Sunday, February 26, 2012

Post Secret Live

by Hannah Risser-Sperry

Post Secret is a blog (www.postsecret.com) created by Frank Warren of Germantown, Maryland in 2004. People mail in postcards with a secret written on them, and every Sunday Frank shares a small number of them with the Internet and all its users. The popularity of the site has grown so much that now Frank goes on speaking tours, often with engagements at universities, and on February 23rd he visited UMass Boston.

Post Secret is a highly emotionally charged project. Or maybe it’s a movement. I’m still not sure. Either way, the Post Secret thing is constantly bordering on too much, and I mean that as the highest possible compliment.

The event was held in the Campus Center Ballroom, and was absolutely full of people. There were two large screens set up, a small stage, and a table selling the Post Secret books for a record low $5 a pop. The show began with a video by the god awful band The All-American Rejects; Frank explained later in his talk that the band had wanted to use “post secrets” in their video, but he denied their request despite the large amount of money their people put up. He went back to them later, however, and asked that they double their offer and donate it to a suicide prevention hotline in return for access to the secrets. The video is actually quite moving, despite the terrible soundtrack.

But this is not a review of The All-American Rejects and their complete lack of musical talent. It is a review at the Post Secret event, and also a look at Post Secret itself; what it does, who it affects, and what it means. When Frank came out on stage, he said a simple “Hi my name is Frank, and I collect secrets.” This was met with thunderous applause and whoops, and I got the feeling this was not the first time he’d used the phrase nor was it some people’s first Post Secret event.

Frank showed us some secrets that couldn’t make it into the books, due to copyright issues or the images being deemed inappropriate by someone on high in publishing. He talked with us about his own history, his own secrets, and how he had started the project by handing out his address to strangers in Washington DC, encouraging them to mail him their secrets. It was very sweet and deeply personal. His talk undulated between absolute hilarity and stunning emotional depths. Following his words, attendees were encouraged to share our own.

When people began speaking, I felt myself become very uncomfortable. The secrets they shared will remain secrets to everyone who wasn’t in that room, but some were startling and even a bit scary. When one girl finished sharing her secret, she was met with a group hug from those in line behind her. One secret uplifted you, and the next made you feel hollow. In other words, it was much like any Sunday morning browse of the blog.

That is what I ultimately took away from the Post Secret Live experience. While Frank can turn into a bit of a motivational speaker onstage, I’ve never seen someone so earnest. He started this tiny art project out of his house, and now he has the most heavily trafficked blog in the world. He genuinely cares about the causes Post Secret supports and the people who come out to the events. Each person who shared a secret got kind words from him. He wants you to feel as connected to others’ secrets as you do on Sunday mornings. I certainly can’t see anything wrong with that.

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