Frank Warren, creator of the Internet phenomenon PostSecret.com, opened up his lecture by simply stating what he does for a living.
“Hi, my name is Frank, and I collect secrets.”
What started as a group art project in November 2004 has evolved into a way for people from all over the world to connect by mailing in their anonymous secrets. More than a half million secrets have been submitted in the five-plus years Warren has ran the project.
About 1,200 students listened to Warren discuss the project’s beginnings at the University Lecture Series on Tuesday night, where the Marshall Student Center Ballroom was filled to capacity and a live feed in the Oval Theater was available for more people.
Warren showed attendees various secrets he has collected over the years and expressed the emotional connection he has with the project.
PostSecret began in Washington D.C., with Warren printing out 2,000 postcards as part of a group art project. He approached strangers with the cards, stating his name and that he collected secrets.
The cards were blank on one side, with the other inviting the receiver to become a part of Warren’s art project by submitting a secret “as long as it’s true and you’ve never shared it with anyone before.”
With the last postcard handed out after six weeks, Warren continued to receive more as the concept spread virally thanks to the Web site, where readers were able to view submitted secrets.
Warren said there are two kinds of secrets: secrets that one keeps from others and secrets that one keeps from themselves.
“Sometimes when we keep our secret, our secret is actually keeping us,” he said. “It undermines our relationships with other people. It blocks us from being who we truly are.”
In 2005, rock band The All-American Rejects featured the secrets found on Warren’s Web site in its music video for “Dirty Little Secret.” The same year, Harper Collins released the first PostSecret book titled, “PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives.”
Since then, four additional PostSecret books have been published. The most recent, titled “Confessions of Life, Death & God,” was released in 2009.
Melina Santos, a sophomore majoring in biomedical sciences, enjoyed the lecture for the solidarity of the secrets.
“It was a really emotional lecture,” she said. “I liked how he said we’re all in this together, basically, and how we’re not alone.”
Amanda Prevatt, a sophomore majoring in biomedical sciences, said she came to the lecture with a friend, wanting to know more about the concept.
“I liked how it was personal for him – how he reads every secret and keeps all of them,” she said.