Last week, I was fortunate to attend a presentation given at Western University, London, Ontario by Frank Warren, founder of PostSecret.com. He spoke to a capacity crowd of over 2000 students (mostly) and yet the presentation seemed very personal, casual and confiding. The audience was riveted – alternately moved to thoughtfulness, laughter, disbelief, and, occasionally, to tears. The success of PostSecret.com is fascinating. It speaks of the fantastic possibilities that the right blend of technology, human creativity, careful management (and empathy, in this case) can offer. Frank started PostSecret.com as a local community art project seven years ago, handing out postcards to strangers in Washington DC and telling people to mail them back to him at his home anonymously, with a secret they had never shared with anyone else before. Of the 3,000 postcards he gave out, he received about 75 back, many with drawings, photos or other art, along with a shared secret. He then scanned and posted a selection of the postcards on his blog. Much to his surprise, he then started getting postcards from other cities in America, and then from around the world. So far he has received over 400,000 postcards, and still gets about 1,000 new secrets a week. There are travelling art shows of parts of the postcard collection, the blog gets around 1 million hits every week and 5 books of secrets have been published so far. Frank has a busy speaking schedule at college campuses and he has raised over $1 million to support mental health. Frank reads every postcard he gets. He speaks with respect for the sentiment expressed in each postcard, and with enjoyment of the art that expresses it.
I only discovered Postsecret.com last week and, hearing of its success, I recalled the quip about Wikipedia: it only works in practice, not in theory! Now I know more, it is not surprising Postsecret.com is so popular. Each postcard voices the need to share something, and this avenue provides a safe outlet. Souls are laid bare, yet no one is condemned or judged. No individual is identified, yet all of us can identify with some of the regrets, yearnings, resentments, fears or sly triumphs recorded in the cards. Many cards affirm a therapeutic benefit in being able to share their secret. This seems to be what Confessional 2.0 looks like! Collectively, the cards must contain a goldmine of research material about humanity!