Sharing secrets

Sarah Weaver News Reporter

PostSecret creator Frank Warren spoke about sharing secrets at PostSecret Live Tuesday night on the Oregon State University campus.

The event, done in collaboration with with Active Minds, CAPS, Student Organization Resources for Community Engagement (SORCE), Be Well. Be Orange and ASOSU, took place at the LaSells-Stewart Alumni Center.

OSU students, staff, faculty and community members had the opportunity to create postcards confessing their secrets and confidentially drop them off in boxes at several on-campus locations including Valley Library and Javastop until May 6, according to the PostSecret Live Facebook page.

According to the Vice President of the OSU chapter of Active Minds and the Wellness Affairs Taskforce Director for ASOSU, Rae Madison, who spoke prior to Warren, the event is designed to help change the conversation around mental health and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Prior to Warren’s presentation, Madison brought attention to the heavy nature of the event and reminded audience members that they could take a break if they needed to and that there were counselors present at the event if audience members needed to talk to someone.

“(Event organizers) want to make sure you take care of yourselves,” Madison said.

PostSecret Live is also a precursor to the Daisy Project, another event put on by Active Minds where 1,100 daisies will be laid in the Memorial Union quad to honor the on average 1,100 students who take their lives while in college every year.

The PostSecret website was founded by Warren in 2006 and has allowed over 1 million people from across the world to send postcards confessing their secrets, ranging from the light-hearted confessions of baristas to disclosure of family conflict, substance abuse and other adversities.

Some secrets that were submitted in the drop boxes or at the table in Memorial Union quad last week were shown at beginning of the presentation, after Warren introduced himself as a collector of secrets.

The decorated postcards shared people’s confessions to friends, ex’s or anyone who was listening.

One postcard revealed how someone in the OSU community writes letters to friends, family and other people who inspire them but never send the letters to due the fear of having their true feelings known.

Another postcard was a person’s confession to their best friend, and was decorated with lip imprints in red lipstick.

“We did more than just kiss. I’m sorry. Your BFF,” the card read.

Warren also read a postcard that was decorated with a doodle of an egg.

“I regret not egging your car,” it said.

Warren’s lecture had three main components: discussing the history of PostSecret, showing secrets Warren described as “life-changing” and finally concluding with an open mic where audience members had the chance to share secrets of their own.

Not all of the secrets Warren has received came on postcards or letters. Some secrets have been shipped to Warren’s Maryland home written on a raw potato, a license plate, a bra, a knife and a one-pound bag of coffee, Warren said.

The idea that started PostSecret started when Warren printed out over 3,000 postcards and solicited secrets from people walking the streets of Washington D.C., scanning them at home and putting them online on Sunday Secrets.

Even if the people he approached told Warren they didn’t have any secrets, he made sure they didn’t leave without a card.

“Those are often the most interesting ones,” Warren said on those who claimed to not have secrets.

Sunday Secrets quick to gain traction, going from 100 to 100,000 hits in the first few weeks, Warren said. Soon enough, Warren was getting postcards from all over the world, from Iraq to Dublin to Oregon.

After translating the postcards, Warren found that a lot of cards were confessing the same secret despite being in different languages.

“Our secrets don’t separate us, they are what keep us connected,” Warren said.

One secret that garnered attention from visitors was a photo of a broken bedroom door, with text explaining that the holes in the door came from the sender’s mother who tried to knock the door down so she could continue beating them.

The site was visited 1 million times the day that secret was posted and soon after, others started sending in photos of their own broken bedroom doors and stories of dealing with abuse and domestic violence.

Warren also discussed the isolation people often feel and how that despite social media promoting connectedness, that the connectedness may not be genuine, that people may be projecting a different image of themselves online.

“There’s a lot of sharing, but I’m not sure if it’s that real kind of sharing,” Warren said.

Warren said that one of the most common kinds of secrets he receives are those that say how senders have the desire to tell their secrets to loved ones.

According to Warren, over the 10 years of PostSecret’s existence, users from across the world have raised over $1 million for suicide prevention efforts.

One of the secrets projected showed a screen shot of a conversation between two friends, one showing concern for the other while one is going through a challenging time. One the back, the sender wrote that they were only alive today because of the conversation.

Warren has received multiple secrets relaying the same message, that the senders are still here because a friend, RA or professor asked them how they were doing at just the right moment.

PostSecret has also inspired the creation of other popular websites including I Found Your Camera, where users post photos found on lost cameras in hoping to send them back to their owners.

Another secret Warren projected was a postcard discussing the way the sender holds onto the memories of loved ones.

“When people I love send me voicemails, I always save them in case they die tomorrow and I have no other way of hearing their voice ever again,” the card read.

Warren stated that he has received copies of peoples’ last voicemails to their loved ones and played them to the audience. Some were congratulating the recipients on getting into college, others wishing them a happy birthday and another saying they just wanted to say hello.

The short-lived PostSecret app was also discussed by Warren. The PostSecret app allowed users to post photos with their secrets on a text box with complete anonymity.

According to Warren, the anonymity lead to a niche group of users leaving hateful comments or submitting inappropriate content.

“In the end, it was dicks who brought down the app. Not jerks but pictures of dicks,” Warren said.

However, good things did come from the app. A user who was suffering from a malignant tumor posted that despite her desire to see the world, she could not travel and asked users to reply with photos.

Shortly thereafter, users from around the world sent pictures of sites and monuments from around the world including the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Oregon Coast.

Carrying around secrets creates a physical burden, according to Warren, citing a psychological study which stated that when people hold onto secrets, hills seem steeper, they are less likely to help their friends, and a physical fatigue much like constantly carrying a backpack is created.

Warren stated that if he could go back and erase the painful moments of his life, he wouldn’t as they were what brought him to start PostSecret in the first place. Hiding secrets from his family, specifically his mother, are what compelled him to start the project.

The end of the presentation had Warren telling the audience that once one gets through the struggles they are going through, they become the person that they are supposed to be.

“The world is waiting for you to share your gifts,” Warren said.

After concluding his presentation, Warren opened up the floor to the audience and invited them to share their secrets.

Around six audience members volunteered to share their secrets, and discussed their personal experiences with family, religion and domestic violence.

Warren always carries one secret that was sent to him on a dollar bill in his wallet, he said it is one of the most profound secrets he has received.

“We are all part of something bigger—we are in all of it together,”

Warren’s presentation ended with his signing of the Mental Health Unity Pledge, a document stating that Warren and other signees would create safe spaces to discuss mental illness and speak out against discrimination as well as the stigma surrounding mental illness.

The presentation was followed by a book signing, all three of Warren’s books about PostSecret, The World of PostSecret, PostSecret: Confessions of Life, Death & God and Post Secret were available for purchase at the event.

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