Public anonymity: Post Secret and anonymous publicity

Posted by Ian on May 12, 2009 in blog | No Comments

In an age when privacies are being eroded continually through data-collection, taste-mapping and customer profiling (never mind actual government intelligence agency efforts), it might have seemed unlikely that hundreds of thousands of people would flock to broadcast their deepest personal secrets to the public. In 2004 though, that is precisely what began to happen.

Post Secret began as a local project by Frank Warren in Washington, D.C. Distributing post cards in local bars and cafes in D.C., Warren solicited people to post him their secrets. It quickly became a global phenomenon as people began to scribble down the deep and dark secrets, humorous stories and intensely personal and emotional stories onto all manner of paper products (and eventually on anything that could be posted).
For the last five years, Warren has been stewarding the Post Secret Community online, posting images of the post secrets he receives, prompting a global network of shared personal experience. Victims of abuse, long estranged family members and similarly tempered spirits have connected through the constellated web of relationships of Post Secret.
The fierce simplicity of Post Secret probably points to its success. Publicly broadcast secrecy provides an empowering way of meeting a society head on – which is at one time trying to breakdown privacy while simultaneously increasing social fragmentation through direct marketing based on private data. The resulting social cohesion through anonymously shared secrets is powerful and indeed life changing. It is moving to read the posts by people who have had lives saved by reading Post Secrets of others who have experienced similar traumas in life.
For a more in depth story of Post Secret, watch Frank Warren’s recent talk at PopTech! 2008.

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