work he’s received throughout the week. He puts them up in such a way as to tell a narrative story – to bring readers into the stories of others’ lives – through their secrets. This website, he says, is helping us find new ways to share about ourselves, and new ways to enhance authenticity and connectivity through this type of sharing on the web.
And for those of you who read the secrets on Sundays…I think Warren’s right. Some make you laugh, others make you sad – but there are always ones that resonate in some fashion (in odd ways sometimes). But in a sense, we are drawn into the lives of others, we are connected to others, through the secrets. Many have different opinions about whether or not a real sense of “community” can be created through the web & blogs, but it’s clear that there is something happening through a site and an art project like this.
What do you think? Are you a regular at PostSecret? Do you find this an interesting project? Does anyone not like PostSecret, and why…?