There is one binding factor that most of us have in common.
Regardless of our age, race, gender or religion it’s a little actuality that can be introduced into our lives at any given point. It can take many shapes and forms, it can be something we have witnessed or heard. Perhaps it could be something we think, or something we wish for.
Its something we don’t share with anyone else.
The art of keeping a secret.
We are living in a world where everything we do is subject to some degree of public scrutiny. We post our photos, our creativity, our working lives and to an increasing degree even our personal diaries on the web. Reality television shows expose elements of our desires for the entire world to see, yet up until this point there has always been something that we have held back. A little part ourselves that we perhaps vow never to let anyone else see.
That was up until this point, it seems the web has a little space set aside for everything. Which is where Post Secret comes in. Emerging in January 2005, the site was originally based around the concept of the online blog. However this site quickly became a blog with a difference, the premise of Post Secret was that participants would submit something to the site that they hadn’t previously shared with anyone else.
The secret could be anything the user wanted to “share” with his or her audience. Whether it is a lifelong dream, a regret, or a confession of some nature. The subject matter has never been restricted. This online confessional has become home to many people finding a way to share things anonymously with the digital world that they might consider too painful to share in reality.
In order to assure anonymity secrets can only be submitted through the postal service. Presumably not only to alleviate the inherent vulnerabilities of email but also to make the participant really think about what they are sending. Submissions are sent via a 4” x 6” postcard and the site encourages the individual to be as creative with their prospective canvas as possible.
Whether your chosen method of representation be digital or along the more traditional methods of paper and glue, this method has led to some intriguing and sometimes quite beautiful confessions in which the message is often given further emphasis by the artwork.
The secrets are varied in their content ranging from the quirky and funny right through to messages of intimacy and sadness. The beauty of the site lies in the fact that in many cases there is often something that someone else can relate to whether it is an issue of sexuality,depression or something more lighthearted (such as dreaming of tipping over supermarket displays and then running off). In that respect it could be argued that the confessor has at least found someway to find some respite from a personal burden, yet without having to face the slings and arrows that a similar real life confession would unleash.
There is no question that the site has attracted attention, demonstrated in the fact that it now has a global audience (a considerable number of secrets are now posted from outside the United States). In 2006 the site was also the recipient of no less than six awards from the Bloggies (kind of like the Oscars but for the online blogging community). The site has also resulted in the publication of a book by Harper & Collins (Post Secret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives) that collected many of the postcards from the site including some that for one reason or another never made it.
Post Secret has also been responsible for two live events and a short film based around the contents of the site as well as a short discussion tour proving that this is one of those sites that for better or worse has managed to leak into the public consciousness.
Although the anonymous nature of the submissions means that nobody truly knows who sends the cards, some secrets are commented on the by visitors to the site. In this way it could be said that for someone who might be experiencing some level of personal trauma Post Secret is offering a form of solace/counseling. Of course the wisdom of using the web as some form of personal support mechanism is debatable, however Post Secret has adopted a responsible attitude towards people who express themselves at particular low points in their lives.
The site has formed an affiliation with Hopeline which functions in a manner similar to The Samaritans, making it easier for those experiencing personal difficulty to find help. In fact it could be the relationship between the site and Hopeline could be seen as relatively symbiotic. When Hopeline faced bankruptcy recently it was the audience of Post Secret that cane to their rescue with no less than 600 people donating a total of $30,000 dollars to keep the organization in business.
There are of course many different ways to look at a site like Post Secret, on the one hand they are offering the individual a way of expressing themselves in a time of need. However the flipside of the argument are the risks of using the web as an emotional crutch for those that are potentially vulnerable. Perhaps by offering an insight into the minds of others the site offers us a broader view of ourselves or is it just the equivalent of watching a car accident.
That conclusion is one for you to draw yourself, but from a personal perspective I think the site can offer some genuinely interesting snapshots from the lighter and darker sides of life. It’s not always pretty but when it’s shown with this kind of integrity it can be quite beautiful.