Warning: Before you go clicking away on the links in this post, keep in mind that you may be offended or disturbed by the content of many of these postcards, especially if you are my mother.
Are any of you familiar with PostSecret? Frank Warren started this community art project in 2004, inviting every single human to make a 4 x 6 postcard, write a secret on it that they have never shared, and mail it to him in Germantown, Maryland. Warren selects different cards each week for the PostSecret website, and then every year or two, a new book of postcards is published. He also tours the country displaying and speaking about the cards he has received.
I had never heard of PostSecret until recently, when I stumbled upon one of the books at the library. My experience reading through the secrets in that book, and some more on the website, was distinctly uninspiring. It was a lot like being alone with a bag of potato chips or a box of See's chocolates. Just one more, just one more, just one more. In the end you feel sick. The secrets were not particularly nourishing (maybe the opposite, in fact), but it was hard to stop looking at them. So I was surprised to read that Frank Warren sees this public, anonymous secret-sharing as uplifting and helpful to both the sharer and the audience. Warren says that it is good for people to read others' darkest secrets, and to realize they are not alone.
So I'm trying to reconsider my initial reaction to the secrets. What secret would I write on such a postcard? Would this activity be helpful to me in some way? How is it helpful for other people to read these secrets? I wonder if sharing a secret in this way is a bit like offering a prayer, especially for someone who may not believe in or pray to a god. I keep a few secrets from people, but not from God. Maybe believing in someone who already knows everything about me diminishes my need to share these things with the world on a postcard. Or perhaps because I have such a great therapist, who I can share things with that I wouldn't tell normal people, I am already taking advantage of one of the main benefits of the postsecret project--getting the darn thing off your chest.
Now, if I think of these postsecrets from the perspective of a future psychologist, they become a bit more interesting. Many of these secrets are things so shameful to the person hiding them, she has never dared share them with anyone else. As a study in what humans are most ashamed of, what a rich resource. I wonder if any psychology students have asked to use Warren's collection for dissertation research? Hmm...