The World of Post Secret with Frank Warren
By Lea Killian
At 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 22 in the Aggie Gym, CU welcomed Frank Warren, a mental health advocate and founder of the PostSecret Project, as the first of three speakers for this year’s Academic Festival.
The theme around the university’s 11th academic festival is “Connections: Information Transfer Between People.”
Warren helped raise over $1 million for suicide prevention and started a global movement of anonymous secret-sharing, and he spoke about the first aspect of this year’s theme: Social interaction.
In 2004, Warren considered himself a “suburban dad,” working as a small business owner and living outside of Washington D.C, when he had what he calls, “a crazy idea.”
He printed out postcards that listed his home address and a few simple directions to follow that invited people to anonymously share a secret they had never spoken aloud before.
Standing on the streets of Washington D.C., Warren handed out hundreds of these postcards to strangers, each time introducing himself by saying, “My name is Frank, and I collect secrets.”
After a few weeks of receiving the postcards in the mail and creating a blog to post weekly secrets, Warren noticed he had started collecting secrets from places outside of D.C., including Texas, New York, Afghanistan and Germany.
PostSecret had gone viral.
These days, what started out as a community art project has inspired seven books, the most visited ad-free blog in the world, a music video with the All-American Rejects and even a theatrical production.
Warren never imagined what the project would become. “My goals for this, initially, were very private and personal,” Warren said. “I just thought if I could convince a handful of people to share with me their rich, interior lives, it would be fascinating.
“When people started doing that, and I started posting it on the web and reaching tens of thousands of people, I realized I had tapped into something deeper than just a personal connection with me.”
The secrets that people have shared over the years have managed to capture the vast spectrum of human emotion, incorporating art designs, family photographs and even maps that help detail each unique story.
Those stories have included hilarious encounters, sexual confessions and family secrets.
Oftentimes, the secrets shared can make readers feel less alone, finding that they’re able to identify with what others from all across the world have shared.
To Warren, this aspect of PostSecret is one of the things he is most proud of.
“I’m proud that PostSecret has helped normalize and destigmatize these conversations that surround our mental and physical wellness,” Warren said.
“We’ve also helped raise over a million dollars for suicide prevention, so I’m proud of the impact it’s had on the culture, but also how it has helped financially support these non-profit organizations that are saving lives every day.”
Over the years, PostSecret has become a philosophy, an idea that inspires vulnerability and honesty.
These ideals can facilitate stronger relationships and inspire others to share their stories of pain, joy, success or failure, ultimately connecting people to their innermost selves and to those around them.
To Warren, it’s simple.
“Maybe vulnerability is nothing more than the belief that we can make our lives better in some way and taking a chance to make it happen.”
On Nov. 10, CU will host generational expert and co- author of “When Generations Collide,” Lynne Lancaster, as it’s next speaker for Academic Festival XI. To reserve tickets, please visit the Office of Public Affairs page on the CU website.
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