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PostSecret creator Frank Warren reveals own secrets

Frank Warren, creator of PostSecret and the "most trusted stranger in America,” shared his secrets last week at Carnegie Mellon. (credit: Maricel Paz/Production Manager) Frank Warren, creator of PostSecret and the "most trusted stranger in America,” shared his secrets last week at Carnegie Mellon. (credit: Maricel Paz/Production Manager)

“I pee in the shower.”

“I flick boogers at my roommate’s stuff when she’s too loud and wakes me up in the morning.”

“When I’m in a crowded elevator I envision the porn scene that could ensue.”

“I tell people I’m an atheist, but I believe I’m going to hell.”

These are just a small sampling of the 500,000 secrets that people have written on postcards and sent to the home of Frank Warren, a man known as “the most trusted stranger in America.”

Warren, creator and curator of the PostSecret project, introduced himself to several hundred students and community members on Monday, April 26 in Wiegand Gym, saying: “Hi. My name is Frank, and I collect secrets.”

Warren began collecting secrets in 2004, when he handed out 3000 self-addressed postcards to strangers in Washington, D.C. and invited them to send him a secret: something that was true and they had never shared before. “Slowly, secrets began to find their way to my mailbox,” Warren told The Tartan. He claims that the idea of submitting to PostSecret “spread virally,” and within the first month of the project, he had received enough secrets to begin posting them on the Web. Since January 2005, Warren has shared the unvoiced secrets of people from around the world on his blog, postsecret.blogspot.com.

With postcards arriving at his mailbox at a rate of over 1000 per week, Warren has gotten to know his mail carrier, Kathy, pretty well. “She’s a supporter of the project,” he said. Warren recalled an occasion when a fan stopped Kathy in the middle of her delivery route and asked for her autograph. Throughout the years, Kathy has delivered people’s secrets scrawled on sonograms, death certificates, a fake banana, real potatoes, complimentary bags of coffee, and even a bag from the fast food chain In-N-Out Burger. “The real gifts for me are the secrets.... I still feel like a kid Christmas morning walking out to my mailbox everyday and finding these gifts,” Warren said.

During his lecture at Carnegie Mellon, Warren explained that there are two types of secrets: secrets we keep from others, and secrets we keep from ourselves. “When we think we’re keeping a secret, that secret is actually keeping us.” He urged the audience members to face their own secrets: the parts of their lives that they sometimes prefer to bury down deep inside. He also urged people to free their secrets and to share them with others. Warren confided that he is now thankful for his struggles when he was younger, because “each one of them allowed me to develop my character as an adult now.”

Junior creative writing major Laura Alfonso, who has had one of her submissions posted on Warren’s blog, said she appreciates the authenticity of PostSecret: “I think it’s about how honest people are — funny, silly, embarrassing, heartbreaking. There is a level of transparency there and honesty that you don’t really get from people a lot of times. I think what I look for in writing and art is a level of connection to people when we realize that everyone is just a person; we all have a lot in common.”

While many secrets that people submit to PostSecret are humorous, others are personal and dark.

Warren cited “staggering statistics” about the secrets that are often overlooked by media and popular culture. He receives an overwhelming number of secrets on the topics of loneliness, depression, and suicide. Warren has volunteered for Hopeline, and the PostSecret website’s “Wellness Resources” page currently provides contact information for 10 different crisis counseling hotlines.

After telling the story of his own PostSecret start, Warren asked the audience in Wiegand Gym, “What’s your crazy idea?... My hope is that someone in this room will maybe make the world a little bit better.”

His advice to students: “If you’re thinking about creating a blog, it’s a fantastic way to exercise your writing ability, your communication techniques.... Do it to explore one of your passions and find that other community out there that shares your passion. That can lead to something a lot more magical than just making a good income from a blog.”

Warren said that he has never taken a single dollar for an advertisement. Although the PostSecret site has received over 300 million hits, it is still ad-free. In addition to his blog, Warren has compiled and published five books filled with unvoiced secrets that people have shared with him. His most recent book, Confessions on Life, Death, & God, was released on Oct. 6, 2009.