The lights were dimmed and audience membersn shed tears as the audience shared its secrets in front of a crowd of nearly 700 people Wednesday evening, as community members attended a lecture from the PostSecret project’s founder Frank Warren.
“It was super nerve-wracking, my heart was pounding and I was crying,” University of Wisconsin junior Nicole Rudisill said. “When I went up, I realized I was sharing my secret with a room full of people I didn’t know.”
Rudisill, a long time follower of the PostSecret Project, said she only had the courage to share her secret after seeing other audience members do so at Warren’s encouragement. Warren was on campus as a part of the Distinguished Lecture Series program.
Warren said he is the sole founder of PostSecret, an ongoing project to unite people worldwide by sending secrets via postcard to Warren’s home in Maryland to be published in books and online.
The PostSecret project began in November 2004. As of today, the website has received more than 450 million views, and Warren has published five books, using the 100 to 200 secrets he receives daily, Warren said.
“I printed out 3,000 postcards, and I would walk the streets of Washington D.C. at night and go up to people and say, ‘Hi, my name is Frank, and I collect secrets,’” Warren said. “The most common reaction was, ‘I don’t have any secrets,’ but I would make sure to give them a card because those people often have the best secrets.”
After receiving two to three postcards a day, Warren would then post the secrets on the website. Soon after, the website began increasing its weekly viewers, from 100 to 1,000 to 100,000.
Warren also spoke on his personal battles with mental illness, suicide, parental divorce and homelessness and how his childhood helped shape the project.
“The earliest memories of my mom are of being defensive and keeping secrets from her,” Warren said.
Not only did Warren share his own secrets and secrets from the postcards, but audience members also formed long lines in front of microphones to share their secrets about suicide, love, homelessness, eating disorders, religion and self-esteem.
Austin Jeffries, associate director for Social Cultivation for the DLS program that brought Warren to UW, said \ organizers decided to dim the lights so the audience’s anonymity would be better protected.
Another audience member, Carol Transon, who attended the event with her daughter Brigid, a UW student, said listening to the audience’s secrets was quite moving.
“I was really surprised by how many young women talked about their eating disorders,” Transon said. “It is very moving for a mom to hear.”
Rudisill also emphasized how important events and projects like PostSecret are for college students.
“[Projects like PostSecret] tell us that as people who will enter the real world, where everyone is struggling, reaching out your hand is the best thing you can do for another person and yourself,” she said. “It’s also never too late to share a secret.”