I have a confession. I have sent anonymous secrets through the mail to a man named Frank who lives in Maryland.
What is it about secret confessions and their anonymity that draws us in? Why are we intrigued by the private admissions of others? Is it a voyeuristic thrill at becoming privy to someone else’s inner being? Is it that we feel oddly connected to the vulnerability espoused by another—a vicarious living through another’s susceptibility without having to be vulnerable ourselves?
Since 2005, there has been an active channel to send one’s anonymous confessions broadcast on a postcard via standard mail. The PostSecret project, as it is formally known, was started by a man in Maryland named Frank Warren. It was an experiment. A community-fueled mass mail art project. Confessions being mailed in had no restrictions on content or style, so long as they were true and a genuine first-time confession. Since its inception, the PostSecret project has grown into a large social experiment shedding light on the hidden side of human life. It has become a clearinghouse of secrets and confessions, both mundane and salacious. The collective consciousness of the confessions is a window into the human condition.
I find myself continually drawn to the PostSecret project. I am inextricably attracted to the struggle and humanity expressed in the postcard confessions. A simple piece of paper, an anonymous hand-scrawled message, is a gateway into the breaking down of the barriers and facades that bind us to polite society. The reader of the postcards is as anonymous as the sender, a conversation happens in which no one speaks face to face. Does the reader relate to the struggle of uncertainty and vulnerability? Is the reader only humoring himself? And how many people, if any at all, will eventually see one’s confession?
After being merely a consumer for many months, I have decided to join the ranks of the confessors. Understandably, I have sent in no groundbreaking confessions of my own. Compared to the content of many postcards, mine are quite tame. I will not spoil my secrets by publically disclosing them here. But mine have been confessions more akin to bad manners and personal oddities that don’t quite match up to social etiquette. ‘I enjoy peeling gum of off the bottoms of chairs,’ would be an example similar to the content of my confessions. It’s a small start. But it imbues a powerful feeling nonetheless.
Reading these postcards and sending in my own confessions, I feel a sense of solidarity with the community of unknown contributors. It gives me a sense that I’m not so much alone in the world. That other people, like me, are indeed strange and have many quirks and idiosyncrasies that we cover over in the going-abouts of our daily lives. Each confession sent also provides a sense of relief. A freeing feeling. A sense of liberation at getting something off your chest.
Has the PostSecret project amassed its popularity because it is so hard to be open and vulnerable? Because it is so tough to find a confidant in other people? Perhaps it’s because life is so much about image, about putting on a game face and hiding what’s underneath. We don’t normally get exposed to the nitty-gritty details that lie at the core of a person. Is it because we have a deep-rooted desire to be known and exposed that we seek to confess to others?
Posting this blog article is a confession in itself. A confession of having confessed something. But the audience remains anonymous. To paraphrase Annie Dillard, writing is the most egotistical endeavor; instead of personally telling their story to a select few people, the writer chooses instead to pursue the attention of anonymous thousands. Maybe sometimes all it takes is a nameless confession in front of a multitude of strangers to feel some sense of comradery.
Check out more about the project at http://postsecret.com/
Send in your own secret to
13345 Copper Ridge Road