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PostSecret Founder Invites Penn Staters To Share Their Real Truths

Frank Warren has spent the last 15 years collecting secrets from complete strangers for his ongoing community project, PostSecret. He is a #1 New York Times Best Selling Author, a recipient of the Mental Health Advocacy Lifetime Achievement Award, and PostSecret is the most visited advertisement-free blog in the world.

Warren shared many of the postcards he’s received, as well as his personal struggles with mental health, at the HUB Tuesday night. The Student Programming Association and the University Park Undergraduate Association hosted the lecture as part of Mental Health and Wellness Week.

Warren shares one postcard he received that was written on the back of an In-N-Out Burger bag that one audience member snuck into a previous lecture.

Warren founded PostSecret in November of 2004 and began the project by handing out 3,000 self-addressed postcards on the streets of Washington, D.C., and asking strangers to write down their secrets. He said that in the first week the website had 100 hits, the second week 1,000, and by the third week more than 100,000 hits. He originally sought out to receive 365 postcards, but has now received over 1,000,000. PostSecret now has 770,317,779 website hits. 

Warren said he thinks the idea of PostSecret spread so quickly because of the compelling nature of secrets, and how they allow people to open up. He has received postcards from all over the world in many different forms, including a coconut with a secret and a stamp on it just like any other postcard. 

The coconut “postcard” Warren received

“People find more courage to open up and be vulnerable to a stranger,” Warren said. “They find it easier to share secrets with a stranger on a train than someone they have a personal relationship with.”

According to Warren, there are two kinds of secrets: the secrets we keep from others and the secrets we keep from ourselves. He discussed how people who keep their struggles with mental illness a secret are often ashamed of their struggles because of the stigma surrounding mental illness.

“I also think there is a lot of stigma attached to admitting that you don’t have all the friends that you want, that you’re not as busy on Instagram as you wish you could be,” Warren said. “I think PostSecret can fill that void a little bit, by allowing people to share their real truth as opposed to the projection that they might be sharing on social media.”

Warren and PostSecret partnered with 1-800-SUICIDE in April 2008 to answer some of the heartbreaking cries for help that have been submitted over the years.

Warren in a press conference prior to the lecture

Audience members all received a postcard when they arrived, and were invited to send Warren a secret of their own. He ended the lecture by inviting the audience to share their own secrets with the group.

“I always feel like the most meaningful things we can do on this planet, or one of the most meaningful things is to create spaces for other people to share their stories,” Warren said. “I think if you do that, the world can take you on an amazing adventure.”

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About the Author

Ryen Gailey

Ryen is a senior early childhood education major from "right outside of Philly" - or in exact words, from 23.0 miles outside of Philly. She loves all things Penn State and has been a huge Penn State gal since before she could walk. Send her pictures of puppies, or hate mail at [email protected]

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