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Shelley’s Adventures on the Internet (Part 2)

One of the online sites I regularly follow – which is largely responsible for recent discovery of online forums – is PostSecret.

If you haven’t heard of it, PostSecret is sort of an ongoing art project. People write their secrets on a postcard and mail them in anonymously to the site’s creator, Frank Warren. He then posts 10 secrets per week on www.postsecret.com. Warren even sells out conventions all over the world, reading the secrets aloud!

At first I saw this as a sort of local, “real people” gossip site. But after looking into it further, I’ve realized it’s much, much more than that…

People write about their embarrassing habits, or their true and unexpressed feelings about one another.They confess to doing scandalous things, they share their deepest darkest transgressions, and with complete strangers. Thousands of strangers!

This got me thinking about people and the internet again. Why do we do this? Why, when you won’t tell your best friend or your sister, would you write it down and send it out into the WWW to be seen by anyone? By everyone!

I thought, “WOW, people sure are weird,” and “these people are bold,” but now I think the answer is simple. It’s therapy.

Writing down your secret and putting it out there anonymously can give people an enormous feeling of relief without fear of being judged. Going to a convention, and hearing YOUR secret read aloud, and then hearing people around you saying “I do that too!” or “That happened to me once” must forge an instant connection and feeling of belonging between strangers.

Suddenly, you’re not alone.

The Secret readers, like “Redditors”, have formed a sense of community, reaching out and supporting each other even if it’s anonymous. In April 2008, Warren teamed up with 1-800-SUICIDE to answer anonymous cries for help he had been receiving on postcards. Every week readers write responses to secrets, offering comfort and support. PostSecret has grown into a real, living, breathing, caring and supporting online community.

I even saw a follow up story recently. There was a man who wrote a secret that made it onto the site. His ex saw it, recognized the writing, and realized that his secret was about her. She contacted him, moved across the country back to where he was, and they got back together!

Once again the internet has surprised me. Who knows what I’ll discover next! Oh, and if you’ve got any tips – leave them in the comments section, maybe my adventures will drag me across your corner of the world wide web…

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