"You are invited to anonymously contribute a secret to a group art project. Your secret can be a regret, fear, betrayal, desire, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything -- as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before. Be brief. Be legible. Be creative."
The Most Trusted Stranger in America
Frank Warren never intended to launch a global phenomenon. No one would have predicted that what started out as a community art project would quickly become a global obsession. In 2004, he began handing out postcards to strangers and leaving them in public places, asking people to write down secrets they had never told anyone, and mail them to him anonymously. Warren's project was wildly successful, and he quickly became "the most trusted stranger in America". The secrets he received were largely handcrafted works of art, or as Warren refers to them, "graphic haiku". Profound, provocative, and addictively compelling, Warren soon began posting the cards to his website.
An Accidental Artist
A self-professed "accidental artist," Warren has been mailed more than 300,000 secrets since the project began in 2004, and continues to receive about 1,000 handmade 4" by 6" postcards each week. According to Anderson Analytics, the PostSecret Blog, which receives 3,000,000 visitors each month, is the 6th most visited website among female college students. PostSecret has spawned 5 books, the first of which, PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions From Ordinary Lives, is a Los Angeles Times bestseller with other a quarter million copies in print. In late 2007, PostSecret launched a three-year international traveling museum exhibition starting at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Warren quickly realized that PostSecret fans wanted a more interactive experience, resulting in the development of PostSecret Live events. The events, which have been hosted at dozens of universities, museums, and conferences, gave Warren a chance to share videos, secrets that were banned from books, and the extraordinary stories behind some of the most shocking stories he received. Furthermore, Warren was a keynote speaker at PopTech and the South by Southwest Interactive Conference.
Mobile Catharsis, Now On Your iPhone
With the PostSecret App, which will be available for the iPhone in September, and for the Android shortly thereafter, users will be able to anonymously reply to secrets with secrets of their own in real-time. As snail mail becomes increasingly antiquated, the prospect of being able to instantly release your musings into the spiderweb of cyberspace seems very appealing. As stated in the press release, "The PostSecret App was crowd-sourced over a two-year period with the 80,000 member PostSecret community creating the guidelines to ensure that PostSecret App secrets be shared safely in a culture of openness and mutual respect." Additionally, the App will integrate the International Suicide Prevention Wiki (ISP Wiki), the most comprehensive and current listing of suicide prevention hotlines and “chat-lines” in the world.
Can confiding in a smartphone be just as cathartic as crafting a postcard into a collage and apprehensively dropping it into a mailbox? Warren, who has worked tirelessly as a volunteer and advocate for HopeLine, a suicide-prevention organization, believes that by sharing our deepest secrets, we are able to heal ourselves and serve our communities. Perhaps we will finally realize just how many secrets, thoughts, and fears we have in common. With the launch of the PostSecret mobile app, maybe we’ll come one step closer to realizing that “We’re all just walking each other home.”