Post Secret

Fiona Dillon takes a study break by going to the Post Secret website. Credit: Elizabeth Neuner
Fiona Dillon takes a study break by going to the Post Secret website. Credit: Elizabeth Neuner

By Elizabeth Neuner | LSU Student

In December 2003, Frank Warren went to Paris and bought three postcards. As Warren slept, he had a vivid dream in which he modified the postcards with a different message written on each.

When he awoke, he changed the postcards with the messages he saw in his dream. The first read was "unrecognized evidence, from forgotten journeys, unknowingly discovered." The second, "reluctant oracle."

"I got a parking citation and so did the car next to me. I replaced the ticket on the car next to me with mine. My ticket got paid. And the one I took? I mailed it to Post Secret."

A year later, Warren started the "reluctant oracle project" in which every Sunday he created a work of art like a postcard with advice or a secret and sent it to nowhere in particular.

Warren established the following Sunday and lives began to change, perspectives began to grow, and secrets began to be shared. Post Secret became a haven for people throughout the world to share their secrets, sent through post cards.

"Each secret is different," Warren said in an interview with "Today." "But, they all seem to tie into these common streams of our humanity."

Frank Warren accompanied his last art project with the third message he wrote on the postcard in France, "You will find your answers in the secrets of strangers."

"This could be an almost perfect day. Enjoy it"

He still updates new secrets every Sunday, secrets from around the world. It's been seven years and is now the largest advertisement-free website on earlth, with nearly half a million views, more than one million Facebook fans, an app, five books of nothing but secrets, and innumerable postcards sent.

With each week the trend grows.

Warren travels to colleges and venues across the country giving lectures and sharing more secrets. Proceeds go toward suicide prevention.

"I think all of my friends who can't wait to get married are kind of pathetic."

So, why do millions of people feel comfortable sharing their secrets with the world? Is it the anonymity? Is there a sense of freedom?

"He has provided a forum that enables people to feel like they're sharing or getting a secret off their chests but without any risk. They have the catharsis without being exposed," Gail Saltz, a psychoanalyst and author of "Anatomy of a Secret," told USA Today.

"It's taught me to be grateful for the experiences I've had and the experiences I've avoided," said Melanie O'Laughlin, a student at Marquette University who heard about the website through a communications course she was taking.

O'Laughlin jokingly said PostSecret is "my religion, that's how I go to church."

"Whenever I finish a good book I eat the last page."

For others, secrets are more for entertainment purposes.

"I just like to read about other people's lives," acknowledges Fiona Dillon, a senior at LSU. "I don't really obsess over it."

Dillon said reading the secrets is a good study break. O'Laughlin said PostSecret gives her perspective. "I read them to know the world is bigger than the bubble I live in at school and that sometimes my problems aren't so bad."

"Pregnant women remind me of my failures."

Another LSU student, Alyssa Bloom, says that the website "connects me with people I don't even know." She has never sent a secret and only recently found out about the website, she says.

"I had no idea it even existed. But I think it would be a good way to vent or release stress without having to feel embarrassed."

"When I put my secret in the mailbox I felt the same release that I did when I cut for the first time."

Though Bloom, Dillon and O'Laughlin have never sent a secret, they claim to understand why someone would. They also said that some secrets remain with them long after they have closed the page.

"I stick post-it notes in all the library books I've read, hoping that someday it will make someone happy."

"There's one secret that has stuck with me and it said something like, 'I don't read PostSecret as much now that I'm happy,'" O'Laughlin notes. "That's so true."

"Pets should be able to exact revenge on the freaks that dress them."

O'Laughlin acknowledges buying all the PostSecret books and anticipating the next one. "For me, the main thing PostSecret has done for me is teach me the true strength of people."

"You need not find a cure for everything that makes you weak..."